Question One: I have a tenant that is on a one year lease. Without notice, he vacated halfway through the lease term. At the same time, I had another tenant who properly vacated at the end of her lease. I understand that the man who left will be responsible for the remaining portion of the lease term, though I have an obligation to attempt to lease the unit to mitigate his liability. My question is, can I first attempt to lease the unit where the tenant properly vacated and then lease his unit? Would that be considered proper mitigation?
Answer One: You are certainly allowed to first attempt to lease the unit that properly vacated and then lease the other unit. This would also be the case if you had a current vacancy in the building. The law would allow you to lease that unit first.
Question Two: My tenant brought in a dog which is a violation of the lease agreement. She showed me a note from a doctor which stated that the animal is a comfort pet. I know that I have to accept this situation, but can I ask the tenant to pay an additional security deposit?
Answer Two: It is not permissible to request an additional security deposit in this type of situation. Since the pet is designed to treat your tenant’s disability, it would be considered a violation of the Federal Disability Act.
My prior tenants moved from my unit and I never sent them a security deposit itemization. They are now demanding that I return their security deposit to them without deduction. I didn’t respond and I don’t plan on responding to them. Is that illegal? What can happen to me if I continue to ignore them?
Answer Three: I would immediately send them a security deposit itemization and include any remaining funds that are owed to them. Technically, since you did not send them the itemization within 21 days of the tenants vacating, they are entitled to the full security deposit to be returned. The tenants can bring forth a small claims court action and you certainly will not prevail. By sending the itemization at this point, it will help prevent a judge imposing punitive damages.
Question Four: I am selling my rent control duplex in the City of Los Angeles. The buyer has submitted an “all cash” offer. His only requirement is that the units be delivered vacant. Both units are currently occupied by long term tenants. What are my options?
Answer Four: I get this question all the time. The buyer’s request is tantamount to asking you to move your building to Beverly Hills! Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, the fact that you are selling your building is not grounds to evict your tenants. You could however, offer the tenants a voluntary vacate agreement in which you would offer relocation money in exchange for their agreement to vacate the premises.
Question Five: I received correspondence from a tenant stating that she qualified for a third-party payment from a non-profit organization. The non-profit contacted me and has offered to pay this tenant’s rent if I provide a W9 form. Is there any reason I should not accept this?
Answer Five: Sometimes tenants do run into troubled times and there are organizations that can step in to temporarily help them through this period. I see no reason why you should not accept this payment. Providing a W9 would be in accordance with Federal rules.
Question Six: I am considering leasing my house to a family that has a dog. What is the maximum security deposit that I can charge and am I also allowed to collect a pet deposit?
Answer Six: The maximum security deposit is equal to two months’ rent for an unfurnished unit. On this basis if the house was being leased for $4,000, you would be able to collect an $8,000 security deposit, plus the first month rent for a total of $12,000. No additional funds can be accepted as a pet deposit, as the law only recognizes it as a security deposit regardless of your designation.
Question Seven: I have property that will soon be under the new statewide rent control statute. My rent is far below market value. If I get my tenant to sign a new lease, am I allowed to charge market rate, for the unit. My tenant is agreeing to pay market rent as she really does not want to be forced to move.
Answer Seven: That would not be permissible under the new state law. All rent increases are limited to 5% plus the cost of living as determined by the Consumer Price Index as of April, 2019. The fact that your tenant is willing to sign a new rental agreement does not validate the excess rent increase.
Question Eight: My property is not under rent control and in May, 2019 I raised the rent on a unit by 20%. I am now being told that as of January 1, 2020 my property will now be under rent control. Since the rent increase I gave was effective prior to the initiation of this statewide rent control, when am I allowed to give a new rent increase notice?
Answer Eight: Unfortunately, the statewide rent control bill rolls back rent to March 15, 2019. You would be limited to a 5% rent increase plus the current cost of living as defined by the Consumer Price Index. No rent increase can exceed 10% in any one year period. As of January 1, 2020, you will need to lower your tenant’s rent to be in accordance with the legal rate. The next time you will be able to give a rent increase will be May 1, 2020.
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”.