Question One: What is the procedure when a tenant, in midlease, is suspected of abandoning an apartment unit?
Answer One: You should serve a notice to enter the dwelling. You may choose the reason that you are entering the unit to determine if the premises have been abandoned. If you do not have a key to enter, you may engage the services of a locksmith. If it appears that the premises have been vacated, you will need to go through an abandonment procedure to obtain legal possession of the premises. This is a form that is mailed to the tenant declaring your belief that the premises have been abandoned.
Rent would have to be owed for at least 14 days. The tenant will have 18 days to send a notice in writing that in fact the premises are still being occupied. If the tenant does not respond in writing, you may take possession and change the locks after the 18 day period. Once you have possession you should send a security deposit itemization within 21 days to your tenant’s last known address. [Use AOA form #145]
Question Two: Do I need to inform applicants that the previous tenant passed away in an apartment unit? Also, for how long after the death do I need to inform these applicants?
Answer Two: If a person dies in your unit you must inform applicants for a three-year period that the previous tenant passed away in the unit. There is one exception the person died of AIDS, you do not have an obligation to inform an applicant.
Question Three: A tenant of mine has submitted proper documentation from a psychiatrist stating she will benefit from an emotional support animal. I know I am not allowed to charge extra deposit for this animal. The tenant has unilaterally offered to pay an additional $300 deposit as a gesture of good faith. Since the tenant offered, can I accept this deposit without running afoul of the law?
Answer Three: In general this would be considered discriminatory but in this case, since the tenant made the unilateral offer, you would be okay. I would have the tenant sign a statement that the offer for additional security was at the tenant’s suggestion. Be advised that for an unfurnished unit, you can only charge a maximum of two months’ rent for a security deposit.
Question Four: Mr. Block, I know you have performed thousands of evictions in your career. What are some of the most common ways to evict a tenant?
Answer Four: The most common basisfor an eviction generally involves non-payment of rent. Other grounds include violation of lease terms, damage to property, illegal activities and an expired lease. Violation of lease terms usually involves unauthorized persons, animals and alterations to the premises. Examples of alterations would be installation of a satellite dish and the changing of locks. Another case we do frequently is where a tenant has an inoperable vehicle parked on the premises, which is a violation of most municipal codes.
Question Five: I understand that a tenant may terminate tenancy by 30-day notice In a case where a tenant has occupied the unit longer than one year, the landlord is required to serve a 60-day notice to quit. This does not seem fair as both parties should have equal rights. Am I analyzing this correctly?
Answer Five: You are correct in your interpretation of the law. It is rare that laws are favorable to landlords in the State of California. These laws favoring tenants have chaos for landlords who are supplying a valuable service to the public. You might consider adding a provision in your rental agreement that both parties are required to serve a 60-day notice to terminate the tenancy.
Question Six: I have a tenant who signed a two-year lease. We are now four months into the tenancy and the situation has become a nightmare. She is constantly complaining about every minor issue. Not a week passes where I don’t receive at least two repair requests. Recently, I learned that this tenant had been previously evicted. She misrepresented that fact on her application. Would that be a basis for terminating the lease?
Answer Six: You should examine your lease agreement. Most leases have a provision that state that any misrepresentations on the application constitute a non-curable breach of the lease agreement. If that is the case, you would be able to serve a 3-day notice to quit and proceed with an eviction.
Question Seven: I leased a unit which included a washer and dryer. During the final walk-through, I noticed that those appliances were missing. The tenant stated that they did not work so he gave them away. I never received any notice from the tenant. Am I able to deduct the cost of these items from the security deposit?
Answer Seven: It never ceases to amaze me the acts that tenants can perform. Clearly, you can deduct the cost of the washer and dryer from the security deposit. You should take into account, however, the depreciation factor of these items.
Question Eight: I am selling my 30-unit building located in the Los Angeles area. The building is under rent control. The buyer is requesting that the tenants sign estoppel agreements which just indicate how many occupants reside in the unit, the rental amount, and when the last rent increase occurred. I have five people that are refusing to fill out and sign these agreements. I am afraid that my sale could be jeopardized. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer Eight: Unfortunately, you cannot force a tenant to sign an estoppel agreement. You should check your existing lease agreement because sometimes there is a provision which requires a tenant to complete an estoppel. Assuming that term is not in your rental agreement, you can only explain the situation to the purchaser and supply your own documentation as to the items that are being requested.
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”.