Question One: I recently purchased a house at a foreclosure sale. The previous owner refuses to talk to me and states he will not be vacating the house. He told me that I would be arrested as a trespasser if I came back to the house. How can this be since I am the owner of the house and how can I get possession?

Answer One: Even though you are now the owner of the house, you do not have legal possession. You need to go through an eviction process to remove this person from the premises. Unlawful Detainer actions are not solely filed against tenants. In this situation, you would need to serve a formal 3 Day Notice to Quit and then proceed to file your lawsuit for eviction.

Question Two: I own a building which is now subject to Statewide Rent Control. There is a one bedroom apartment which I would like my son to occupy. Is this permitted under the statute?

Answer Two: You are allowed to terminate a tenancy based on the fact that you have a close family member that wants to occupy the premises. Assuming your tenants have occupied the apartment for over one year, a 60 Day Notice to Quit would be required. Your tenants are entitled to relocation funds, which is equal to one month’s rent. This relocation would need to be paid to the tenant directly or the landlord can credit the last month rent, as opposed to a direct payment.

 

Question Three: My property is located in Inglewood, CA. I heard that there is an additional requirement when serving a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. I was told I also have to mail a copy of the notice to the County of Los Angeles. Is this true? 

Answer Three: That is not true for the City of Inglewood. The procedure for serving a 3 Day Notice has not changed. If you own property in Culver City, West Hollywood or an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County then a notice must also be served on those municipalities. In the case of unincorporated Los Angeles County, you must within five days of the service of the notice, mail a copy to the County with a proof of service. You must mail these items by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. 

Question Four: My daughter is looking to rent a house in the South Bay.  Apparently, a number of owners are charging a basic pet deposit, plus a monthly pet surcharge of $20 to $50 per month, per pet.  Is that legal?  If it is permissible, does it change if the pet is an emotional support animal?

Answer Four: An owner can set the rent to any amount. It is not discriminatory to set a higher amount for an applicant that has a pet. The overall security deposit cannot exceed two months’ rent. If the pet is an emotional support animal, then additional rent and security cannot be charged.

 

Question Five: Mr. Block, I have an unusual issue that I am sure you have never seen before. I have a tenant that is under rent control in the City of Los Angeles. We have discussed in the past that his unit is actually $400 under market value. This last month, he took it upon himself to increase his rent by $250. He has always been a model tenant and I certainly appreciate this gesture. What do you think I should do?

Answer Five: Under no circumstance can you retain these funds. Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, it is considered illegal to accept rent beyond the permissible amount. Your tenant would always have the right to institute legal proceedings to return all overages even if this happened years ago. Thank your tenant for the gesture, but return those funds immediately. 

 

Question Six: We had a tenant skip out on a 3-day notice with seven more months left on his lease.  He claimed he had no money and couldn’t pay his rent. He then drove his Porsche to the airport and went golfing in Cabo San Lucas, (yes, seriously).  I know we have an obligation to “mitigate his losses”, but does that mean we have to re-rent his unit at his below market rate or can we ask market value? Thank you.

Answer Six: That is an interesting question. In order to hold a tenant responsible for the remaining lease term, a landlord has an obligation to mitigate damages. That means that the landlord has to use his or her best effort to lease the premises. Once the premises are leased, your tenant’s obligation under the lease is terminated. In this case, you would have to advertise the unit for the same price as the previous tenant was paying. If you attempt to lease the unit for the current market value, you cannot hold your tenant responsible for the remaining lease term. 

 

Question Seven: I was told that it is not a wise idea to allow tenants to pay their rent by a direct deposit to my bank account. What are your thoughts on this?

Answer Seven: Payment of your rent by way of a direct deposit is a perfectly acceptable method. I personally use this in my buildings. Sometimes you can see a deposit made, but you are not sure which tenant made the deposit. Be sure that your bank allows you to see the actual photo of the check that was deposited. This can be viewed online. Another source of concern is if a check is deposited during an eviction action where the landlord has been instructed not to accept any further rent. This does not pose a problem as the landlord merely needs to mail a check for that amount back to the tenant. A notation should be made that the funds deposited by the tenant into the bank account represents an unauthorized deposit. 

 

 

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”.