Requiring a Tenant to Perform Certain Maintenance
Many times, a landlord will require a tenant to perform gardening or pool service, as a condition of their tenancy. In some cases, a rent credit is afforded to compensate the tenant. These types of contractual obligations rarely work out to the landlord’s satisfaction. The landlord will discover the yard was not maintained and that the pool is filled with algae. It is best to hire a gardener and pool service and build in the cost of these services to the rent you are charging. If you are faced with this situation, it would be permissible to deduct the cost from the security deposit, once the tenant vacates.
Lost Rental Agreement
Many clients believe that if a rental agreement cannot be located, the landlord will be prevented from bringing forth an eviction action based on failure to pay the rent. This, clearly, is not the case. If rent is owed, you should immediately serve a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit and then proceed to file an unlawful detainer action. It is permissible to ask your tenant to provide you with a copy. If this is not fruitful, nothing prevents the landlord from initiating an eviction action. In the lawsuit you can state that a rental agreement was entered into, but cannot be located.
Tenant Deposits Rent Money into Landlord’s Account
Landlords are well advised that you cannot accept rent during the eviction process. In general, if rent is accepted, it will require that the unlawful detainer action be dismissed. Sometimes a seemingly clever tenant will make a deposit into the landlord’s account. The hope is that this will cause the lawsuit to be dismissed. Landlords should monitor their bank accounts closely. If this occurs, the landlord should first ascertain that the funds did clear. Thereafter, the landlord should return the money by issuing a personal check and mailing it to the tenant by certified mail. A letter should be included which states the following:
“Enclosed please find my personal check for the amount that you deposited into my bank account. Your action constituted an unauthorized deposit. If you choose to do this in the future, your deposit will be considered a gift and will not be applied to any sum owed under your tenancy.”
Fixed Cleaning Fee
Under California law it is unlawful to charge a fixed cleaning fee. You are allowed to deduct from the security deposit a cleaning fee, but this must be the actual and reasonable amount incurred to clean the unit after the tenant vacates. If you used a cleaning service, you could deduct the actual amount charged. If the amount you are deducting exceeds $125 you will need to include the actual invoice. It is permissible for the landlord or his agent to charge for their time, if a service was not used. You will need to provide the tenant with the hours performed and the amount you are charging on an hourly basis.
Obligation of a Landlord with a Violent Tenant
Many times, residents will complain that a tenant has demonstrated aggressive behavior. This type of conduct should not be ignored by a landlord. A landlord is responsible for maintaining a peaceful and quiet environment. If you receive a complaint, you should immediately contact the tenant in question. In some cases, a warning letter would suffice. Depending on the behavior, it might be required to immediately institute eviction proceedings based on a nuisance theory.
Responsibility for Bed Bugs
Landlords are outraged over the cost to treat for bed bugs, especially where they believe that their tenants are the cause of the infestation. In general, it is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the premises from pests. Theoretically, if you could prove that the tenant was the cause of bed bug infestation, you could hold this tenant financially liable. That would probably be a very difficult position to establish. If the tenant does have housekeeping issues, you should consider terminating the tenancy.
Rent Control Even Though Proposition 10 Failed
If Proposition 10 passed, it would have had a disastrous impact on our industry. It did not, however, prevent municipalities from instituting rent control in certain circumstances. Proposition 10 involved the repeal of the Costa Hawkins Act. Under that act, municipalities, which did not have rent control in February, 1995 were barred from instituting rent control for units built after that date. Unfortunately, nothing prevents cities from establishing rent control for units constructed prior to February, 1995.
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”.