Question One: I have a tenant who is on a one-year lease. He is now stating that he will be moving out due to COVID-19. He is demanding all of his security deposit back. Can a tenant break his lease if he is impacted by the pandemic?
Answer One: A lease cannot be terminated due to COVID-19. While there are certain protections that exist to defer rent, a tenant is ultimately responsible to perform under the terms of the lease. Inform your tenant that you will be holding him responsible for the entire lease term or until the premises are leased to another party. Inform him that he will not be receiving the return of his security deposit.
Question Two: I own a duplex in Los Angeles that is subject to rent control. My tenant has a signed lease that does not permit parking in the driveway. She frequently parks there and recently put a chain lock on the gate, forcing me to cut off the locks. Can I evict her?
Answer Two: You should first serve a 3 Day Notice to Perform or Quit advising her that parking in the driveway is a violation of the lease agreement. After the third day, if the tenant continues to park in the driveway, an eviction can immediately be initiated. You should take a picture of the vehicle to prove that the violation still exists.
Question Three: I have a tenant-occupied single family residence that is not under any rent control statute. The tenant is on a month-to-month agreement. I have made a decision that I will be moving from California due to the anti-business climate that exists here. I wish to put my house up for sale. Am I permitted to issue a Notice to Quit to my tenant?
Answer Three: Under the so-called “Tenant Relief Act”, you are prohibited from obtaining a judgment for possession until Feb. 1, 2021. Unfortunately, you will need to be tied to this state for a period longer than you expected. It should be noted that if the property is in escrow and the buyer intends to occupy the premises, then the tenancy can be immediately terminated.
Question Four: I have tenants who have failed to pay rent since March, 2020, citing the pandemic. I know for a fact that both of them are working, as I went to their place of employment and confirmed this fact. I am truly struggling to keep up with my mortgage payment. Can I institute an eviction at this time?
Answer Four: Under the “Tenant Relief Act” you will first need to serve two 15-Day Notices to Pay Rent or Quit. The first notice would cover the period from March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020. This is called the “Protected Time Period”. The second 15-Day Notice will cover the period commencing September, 2020 through January 31, 2021. This is called the “Transition Time Period”. Each notice must contain a fact sheet which explains the tenant’s rights and responsibilities. In addition, the notices must be accompanied with a declaration that the tenant will be able to sign. The tenant will need to sign this declaration, under the penalty of perjury, that their inability to pay is due to the coronavirus. If your tenants sign and return the declarations, you will be prevented from proceeding forward with an eviction action. For the rent owed during the Protected Time Period, you will only be allowed to file a civil suit commencing March 1, 2021. For the rent owed during the Transition Time Period, the tenant will be responsible to pay 25% of the rent which is due January 31, 2021. If that rent is not paid, an eviction can thereafter be commenced. The remaining rent owed, can only be recovered in a civil suit which can be initiated on March 1, 2021.
Question Five: My property is located in the City of Los Angeles and is under rent control. I served a rent increase notice on August 15, 2020 with an effective date of November 1, 2020. Can the rental increase be enforced?
Answer Five: The City of Los Angeles has banned ALL rent increases on rent control property for one year. You should inform your tenants that the rent increase was served in error and that it is withdrawn.
Question Six: I have a tenant who has violated the terms of her rental agreement by bringing in additional people. She also changed the locks and refuses to give me a key. I know that evictions cannot be brought at this time, so can you suggest an alternative?
Answer Six: You are mistaken that an eviction case cannot be brought at this time. The courts are completely open and are hearing eviction actions. Cases that are involving non-payment of rent, which relate to COVID-19, cannot be brought at this time. All other cases are free to proceed. This would include a violation of the rental agreement including unauthorized persons, pets or alterations to the premises. Actions can also be initiated where a fixed-term lease terminates by its only terms. Lastly, any rent owed prior to March 1, 2020 can also be initiated, as this involves rent owed prior to the pandemic.
Question Seven: I have a tenant who owes rent from July, 2020 through October, 2020. The tenant just sent a rent check for one month’s rent. Should I apply that to the Protected Time Period or should it be applied to the Transition Time Period? I received the rent check in October.
Answer Seven: If the rent check designates what month it is being paid for, then you are required to apply it to that time period. If the payment has no designation, you should apply it to the first payment that became due, which would be July, 2020. This is the Protected Time Period.
Question Eight: Mr. Block, I have heard your lecture regarding this new law, the Tenant Relief Act. I know you are an advocate for the housing industry, but you would have to admit that during these catastrophic times, tenants obviously need help or they will face a tidal wave of evictions. Clearly, our well intentioned politicians need to prevent this from happening. For the record, I am a large property owner.
Answer Eight: Thank you for your commentary. It should be noted that tenants, as well as everyone on this planet, have been impacted by the pandemic. While many tenants truly are in need of assistance, I have personally witnessed hundreds of cases where tenants have abused the system in order to avoid paying their rent. For those tenants who have lost their income, they still would have received unemployment benefits and Federal relief funds. Did any of these tenants then come forward and pay their rent? Even for those tenants who truly do not have funds to pay their landlord, why are our elected officials putting the financial burdens of the pandemic on the shoulders of income property owners? Why is this responsibility placed on our industry? Landlords have their own families to support. If the government believes that tenants need assistance, then the relief should come from the public coffers and not from the pockets of landlords. The truth is that there will not be a tidal wave of evictions, but rather a tidal wave of foreclosures.
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”.