Comfort Pets

Check out this commonplace occurrence. A prospective tenant fills out an application and indicated that she has no pets. A lease is signed which states that this is a “no pet” building. After the deal is consummated, the tenant presents a letter from a doctor who indicates that she has a disability and requires the service of a comfort pet. Clearly, the tenant knew this when filling out the application and when she signed the rental agreement. Under the California and Federal Disability Act, the landlord would be forced to accept the animal or potentially be the subject of a lawsuit.

There could be another avenue for the landlord to use. Many rental agreements state that misrepresentations on your application would be considered a non-curable breach of your rental agreement. If you could prove that she had the cat prior to filling out the application, you could declare that she is in breach of her rental agreement and terminate the tenancy. 

Refusal to Sign a New Lease

If you have a lease that is expiring, you have options on how to handle this situation. You can continue to take the rent after the expiration of the lease. By doing this, you establish a month to month tenancy with the same terms of this lease. You can also send the tenant a new lease to sign, which will commence at the end of the current term. If the tenant refuses to sign, you can inform the tenant in an informal letter, that you are not renewing the current lease and that the tenant must vacate at the end of the lease term. If you allow the tenant to remain on a month to month tenancy, you are free to increase the rent by serving a Notice to Change the Terms of the Tenancy.

Rent Increases Limited to 10% in Los Angeles, Ventura and Butte County

In Los Angeles, Ventura and Butte Counties all landlords are limited to a 10 percent rent increase for the year. This law is based on a governmental order signed by the departing Governor Jerry Brown. Executive Order B-57-18 was issued on November 14, 2018. It states that there exists a State of Emergency due to wildfire disasters and the Aliso Canyon gas leak. It limits all rent increases to 10 percent until November 8, 2019.

Tenants Refuse to Give Their Names

In some cases you can acquire ownership of real property through inheritance or from a foreclosure. It is not uncommon for tenants to refuse to give any information as to their identities or the rent that they are paying. In this situation, you should immediately issue a Notice to Quit. It can be addressed to “All Occupants in Possession”. You should immediately attempt to do some investigation to determine this information. In a foreclosure situation you can attempt to contact the former owner. If you acquired the property through inheritance, you could examine the decedent’s bank records to see if you can determine that a monthly rent check was deposited. If so, you would be able to establish their names and the rental amount. If these efforts fail, you might want to use the services of an investigator to determine their names. I know that my firm can usually find the names of the occupants in just a few minutes. 

Collecting on a Monetary Judgment Obtained After an Eviction

Your first step would be to make a demand on your former tenant to pay the judgment. If the tenant refuses, you will need to initiate collection proceedings. Your first step is to locate assets which can be attached. Usually this would require finding a place of employment or a bank account. If you have this information, you would need to have a writ of execution for money issued by the court. You would then need to prepare Sheriff Instructions which would then be submitted to the Sheriff’s Office. If you cannot locate assets it is best to use the services of a collection agency. If you used a law firm to obtain the judgment, the firm probably will be able to locate assets, if they exist. Most collection agencies and law firms work on a contingency basis, where no fees are incurred unless the funds are collected. 

Serving a Notice to Enter the Dwelling

A landlord can legally access a dwelling pursuant to Civil Code 1954. Under this code section, a landlord may only access the premises: (1) in the event of an emergency; (2) to make necessary repairs, alterations, or improvements, to supply agreed upon services, to exhibit the property to prospective tenants and purchasers or to make an inspection; (3) once the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises; or (4) with a court order allowing entry. With the exception of an emergency, the landlord must serve a 24 hour notice stating the date, time and reason for entering. The notice must be in writing and handed to the tenant or the landlord can post the notice on the tenant’s door. At least 24 hour advanced notice must be given. It is possible to have a provision in your lease agreement that service by email would be sufficient. In this case, no written notice need be given.

Parking Rules

If you allow your tenants to park on the property, you should establish clear rules. These should be contained in your rental agreement at the initiation of the tenancy or can be instituted upon the service of a Change of Terms of Tenancy Notice. If there are specific spaces, they should be numbered and that space # should be assigned to the tenant in the rental agreement or in the change of terms notice. Important provisions to include should be: 

“TENANT may only park a vehicle that is registered in the TENANT’S name. TENANT may not assign, sublet, or allow any other person to use this space. This space is exclusively used for the parking of passenger automobiles by the TENANT. No other type of vehicle or item may be stored in this space without prior written consent of LANDLORD. TENANT may not wash, repair, or paint in this space or at any other common area on the premises. Only vehicles that are operational and currently registered in the State of California may park in this space. Any vehicle that is leaking any substance must not be parked anywhere on the premises.”

Requiring Renter’s Insurance

Every rental agreement should require tenants to procure renter’s Insurance. This will indemnify the landlord if the tenant’s personal property is damaged due to fire, theft, rain, infestation, water overflow, leakage or any other cause. The provision should also cover the tenant’s relocation costs, in case the tenant has to temporarily relocate. Below is a sample of the language that you can use:

TENANT must maintain Renter’s Insurance to cover any losses sustained to TENANT’S personal property, vehicle or expenses relating to the necessity to relocate or any other loses. LANDLORD does not maintain this insurance to cover personal property damage or relocation expenses caused by fire, theft, rain, infestation, water overflow/leakage, acts of GOD, and/or any other causes. It is acknowledged that LANDLORD is not liable for these occurrences. It is acknowledged that TENANT’S insurance policy shall solely indemnify TENANT for any losses sustained. TENANT’S failure to maintain said policy shall be a complete waiver of TENANT’S right to seek damages against LANDLORD for the above stated losses. 

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: 714.634.8232, 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.  “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.