Early Lease Termination

If a tenant vacates during the lease term, this person is responsible for the remaining portion of the lease. A landlord must attempt to mitigate damages by attempting to lease the premises to another person. Once the premises have been leased, the original tenant’s obligation is cut off. There is an exception. If you have another similar unit in your building which is vacant, it is permissible to attempt to lease that unit first.

 Partial Payments

If you serve a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit and the tenant offers a partial payment, the landlord does not have to accept this amount. Of course, if the landlord does accept this partial payment, a new 3-day notice to pay rent or quit would need to be served. This notice would state the correct amount of rent that is now due.  Nothing prevents the landlord from immediately serving a new 3-day notice, the moment a partial payment is accepted.

 Defense of Habitability

In almost any eviction action for non-payment of rent, landlords are always confronted with the defense of habitability. The tenant will defend the action by stating that many problems exist with the unit, which the landlord has refused to address. In January, 1974 there was a court case entitled Green vs Superior Court. In that case, tenants were given the right to withhold rent, if there was a needed repair. The tenant was required to notify the landlord and allow a reasonable amount of time for the item to be fixed. While the law had good intentions, it has been bastardized by tenants in almost every single case. I therefore recommend putting the following paragraph in all 3-day notices to pay rent or quit:

“At this time we have not been informed that your unit is in need of any repairs. We take our responsibility as a landlord very seriously. If you believe that items need to be corrected, please address those issues in writing and we will immediately inspect and make necessary repairs. Of course, if we do not receive any written repair requests, we will assume that there are no items that need to be corrected at this time.”

 Repair of Appliances

A landlord is responsible to take care of all appliances that are supplied with the premises. For example, if you supply a stove and a refrigerator, you will be responsible for its repair if the appliance becomes inoperable. There is a way to avoid this situation. Have a clause in the rental agreement that the appliance supplied is an accommodation and that the tenant will be responsible for its repair. This will shift the burden to the tenant if the item is in need of repair.

Charging Stations for Electrical Vehicles

For residential leases signed, renewed or extend on or after July 1, 2015, landlords are required to approve a tenant’s written request to install an electric vehicle charging station at the tenant’s parking space. The tenant must enter into a written agreement which includes requirements regarding the installation, use, maintenance and requires the tenant pay for all modifications. The tenant must also maintain a $1,000,000 general liability insurance policy.

The tenant is required to pay the cost associated with the electric usage of the charging station. The landlord is not required to provide the tenant with an additional parking space in order to comply with this law. This law does not apply: (1) when parking is not included as part of the rental contract; (2) to properties with fewer than five parking spaces; (3) to properties subject to rent control; (4) when 10% or more of existing spaces already have electric vehicle charging stations.

The average cost to charge an electric vehicle per day is $2.50, which would be the obligation of the tenant.

Dog Bite

If a tenant’s dog bites someone on the premises, a landlord is not responsible, unless the landlord knew that the dog had a propensity to bite. The expression in the law is, “the first bite is free”.  For example, if the tenant has a pit bull which pulled away from its owner and bites another person, in general the landlord should not be held liable.  The victim would have to establish that the landlord knew that the dog would bite by other incidents in which persons were attacked by this animal.

Serving a Notice to Pay Rent

Most landlords believe that if the tenant is not home, that they can serve a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit by posting it on the door and mailing a copy to the tenant. That is not the law. Under Code of Civil Procedure 1162 if the landlord cannot serve the tenant at the residence they are required to serve the tenant at their work address, if known. If they cannot serve the tenant at the place of employment, the landlord can then post one on the tenant’s door and mail an additional copy by first class mail.

Requiring Electronic Rent Payments

While a landlord can request that tenants pay rent electronically, under California law it cannot be the sole method of payment. Many services now exist, including through the AOA, where tenants can pay rent online and can even use a credit card. In most instances, there is no charge to the landlord. This would appear to be an efficient way for landlords to collect rent. It is also permissible to allow your tenant to make direct deposits into your bank account. You should detail, in your lease agreement, the process and information as to how the rent will be paid.

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.  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”.