This article was posted on Friday, Mar 01, 2019

Question One: My property is under rent control in the City of Los Angeles. I understand that the City will allow a rent increase of 4% effective July 1, 2019. I have a rent increase that I can institute for April, 2019. If I raise the rent 3% in April, will I be able to raise the rent an additional 1% in July?

Answer One: You are correct that the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles is allowing for a 4% rent increase, effective July 1, 2019. Unfortunately, if you raise the rent in April, 2019, you will not be able to raise the rent until one year has passed. You do have the option of delaying the rent increase until July, 2019 and then you would be able to raise the rent the full 4%.

Question Two: I have a house in the City of Los Angeles. Due to economic reasons, I was forced to create two units under this one roof. I constructed a wall towards the back of the house and I have a close friend staying there who pays me rent. The tenants in the main portion of the house have learned that what I did was illegal. They are refusing to pay any further rent and are demanding that I pay relocation, which they claim is over $20,000!  Is this correct? I literally do not have this type of money and I will lose my home.

Answer Two: The City of Los Angeles has harsh rules for landlords who construct illegal units. A unit is illegal if it does not contain a certificate of occupancy. Your property is listed as a single family residence and your acts were to create an illegal duplex. If the tenants have been in the unit for three or more years, they would be entitled to relocation fees in the sum of $20,450, if they are over 62 years of age, handicapped or have minor children. They also do not have any obligation to pay any further rent. There is a chance you can avoid this if you can convince your friend to simply vacate. If this portion of the house is vacated, you can remove the wall and allow the remaining tenants to occupy the entire property at no additional rent. Once the alteration is completed, the structure reverts back to being a single family residence and you could just issue a 60-day notice to quit without paying relocation.

Question Three: Mr. Block, I have attended your lectures and you have always advised not to take rent checks from third parties (strangers). I have now heard that there is a new law which states I must accept rent checks from strangers. Can you elaborate?

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Answer Three: It has always been my advice for landlords to accept rent checks solely from their tenants. Acceptance of rent from third parties could be viewed as creating a new tenancy. Effective January 1, 2019, the law has now changed. Civil Code Section 1947.3 requires landlords to accept rent checks from third parties. There is an exception: a landlord or landlord’s agent is not required to accept the rent payment tendered by a third party unless the third party has provided to the landlord or landlord’s agent a signed acknowledgment stating that they are not currently a tenant of the premises for which the rent payment is being made and that acceptance of the rent payment does not create a new tenancy with the third party.

Failure by a third party to provide the signed acknowledgment to the landlord or landlord’s agent shall void the obligation of a landlord or landlord’s agent to accept a tenant’s rent tendered by a third party. The landlord is not required to prepare this acknowledgment.

Question Four: I have a multiunit building in Cudahy. I have a long term tenant who has been in the building for over 20 years. This tenant is currently on a month-to-month tenancy. Is there any prohibition to terminating the tenancy with a Notice to Quit?

Answer Four: Since your property is not subject to a rent control ordinance, you are within your rights to terminate the tenancy by serving a 60-Day Notice to Quit. No reason need be given. Landlords should be aware that Los Angeles County has now instituted rent control, including good cause eviction, for all units in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. This only affects units built prior to February 1995. SinceCudahy is an incorporated city, you are free to terminate the tenancy or raise rents to market value.

Question Five: I have a six-unit building. Lately, my water bill has been very high. I have checked for leaks and I cannot find anything out of the ordinary. I suspect that the tenants are just wasting water. Can I install sub meters and force the tenants to pay for their own share?

Answer Five: If your property is not under rent control, you certainly have the right to install sub meters and require the tenants to pay for their own share of the water bill. You would need to serve a 30-day notice of change of terms of tenancy. This would only apply to tenants that are currently on a month-to-month tenancy. If this property is under rent control, you cannot force existing tenants to pay for water. This could only be instituted for new tenancies.

Question Six: We have a tenant who has broken the record for the aggregate number of service calls at our building in the past two years.  Last month, there was a leak in their unit after the rain storms. The couple warned they would sue the owners if any mold was detected.  It was mitigated quickly pursuant to our standard mold protocol. They were a pain to deal with, according to the vendors.  I became suspicious so I searched the records at the Los Angeles Superior Court and found that they have a history of suing every landlord they have had in the past decade.  Enough is enough.  This is a non-rent-controlled building in the City of Los Angeles. The tenant is on month-to-month. So this is my question.  Would it be a retaliatory eviction if we issued 60-day notice to vacate or should we wait for 180 days since the leak was fixed? Does the 180 days reset with every new major/minor issue they report?

Answer Six: It could be viewed as retaliatory if you issued a 60 day notice to vacate at this time. I would wait the six-month period. If they complain again, within this time period, it could be viewed as reset to the six-month period. Try to be proactive during this period by asking if everything is working satisfactory. This would help defeat any retaliation defense.

Question Seven: I inherited a tenant that will not complete a rental application. I need to have some way of locating her or her relatives during an emergency. Do I have any rights as a new owner?

Answer Seven: If this is not under rent control, you could issue a Notice to Quit for failing to complete the application. I assume that this tenant is on a month-to-month tenancy. If this is under rent control, you cannot force the tenant to provide this information.

Question Eight: Where can I get a better understanding of the new laws affecting landlords in 2019, including which areas are now subject to the new rent control laws?

Answer Eight: The best way would be to attend the “Million Dollar Trade Show and Landlord Conference” on April 17, 2019 at the Long Beach Convention Center. I will be one of the speakers and that will be my topic. Getting a handle on the new laws prevent lawsuits and gives insight on how to improve your revenue.