You’ve just learned that your rental unit has termites or perhaps a serious plumbing issue. Your tenant is going to have to move out for a short time (less than 30 days) while you make the necessary repairs.
What is Your Responsibility to Your Tenant?
A good place to start is with your lease. What does it say? The AOA Rental Agreement/Lease (Form 101) in Paragraph 20 – Right of Entry and Inspection states: If the work performed requires that RESIDENT temporarily vacate the unit, then RESIDENT shall vacate for this temporary period upon being served a 7-day notice by OWNER. RESIDENT agrees that in such event RESIDENT will be solely compensated by a corresponding reduction in the rent for those many days that RESIDENT was temporarily displaced.
No other compensation shall be due to the RESIDENT. If the work to be performed requires the cooperation of the RESIDENT to perform certain tasks, then RESIDENT shall
perform those tasks upon receiving a 24-hour written notice. (EXAMPLE: removing food items from cabinets so that the unit may be sprayed for pests.)
Where Do You Start?
So, the first step is to serve a 7-day notice to your tenant letting them know specifically what work is being done and what period of time they will need to be out of their unit. This notice can be served in at least one of the following ways:
- First class mail (add 5 extra days if serving via mail only)
- Personal delivery
- Electronic delivery, if an electronic mailing address has been provided by tenant and your lease specifies email as a legal form of communication
- Posting a written notice in conspicuous place at the entry to the building
You will also need to provide your tenants with information on whatever preparation needs to be done at least 24 hours before work commences. Of course, if you can give the tenant more than 24 hours’ notice, it would definitely be helpful.
How to Compensate Your Tenants
If your rental unit is exempt from local rental control or covered by State Rent Control (AB 1482), it is your responsibility to prorate their rent for the days they will not have access to the property. You can issue them a check or offer to apply the credit to the next month’s rent. (AOA recommends you write them a check so you can expense it out, otherwise, it will show as a loss of income.) It’s the tenant’s responsibility to find a place to stay for those days and you are not responsible for any meal expenses.
Having said that, tenants can really make things difficult if they choose not to comply. If you suspect that might happen, you might consider checking with a comparable hotel or AirBnb-type property and compensate the tenant based on this amount and/or offer an allowance for meals.
If your property is covered under rent control, check with your local rent board to see what is required.
For example – under Los Angeles rent control, you have to give the tenant 60 days’ notice and file a Tenant Habitability Plan with the City. You are then responsible to find, book, and pay for a comparable local hotel. You will also need to provide an allowance for meals and other incidentals like parking or pet boarding.
San Francisco has a more straightforward process whereby you pay the tenant a flat amount per day. This amount is updated each March based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). For 2020, the amount is $379 a day. There is an option to pay actual costs as well, so check with the San Francisco Rental Board for more details if this applies to you.
At the end of the day, you want your tenant to understand that you have the tenant’s best interest at heart and are working hard to maintain your property and provide a safe place for them to live. Do your best to work with your tenant to find an arrangement that is reasonable and acceptable to you both. In most cases, this approach will benefit you both in the long run.
Of course, not all tenants are easy to work with. If you have a difficult tenant, things may not go as smoothly. If that is the case, give one of our advisors a call and we’ll do our best to help you work through your individual situation.
Melody Scott is an AOA advisor in our Van Nuys office. She and her husband have managed family-owned residential properties for over 25 years in different parts of California. She also works with a homeowners association and oversees a manager caring for a property too far away to manage herself. Melody has been very active in her local community and was recently selected to the Tournament of Roses committee.