Question One:  I have a single-family residence in Van Nuys, California. It has four bedrooms which I rent to four separate roommates. By renting out separate rooms, I am able to get a higher rental amount than if I leased the house to a single family. One of the tenants has stopped paying her rent. I know that she is not affected by the pandemic.  What steps can I take to evict her? Obviously, the other residents should not be impacted.

Answer One: Many landlords are not aware that renting out rooms in the City of Los Angeles is prohibited. The tenants do not have any obligation to pay rent. This tenancy is considered illegal and as such you would be required to pay relocation funds in order to force the tenants to vacate. I would approach the tenant and tell her that you will waive the rent if she just vacates. You might want to offer her a small amount of cash to have her vacate. You should also approach the other tenants and attempt to have them all sign one lease. By doing this, it will legitimize the tenancy.

Question Two:  My tenant vacated a rental property in Lawndale, CA. No eviction was necessary. Her bill for past due rent, damages and cleaning is about $6,000. She lied about COVID-19 and did not send proof within the 15-day period prior to her vacating. Does she have one year to pay back what is owed or can I file a Small Claims action on March 1, 2021? 

Answer Two: You do not have to wait until March 1, 2021 to initiate a Small Claims Court action. That lawsuit can be brought at this time. If the amount you were seeking was in excess of $10,000, then you should wait until that date. On March 1, 2021 the jurisdictional limit for the unpaid rent period of March 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 is unlimited.

 

Question Three: Recently, the police entered my occupied rental by breaking through two wooden doors to make an arrest with a warrant.  I happened to be present upon their arrival and asked to see their warrant. They wouldn’t show any documentation to me and verbally repeated they had a warrant. They indicated that it was for a missed court appearance. The tenant did not come out and they entered by breaking the doors. My question is whether the tenant is responsible for this damage. What steps should I take?

Answer Three:  Your tenant is responsible for the damage created. You should serve your tenant a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit, demanding that the doors be repaired. If the tenant does not comply with the notice an eviction action should be filed.

 

Question Four:  I own a single- family residence in Vista, Ca. I rent a room to one person who has become very argumentative and belligerent. I understand that there are restrictions, due to the pandemic, which make it difficult to ask tenants to leave. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer Four:  The Tenant Relief Act does not protect a tenant in this situation. Your tenant is considered a lodger under Civil Code 1946.5.  As long as you do not take in another boarder, you can ask your tenant to vacate on the basis that you intend to solely occupy the property. A 30-day notice to quit would be required and no relocation fees need to be paid. 

 

Question Five:  Is it legal to ask an applicant to fill out an application form prior to showing my house? I really do not want to waste my time showing the premises if the person would not be able to qualify.

Answer Five: Nothing prohibits you from first qualifying the applicant prior to showing the unit.  Many times, an applicant can be initially screened by just asking general questions.

 

Question Six:  I understand the City of Los Angeles has deferred for one year the time when rent is required to be paid. I have a tenant who has failed to pay rent since March, 2020. Can you elaborate as to the specifics of this moratorium?

Answer Six:  Under the Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium, landlords are restricted from demanding rent or initiating an eviction, if the failure to pay rent is related to the pandemic. The landlord cannot demand that the tenant provide any proof of an inability to pay rent. This is for the rental period of March 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021. Rent owed for this period will first become due on February 1, 2022. At that time, a tenant can be issued a 3-day notice to pay rent. If rent is not paid, you can proceed with an eviction. If your tenant vacates prior to February 1, 2022, a civil action may be brought to recover the rent.

 

Question Seven:  I have a tenant whose lease states that he is allowed one dog. Recently, I found out that this dog died and he has now replaced the animal with a pit bull. My insurance will not allow for this breed of dog. Since the tenant never asked permission to bring in this dog, do I have grounds for eviction?

Answer Seven: Since your lease does not specifically describe the dog, your tenant is free to bring in any breed of dog to replace the original one.  When leasing a unit, if permission is granted to have a pet, it should be described with specificity so that consent would be required if another pet is brought into the unit.

 

Question Eight:  I rent an apartment in West Hollywood. I leased the apartment which also includes a garage. I required the tenant to sign a separate rental agreement for the garage. I would like to know if there are any restrictions on raising the rent on the garage. 

Answer Eight:  The leasing of a garage is considered a commercial tenancy. Under the California Civil Code, rent restrictions cannot be placed on a commercial tenancy. On this basis, you are free to raise the rent to any level. In addition, you can choose to terminate the tenancy by issuing a 30-day notice to vacate.

 

On a personal note, I wish all the AOA members a prosperous and healthy New Year. I am glad that we can finally say goodbye to the year, 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”.