Question One: I am selling my four unit apartment building inLong Beach. At what point to I need to inform the residents that the building is in escrow?
Answer One: There is no legal obligation requiring the seller to inform tenants of the impending sale. In some instances, an escrow can be cancelled, which would create confusion among the tenants. It is the responsibility of the new owner to inform the tenants of the change of ownership. The tenants must be given the name of the new owner, a physical address and telephone number.
Question Two: I leased a property to two roommates. It is now time to disburse the security deposit. I know that one of the tenants actually paid the entire security deposit. He is demanding that the refund be made to his name only. Both tenants signed the rental agreement. How should I handle this?
Answer Two: Regardless of who actually paid the security deposit, the law requires that you send separate checks to each person who signed the agreement. The check should reflect their proration of the security deposit, regardless of who paid the initial amount.
Question Three: We served our tenants a 60-day notice to vacate. The husband got hurt on the job and asked for a 30-day extension. If I have the tenants sign a statement that they will vacate on this new date, what are my options if they fail to vacate? Can I just have the Sheriff do the eviction without any court filing?
Answer Three: The Sheriff will not perform an eviction unless there is a specific court order. This would require that you file an unlawful detainer action, in order to have the tenants evicted.
Question Four: I own a single family residence in theSan Fernando Valley. I have an applicant that wants to run a small home business from my house. He is involved in building websites. He wants the lease to be in the name of his corporation. Can he legally run this type of a business from my house and should I put the corporate name on my lease?
Answer Four: That type of a business would be legally permissible. You should not, however, have the lease solely in the name of the corporate entity. If the tenant defaults on the rent, you would only be able to pursue your remedies against this corporation. Tell your tenant that you will allow the corporation to be on the lease only if his name is listed as an additional tenant.
Question Five: Is it legal to serve a rent increase by certified mail? What would happen if the tenant does not pick up the letter?
Answer Five: The proper way to serve a rent increase notice is to first attempt to hand the notice to the tenant. If the tenant is unavailable, you may then post it on the door and mail an additional copy by first class mail.
Question Six: My tenants requested that I replace a wall heater because the surface of the old wall heater is too hot for their baby. Do I have to replace it?
Answer Six: If the wall heater is an approved unit, there is no legal obligation to replace it. Have a heating contractor inspect the unit to be sure it is in proper working order. Suggest to the tenant to put a gate, which would surround the heater and prevent the toddler from getting too close. These gates are normally used to prevent children from falling down a staircase and can be found in most baby stores.
Question Seven: I recently lost an eviction action, as the court stated that my 3-day notice overstated the amount owed by only 15 cents! This case involved an existing tenant who was in possession when I took over ownership of this rent controlled building. The previous landlord raised the rent. The proper increase should have raised the rent to $1,044.85. This landlord rounded up the rent to $1,045, which was the amount I put in my 3-day notice. Was the judge fair in declaring my notice invalid?
Answer Seven: The judge was merely following the law. The law clearly states that you cannot demand an amount over the legal limit. Even though the amount was trivial, the judge made a correct ruling.
Question Eight: I have a rent controlled tenant who complains about everything. Almost all of her complaints are baseless upon inspection. She now states that a light burned out in her apartment and she will withhold rent until I replace it for her. Am I obligated to replace light bulbs?
Answer Eight: A tenant is responsible for the normal maintenance of an apartment. The changing of a light bulb would be considered normal maintenance. Tell this person that you will not be replacing the bulb. If she fails to pay the rent, issue a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit.
Question Nine: I recently had a bedbug infestation in my building. It took three excruciating months before the pests were eradicated. Some of the tenants would not prepare the units for the pest control company, which made the problem worse. In the future, can I force the tenants to properly prepare their units? Also I have a vacancy and I want to know if I have to disclose the bedbug problem to my tenant.
Answer Nine: There is no way to force a tenant to prepare the unit for the pest control company. If the tenant refuses, you will have to hire someone to do it yourself. It is a wise idea to make this a provision in your lease agreement. In this way, if the tenant fails to prepare the unit, it would be grounds for an eviction. As to your second question, there is no legal obligation to disclose a bedbug infestation to future tenants.
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 or Orange: 714.634.8232 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. Download the Dennis Block FREE app for your Smartphone – “Landlord Legal Helper”.