No Good Deed Goes Unpunished 

If you allow a guest to stay on your property for 30 days, your guest will gain possessory rights to your property. This is true even though no rent was charged. The police will not assist you in forcing this guest to move. In addition, it would be considered a wrongful eviction if you merely just changed the locks and moved the personal property of your guest outside. In this situation, you are forced to serve a 30 day notice to quit and proceed with an unlawful detainer action.

 The Right of a Tenant to Withhold Rent

 A tenant can only withhold rent for a substantial issue regarding the habitability of the property. The tenant has to first inform the landlord of the issue and give the landlord a reasonable opportunity to make the repair. Cosmetic issues would not allow a tenant to withhold the rent. Unfortunately, many judges ignore the specific language in the Civil Code and consider this a proper defense to an eviction action, even for minor deficiencies. While the Defense of Habitability was a well-intentioned law to force landlords to make necessary repairs, it has been bastardized by tenants in almost every eviction action. In most instances, the tenant never informs the landlord of the repair. The landlord is only informed, when the matter proceeds to trial.

Laundry Rooms 

A landlord has the right to restrict the use of the laundry room to certain hours of the day. In addition, the laundry room use can also be restricted to just your tenants. Many tenants complain of the noise of the washer and dryer, when a tenant chooses to wash clothes into the late evening and early morning hours. Restricting the use of the machines to your residents prevents wait time and makes for a better environment. You should have a sign posted in the laundry room detailing these rules and this should be included in your rental agreement. It is permissible to institute this policy for existing month to month tenants by serving a Change of Terms of Tenancy Notice.

Accessing the Dwelling 

If there is a necessary repair to the unit, a landlord must serve a written notice of intent to enter the dwelling. The notice must state the date, time and reason to access the unit. This notice can be served by personal delivery to the tenant or by posting it on the tenant’s door. A landlord has the right to enter the dwelling regardless of the protests by the tenant. If you arrive and the door is not answered, you have the right to use you key or to call a locksmith. If the tenant stands in the doorway and refuses access, I would recommend calling the police to assist you in gaining access. Nothing prevents you from making a video of the event of your tenant’s refusal to allow access. This evidence could be used to justify an eviction.

Emotional Support Animals  

This is another well-intentioned law that has been made a mockery by most persons that merely want to have a pet in a “no pet” building. If the requirements of the law cannot be easily and completely verified, then in my opinion the law should not exist. In any event, if the tenant presents a letter from a medical professional that states a disability exists, the landlord must allow this animal. The law requires that the landlord give a reasonable accommodation to this tenant. The landlord is refrained from charging an additional security deposit or requesting that the tenant obtain liability insurance.

Subtenants Left In Possession

 Many times you find yourself in a situation where your tenant vacates a unit leaving a subtenant in possession.  The subtenant will attempt to take over the unit for the vacating tenant. It is not a wise idea to allow this person to continue with the tenancy. Technically, your original tenant is still liable even though there has been a physical vacating of the unit, and your tenant is still legally in possession. At the very minimum, the landlord should run a credit check on this new individual, and if the credit meets your standard you can enter into a new rental agreement. I suggest being very wary in this type of situation as it rarely works out.

Tenants Vacating Early

 If your tenant serves you with a 30 day notice to vacate but then leaves after 15 days, what are your rights and obligations? Even though the tenant left early, a landlord would be able to hold the tenant responsible for the rent for the entire 30 days. This could be deducted from the security deposit. The only exception would be if the unit was actually leased during this period. At that point the tenant would not be responsible. The next issue to be considered is when does the landlord account for the security deposit. It would not be 21 days from when the 30 day notice expired. It would be 21 days from when the tenant actually vacated the unit.

Replacing Carpeting 

When does a landlord have an obligation to replace carpeting? The general rule is that if carpeting is frayed or torn, the landlord can either repair or replace the carpeting.. There is no specific age of the carpeting, which would mandate its replacement. In addition, landlords are not required to clean carpet during the tenancy. The tenant is charged with the responsibility of keeping the unit clean. This would also include periodic vacuuming and carpet cleaning.

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”.