No Forwarding Address

If a tenant vacates a unit and fails to give you a forwarding address, you are still required to do a security itemization within 21 days from the vacate date. If you do not have a work address, you should mail the itemization to the last known address, which would be that unit’s address. If the letter comes back, do not open the envelope. Let it remain sealed and hold onto it for at least four years.  This will constitute proof that you timely complied.

Advance Rent

Under California law, you cannot demand advance rent. You are permitted to demand the first month’s rent and a two month security deposit for an unfurnished unit. There is one exception. You are allowed to accept advance rent for a period of 6 to 12 months, plus a security equal to two months’ rent.  Incredulously, you cannot ask for advance rent for a period less than six months.

Lead-Based Paint

Landlords can face up to $37,500 in fines just for painting their own unit. If your building was constructed prior to 1978, it probably contains lead-based paint. Under California law, anyone conducting renovation or demolition activities in buildings constructed in or before 1978 must receive training from a U.S. EPA-accredited training provider. The requirements apply to all who disturb lead-based paint in a six-square-foot area or greater indoors, and a 20-square-foot area outdoors. Landlords can face penalties, even if they hire contractors without first determining if they have the proper certification.

Consumers can check whether their licensed contractor has the proper federal lead certification online. A link is available on Contractors State License Board’s website: www.cslb.ca.gov

Unauthorized Roommate

Many times, you rent to an individual and come to find out that an additional person has taken up residency in your unit. A landlord could immediately serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit, and request that the unauthorized tenant be removed within the three-day period.  An unlawful detainer action could then be brought if the occupant remained. In many instances, however, the landlord chooses not to take any action. The problem occurs if your tenant vacates, leaving this occupant in possession. If you have never taken any rent from this person, the law allows you to serve a 3-Day Notice to Quit, as this person would be considered an unauthorized occupant at the end of the lease term.

Accessing Your Unit

If your tenant provides you with a 30-Day Notice to Vacate, the law allows the landlord to show the unit to applicants during this period. A Notice to Access the Dwelling must be served to the tenant at least 24 hours in advance. The notice must state the date, time, and reason why you will be entering the unit. You are only allowed to access the unit during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.

Repair Requests in Writing

Many tenants facing eviction will use the defense of habitability. They will allege that a repair was required and that the landlord refused to make the correction. In many instances, the landlord has never been informed about the condition. One way to avoid this situation is to have a provision in your rental agreement that all repair requests must be in writing or by an email. An exception, of course, should be made for emergency situations. By adopting this policy, the tenant will be less likely to raise this claim when faced with an eviction. 

Rent Control Could Be Unconstitutional

There is a case currently being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. It deals with a provision of the U.S. Constitution called the Contract Clause. Generally speaking, this clause was added to the Constitution in order to prohibit states from interfering with private contracts. The clause states that, ‘No State shall…pass any…law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…’

The case being reviewed by the court involved a married couple and a life insurance policy. In 1998, Mark Sveen named Kaye Melin, then his wife, primary beneficiary of an insurance policy. The couple divorced almost a decade later, and Sveen died in 2011. He had not changed his policy, but in 2002, Minnesota passed a law automatically removing a spouse as a life-insurance beneficiary if the couple divorces. Sveen’s children claim to be the rightful beneficiaries. The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering whether Minnesota violated the Constitution’s Contract Clause.

This case could have tremendous impact on the legitimacy of rent control.  If the Court determines that Minnesota violated the law, then states and local governments would be prohibited from putting limitations on contracts, including residential leases.

 

Dennis Block, of Dennis P. Block & Associates can be reached for information on landlord/tenant law or evictions at any of the following offices:  Los Angeles: 323.938.2868, Encino: 818.986.3147, Inglewood: 310.673.2996, Long Beach:  310.434.5000, Ventura: 805.653.7264, Pasadena: 626.798.1014, Orange: 714.634.823, San Diego: 619.481.5423 or by visiting www.evict123.com. Now, you can also read Dennis Block on Twitter, www.twitter.com/dennisblock or text him at (818) 570-1557.  Get the NEW App for iPhone or Android phones. Search for “EVICT123“.  “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.