Question One: I have rent control units in the City of Los Angeles. I am considering doing short term leasing, once a unit is vacated. I intend to use a service such as Airbnb. Are there any pitfalls or suggestions that I should be aware of? I feel that I am forced to do this, as my long term tenants pay such little rent. Short term rentals appear to be the only method which will allow my building to become profitable.
Answer One: I certainly understand why a landlord would be forced to consider short term rentals. Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles has just instituted a new ordinance regarding home-sharing. This ordinance will become effective on July 1, 2019. Owners and tenants are permitted to lease on a short-term basis, but only if the unit is the primary residence of the host. Since your units are just rentals, you would be prevented from this type of activity. In addition, the law prevents short term rentals which exceed 120 days on a yearly basis. While tenants can generally comply with this law, most rental agreements prohibit subleasing. This would allow landlords to deny tenants the right to do short term leasing.
Question Two: I recently purchased an 8 unit building in Hawthorne. The laundry room has coin-operated washers and dryers. I contacted the laundry company and told them that I would not be using their machines and asked them to be removed. They informed me that they have signed a 10-year lease with the previous owner which has two additional 10-year options. Am I really obligated to have them in my building for over 20 more years?
Answer Two: When you purchase a building, you are subject to all existing leases. This particular lease should have been disclosed during the escrow process. Many laundry leases have very long terms and grant the laundry company additional option periods. These leases have been upheld by the courts. I am sorry but you will have to honor that lease. Anyone considering dealing with a laundry company should negotiate the lease for the shortest term possible, with no option to renew.
Question Three: I have a building in Los Angeles which is required to have soft retro-fitting for earthquake safety. I got a bid from a company and the cost is over $100,000. My building is under rent control and I do not see how I will be able to afford this additional expense. Are the tenants responsible for some of these costs?
Answer Three: I am happy to report that the tenants are responsible for 50% of the cost. This is divided by the number of units and amortized over a five-year period. There is an application process that must be filed with the Housing and Community Investment Department. Once approved, you would serve a notice on your tenants of the additional charge per month.
Question Four: I have a property in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles. I now know that my building is under rent control. I have a tenant who is not paying rent. I attended your seminar in Long Beach at the AOA Trade Show. I remember you mentioned that there are special rules in serving a 3 day notice. Can you go over those again? Thank you.
Answer Four: In general, to serve a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, the landlord must first attempt to hand the notice to the tenant. If the tenant cannot be located, the landlord may then post one on the front door and mail a second notice by mail. Los Angeles County for unincorporated areas has now imposed new requirements. In addition to the standard procedures, the landlord must also, within 5 days of the service of the notice to the tenant, send a copy of the notice and proof of service to the County by certified mail, return receipt requested. The letter to the County must be addressed as follows: DCBA, 500 W. Temple St., Room B-96, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Landlords who fail to comply with this rule will have their eviction case summarily dismissed.
Question Five: I have a duplex in the City of Los Angeles which is under rent control. My rents are way below market level and I am considering demolishing to put up new units. According to the Building Department I could construct a six unit building. What are the steps that I have to take to remove the existing tenants? Do I have to pay relocation fees?
Answer Five: Based on the political climate, many owners are seeking to demolish their units as a viable method of obtaining market rent. The process is completely legal, though the procedures are somewhat complicated. In short, an application process must first be filed with the City of Los Angeles. A meeting with a City Clerk is required. Once approved, a 120 day notice to vacate must be served on your tenants. If your tenant is over the age of 62 or is handicapped, the tenant can request a 1 year notice. In each instance, relocation funds must be paid. The relocation ranges from $8,200 to $20,450 depending on the length of the tenancy and whether the tenant is over 62 years of age, is handicapped, or if there are minor children in possession. This process should be handled by an attorney.
Question Six: I have a tenant who is complaining that the stove in his unit is not working. He has now withheld the rent for this current month. I have explained to him that I will have it fixed, once the rent is paid. We seem to have an impasse on this issue. I am intending to initiate an eviction action. It should be noted that the stove was left by the previous tenant and I merely told this tenant that he could use it if he wanted. Am I obligated to take care of this stove?
Answer Six: If you supply a stove for the unit, you are responsible to maintain that appliance. In the future, you might want to put a provision in your lease agreement, that the stove was left as an accommodation and that the tenant is charged with its maintenance and repair. In general, a tenant is justified in withholding the rent if a repair is required and the landlord is refusing the tenant’s request.
Question Seven: I have a judgment against a former tenant from several years ago. Your firm actually handled the eviction and obtained a judgment for the rent owed and the attorney fees. I have never sought to collect on this judgment and I was wondering if the judgment has now expired in that it was obtained seven years ago? Also, what steps must I take to collect?
Answer Seven: A judgment is valid for 10 years and can be renewed for an additional 10 years. At this time you are free to initiate collection proceedings. In order to collect on a judgment, you need to find assets. This can include current employment or bank accounts. In order to obtain this information you would generally need to do an asset search. These can only be conducted by licensed collection agencies or an attorney. Once the information is obtained, you would need to have the court issue a Writ of Execution for Money. This would then be delivered to the appropriate Sheriff’s office with wage and/or bank levy instructions. It should be noted that our experience suggests that older judgments are easier to collect. When a tenant is evicted, it would indicate that the person is not gainfully employed or has sufficient funds in a bank account. Years later it is more likely that the tenants have turned their financial situation around and collection becomes an easier proposition.
Question Eight: Do I need to have a licensed contractor to do repairs on my rental condo? Thank you.
Answer Eight: That would depend on what repair is required. Generally, if a permit is required, the work should be performed by a licensed contractor. Many times, tenants will demand to know the qualifications of the repairmen before access is permitted. The tenant cannot legally make this demand and failure to provide access would be grounds to evict.
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”.