Question One: My tenant moved out of property and I am in the process of refunding the remaining security deposit. In the lease, the tenant was credited $50 per month to water the landscaping around the property. I have now discovered that the grass in the rear yard was completely dead due to the fact that it had not been watered along with damage from their dogs. I received an estimate to lay new sod for $1,425. Can I charge the tenant for this entire amount or even a partial amount?
Answer One: You are allowed to deduct for unusual wear and tear from the security deposit. Since it was the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the landscaping, this would be a proper deduction from the deposit. You should take pictures of the lawn, both before and after the sod is replaced. You will need to include the invoice when you send the security deposit itemization. It should be noted that I never recommend having a tenant be in charge of this type of maintenance. Rarely will a tenant perform to your satisfaction. It is best to hire a gardener to perform this service and include the cost of the service within the rent you are charging.
Question Two: My property is a single family residence in Los Angeles and is not under rent control. I have recently raised my tenant’s rent 10% for the second time within in a one-year period. In response to my last rent increase, I received a letter from my tenant stating that I can only raise his rent once a year and for no more than 10%. The tenant is under a month-to-month agreement. I was under the impression that I could raise rents as long as adequate notice is given.
Answer Two: Due to the fact that the Proposition 10 did not pass, single family homes are not subject to rent limitations. You can raise the rent to any level. The only exception, which does not apply to your situation, deals in areas which were declared a “state of emergency”, due to the fires. This was an executive order signed by Governor Brown to prevent rent gouging.
Question Three: I have a tenant who owes me two months’ rent. I want to initiate an eviction action but I cannot locate the rental agreement. Will I be prevented from filing the action with the court? I have searched everywhere but it appears that I will never be able to locate this agreement.
Answer Three: Do not be concerned that you cannot locate the agreement. This will not prevent you from proceeding to evict the tenant through an unlawful detainer process. You should immediately serve a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. At the expiration of the notice, you can then initiate the legal action. In the lawsuit, you may allege that a rental agreement was signed but has now become lost.
Question Four: I am leasing a condominium. Is it permissible to charge the incoming tenant a cleaning fee? I would consider a fee of $250 to be a reasonable charge? I know it is not easy to deduct a cleaning fee from the previous tenant and that is why I think it would be wise to charge this fee to the new tenant.
Answer Four: It would not be legal to charge the new tenant a cleaning fee. In addition, there is nothing which prevents you from deducting a cleaning charge from the security deposit, once the current tenant vacates. The law is clear that you cannot charge a set fee for cleaning. A cleaning fee must be determined based on the actual cost.
Question Five: I have a tenant that is under rent control in the City of West Hollywood. We have been forced to call the police on him twice, as he continues to scream that he was going to kill everyone. We have contacted the police for the police report. Is there anything else we need to do if no report was filed?
Answer Five: Clearly, you have an unstable tenant. You should immediately commence an eviction action, based on a nuisance theory. You should get statements from other residents as to the date and time that these incidents occurred. I would also go to the local police station and express your concerns. They might be convinced to arrest him, based on those threats.
Question Six: My property is under rent control in the City of Los Angeles. One tenant was served with a 3 day notice to cure. The tenant failed to timely cure the violations within the three day notice period and therefore, an unlawful detainer action was filed. Can the tenant voluntarily enter into a new lease agreement with a 20% rent increase, if the landlord agrees to cancel the pending unlawful action?
Answer Six: Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, a tenant cannot agree, nor can a landlord accept, an amount of rent in excess of the legally imposed limit. The voluntary signing of an agreement would still be a violation of the law and the landlord would have to return all rent collected in excess of the legal limit. In addition, it would subject the landlord to penalties. You should just continue with the eviction action. Once the tenant is evicted, you would be free to charge market rent to the new tenant.
Question Seven: We are planning on evicting a tenant who is hygienically not maintaining her unit. We just found out that she now has bed bugs. We have a monthly pest control service that has maintained the four unit property for over 10 years. In the last two years this tenant has introduced, mice and now bed bugs to the unit. We are trying to find out who is responsible for the bed bug treatment fee? Thank you for your time.
Answer Seven: 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. It is best to bring forth an eviction action. A tenant is required to keep the premises in a neat and sanitary condition and that would be a ground to bring forth an eviction action.
Question Eight: I have property in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. I have now heard that they have imposed rent control and “good cause” in order to evict. I am shocked by this development. I thought that if Proposition 10 failed that rent control could not be instituted. Please explain.
Answer Eight: 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 Los Angeles County from establishing rent control or requiring good cause 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”.