Question One: I have a tenant that has filed a claim against me. He tripped in the swimming pool area. I truly believe that he has faked his injury. My insurance company is in the process of investigating this claim. It should be noted that for the last year, this tenant has never paid his rent on time. A few months ago, I issued a rent increase notice and also requested that he increase the security deposit. While he did pay the rent increase, he refused to pay the additional security deposit. I issued a notice to perform or quit and he did pay on the third day. Currently, his rent is not paid and I issued a 3 day notice. Assuming he pays timely, would it be considered retaliatory if I issue a 60 day notice to vacate? My property is not under rent control.

Answer One: The term “retaliatory eviction” relates to legal a prohibition against a landlord who seeks to evict a tenant who has exercised certain legal rights. If deemed retaliatory, the landlord would be barred for 180 days from commencing an eviction action. The law states that it must be the dominate intent of the landlord, as to the reason in issuing a Notice to Quit. In this case, I do not believe that the courts would view this as retaliatory, as the tenant has demonstrated an inability to pay rent timely.

Question Two: I have a tenant who broke a one-year lease agreement and moved out one month before the lease ended. She wants her security deposit back and is threatening a lawsuit. When do I have to account for the security? Is it 21 days from when the tenant moved out or from the end of the lease agreement? Secondly, am I obligated to return her security deposit?

Answer Two: The law requires that you send a written itemization within 21 days from when the tenant actually vacated the premises. Your tenant would be responsible for the rent until the end of the lease term and that month could be deducted from the security deposit. The only exception would be if you leased the premises to another tenant during that month. In that instance, your tenant would not be liable for the days which the premises were leased.

Question Three: I have a husband and wife in a one-bedroom unit in Los Angeles under rent control. They have now separated and the husband is asking if he can bring in his girlfriend. Can you please tell me what my options are?  Is it permissible to raise the rent?

Answer Three: Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, a tenant may substitute another tenant in place of an original that has vacated. You are allowed to request that this person complete an application and the credit history can be checked. If the person meets your normal screening process, you would be obligated to allow this person to occupy the premises.  No additional rent can be charged.

Question Four: I leased an unfurnished condo.  After staying six years, the tenant is now complaining about bed bugs.  Who is responsible for the abatement?  I have heard that the cost for this type of service is quite expensive.

Answer Four: Under California law, the responsibility and cost of this pest control treatment falls solely on the landlord. The only exception would be if you could prove that the tenant caused the infestation. This would be a very difficult issue to prove. You should immediately engage the services of a pest control company that specializes in bed bugs. Make sure that the company offers a warranty, if the problem should continue after the first treatment. It is common for bed bugs to surface again.

Question Five: We bought a building a few years ago. Are we allowed to say to new tenants that they cannot smoke? Some of the existing tenants do smoke but I guess there is nothing I can do, since they have been grandfathered in. Please advise.

Answer Five: It is recommended that every lease agreement contain a clause that states the entire premises are a smoke-free environment.  Based on litigious tenants, this will generally absolve landlords from liability. As to existing tenants, nothing prevents a landlord from issuing a “change of terms of tenancy” to establish a smoke free environment. This can only be served on existing month-to- month tenancies in non-rent control cities,

Question Six: I would like my daughter to move into a rent controlled building in the City of Los Angeles. She will be living there for at least two years.  If I buy out the current tenant, are there any restrictions on leasing the unit for market rent after she vacates?

Answer Six: If you are having the tenant execute a voluntary vacate agreement, there would be no restrictions on obtaining market rent from the new tenant. The City of Los Angeles requires a “Disclosure Form” be signed by the tenant and filed with the City.  If, however, the tenant is refusing to sign a voluntary vacate agreement and you are proceeding to terminate the tenancy through the formal process, then you would be restricted in obtaining market rent after your daughter vacates.

Question Seven: A former tenant moved out without paying the last month’s rent. Additionally, the property was left dirty and there was significant damage. May I run a credit check to obtain her current address? If not, how would I obtain this information?

Answer Seven: Performing a credit check must be with the consent of the person whose credit is being checked. While that person might have allowed you to run a credit check at the initiation of the tenancy, there is no consent at this time. You can enlist the services of an investigator to find a current address. Of course, if you know where the tenant works, service of the lawsuit may be at that location.

Question Eight: I have an applicant who has a great credit history. However, their current landlord gave them a bad reference. She says they’re dirty, loud, let their kids run amok and have unauthorized guests for up to six months at a time. Can I legally disqualify them based on this?  In addition, how do I go about doing so?

Answer Eight: You certainly have the right to disqualify this applicant based on the reference that you obtained. Approval of applicants is not solely limited to a credit report. References are an important aspect of the screening process. I would inform the tenant that they were rejected based on the reference of their current landlord.

Personal Note: Thanks to all the attendees at the AOA Million Dollar Trade Show. It truly was a great event.

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”.