Question One: I have a tenant who vacated a house I own in Long Beach. The rent has been kept very low. The rent is currently $1,200 per month. The home will need about $3,000 in repairs and painting to have it ready for the next resident. My research indicates that the rental value of the house should be about $1500. That amount would be greater than a 20% increase.  I understand that there is a California law which prohibits increases in excess of 10%. Am I legally able to raise the rent to $1,500?

Answer One: The law you refer to is Penal Code Section 396. If there is a state of emergency declared which results from earthquake, flood, fire, riot, storm, drought, plant/animal infestation or disease, and other natural or man-made disaster, a landlord is prohibited from a rent increase in excess of 10% for that county. This restriction only applies for 30 days after the emergency is declared. Based on the location of your property, you are legally able to raise the rent to market level.

Question Two: I have a tenant in a rent control unit who has resided there for over 20 years. She is quite elderly and for the last two-year period has been living with her son. There is no chance that she will return to this unit again.  The rent is always paid timely. Her rent is $1,500 below market. I know rent control is allegedly designed to protect tenants from escalating rent. In this situation, she is not actually residing in the unit. Is there something that can be done to terminate the tenancy?

Answer Two: You did not mention where the property is located. In Santa Monica, a landlord is able to terminate the tenancy if the tenant is not using the unit as a primary residence. That law does not exist in Los Angeles. There could be a possible eviction based on the terms of the rental agreement. Most rental agreements state that the unit is to be used solely for residential purposes. In this instance, an argument could be made that the premises are being used only for storage. By filing a lawsuit on this basis, you might be able to settle the matter prior to it going to trial.

Question Three: A tenant digitally signed a lease that commenced March 15th. Their cosigner is paying the rent one year in advance. We do not provide keys to the unit until the payment cleared. In this case, the payment keeps coming back because of a debit block on their account. They have tried this multiple times. Now, two weeks later they are willing to provide a cashier’s check, but want a credit for the 2 weeks they were not able to occupy the space. They claim that it is illegal to charge them for those days that they did not have possession. Is this true?

Answer Three: It would not be illegal. Parties can negotiate any terms they wish. Since the tenant did not pay in accordance with the contract, you can declare that the contract has been voided and decline to go forward. I would tell the tenant that if they insist on not paying for rent from the start of the lease agreement, that you will not be going forward with this transaction. Let your tenant decide.

Question Four: I plan to send a tenant a notice of change of terms of tenancy under Civil Code 827 to increase the rent. Can it be served by mailing, it to the tenant with a certificate of mailing only? 

Answer Four: A rent increase notice can be served by mailing it by first class mail. It is wise to obtain a certificate of mailing to establish that the notice was in fact mailed. If you do mail it, allow an additional 5 days for mailing when computing the length of time when the rent increase will become effective.

Question Five: I will be closing escrow on a fourplex this week and want to raise the rent and security deposits for all four units. I want to give the tenants a 60 day advance notice of this increase and would like to know if noting this on my change of ownership/introduction letter will suffice or should I write up all new lease agreements.

Answer Five: If you submit the tenants a new lease and they do not sign it, the increase in the rent and the security deposit would not take effect. I would suggest doing a change of terms of tenancy. All issues can be discussed in this notice. As a new owner you must inform the tenant your name, a physical address where the tenant can serve you notices, your phone number and times when you can be contacted. This notice can also inform the tenants of the increase in the rent and the security deposit. If you are increasing the rent in excess of 10%, you would need to give at least a 60 day notice.

Question Six: I have a potential tenant who informs me that she has an emotional support animal? What information can I legally ask for?  If they do not supply this information what are my options? 

Answer Six: Inform your tenant that she must show you a letter from a medical professional that states she has a disability and require the services of an emotional support animal. If she fails to show you this written notice, you would be justified in declining her tenancy.

Question Seven: I am selling my house in which there is a tenant in possession. The tenant has lived in the unit over three years and is currently on a month to month tenancy. How much notice should I give the tenant to vacate the premises?

Answer Seven: If a tenant has been in possession of the premises in excess of one year, a 60 day notice is required. There is an exception. If the premises are in escrow and the buyer intends to use the premises as a primary residence, then a 30 day notice to quit can be served.

Question Eight: I have been shocked with the imposition of rent control in the City of Inglewood. I attended the hearings and the common issue being discussed was that rents in the City are way too high. I am small property owner. I believe I have charged rents in accordance with the market. This intrusion into my business is making me lose faith as an investor. What is wrong with the concept of a “free economy”?

Answer Eight: Our country was founded on the basis of a “free economy”. Rents can never exceed market value as nothing sells for more than it is worth. If politicians want more affordable housing, take away the insane length to obtain building permits and reduce ridiculous building codes and property taxes. This is especially true now that property taxes cannot be deducted from our Federal income tax. These items make the cost of building exceptionally high. If politicians really cared about “affordable housing”, then they should make it easier for properties to be developed and thereby increase the supply.

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”