Question One: My company recently purchased a rent-controlled building and the leases do not prohibit smoking. We’ve distributed a memo regarding a new No Smoking Policy, in response to one tenant complaining about smoke entering his unit and causing a health hazard. Can the offending tenant, who keeps smoking, be evicted for committing a nuisance under the RSO even if his lease doesn’t prohibit him from smoking in his unit? 

Answer One: Under the provisions of the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) for the City of Los Angeles, a tenant cannot be evicted for the issue contained in a change of terms of tenancy. The provision would have had to have been contained in the rental agreement, which was signed by the tenant.

Even though you cannot evict on this basis, you should still serve the change of terms regarding your no smoking policy to every resident. This will at least establish that your building is “smoke free”, even though the law does not allow you to evict in this situation.
Of course, you can evict a tenant who is creating a nuisance. You should send a warning letter to your tenant that the smoke is bothering other residents and that it constitutes a health hazard. If the conduct continues, this would be grounds for eviction based on a nuisance theory. It will be required that other residents come to court to testify if the matter is contested.  

Question Two: My rental agreement states the names of the tenants who can legally occupy the premises. My property is located in the City of Los Angeles. Under the City eviction moratorium guidelines it states, “Additionally, tenants may not be evicted for having unauthorized occupants, pets or a nuisance as a result of circumstances related to COVID‐19.” My tenant has brought in an additional person without my permission. May I evict the tenant at this time or does the eviction moratorium prevent me from doing so?

Answer Two: The tenant would be the subject of an eviction action unless he can demonstrate that the person was required to move in due to circumstances relating to COVID-19. For example, if your tenant had contracted the virus, a caretaking might be required to move into the unit. Another example would be if the tenant had to work, but due to school closures, the children would need someone to watch over them. Barring a specific like situation, you would have every right to bring forth an eviction.

Question Three: My property is subject to Statewide Rent Control under AB 1482. I am considering adding two additional accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in the rear of the property. These units would be located in an area that is currently used for parking by my current residents. Is it permitted that I remove this parking area?

Answer Three:  As long as your tenants are on a month-to-month tenancy, you may serve a 30-day change of terms of tenancy that parking will no longer be permitted in this area. No rent reduction would be required.

Question Four: My tenant has not paid rent since April, 2020 due to COVID-19. The tenant is now going to give me a partial rent payment and is asking what time period would it be applied to. How should I respond?

Answer Four: It is your tenant who determines what period the rent should be applied to. If the tenant is silent, or is asking you, it should be applied to the “Protected Time Period”. This is the period of March 1, 2020 through August 31, 2020. In this way, the tenant will still owe at least 25% of the rent for the period of September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 which is considered the “Transition Time Period”. You should follow up the payment with a written receipt to the tenant indicating what time period the payment is applied.

Question Five: I am a Realtor and I am selling a duplex. One of the renters will not let us show the property because he is concerned about COVID-19. Is he allowed to not let us in? Also, he is behind on his rent since April and has only paid 25% percent of rent for October and November. The rental agreement ends March 31, 2021 and the owner does not want to renew the contract. Can she send a letter now that she won’t renew it?

Answer Five: Your tenant is justified during these pandemic times in not showing the unit. You do not mention where the premises are located. Assuming the premises are not under rent control, you could send a letter to the tenant indicating that the lease would not be renewed. A duplex, if not subject to a local rent control statute, would probably fall under Statewide Rent Control. The only exceptions would be if the property received a certificate of occupancy within the last 15 years or if the owner occupies one of the units and lived there prior to the current tenant.  

Question Six: I have a person who is residing in my unit without my permission. She was allowed in by the original tenant. This person has been diagnosed with COVID-19. I know that she would not qualify for the unit, but I know it would be detrimental for her to leave at this time.  I would like to help her. Is there a way to structure a short-term agreement without establishing tenant rights? I am concerned that if I lower the rent it will establish the rent at this lower amount. My property is under rent control.

Answer Six: Under no circumstances should you enter into any lease with this person or even accept rent. By doing so, you will establish a tenancy and your rent will be established at the amount that she paid. I would just allow the person to live there rent free for a month and then she will be able to vacate the unit. If she does not, it would be a simple process to evict, even during these pandemic times.

Question Seven: I own a house that is not under rent control. The rent is way below market value. I raised the rent by 25% by serving a 60-day notice of change of terms of tenancy. The notice has now expired and the tenant is informing me that the increase was illegal and therefore it will not be paid. I was under the assumption that a single-family residence is not under rent control and that the rent can be raised to any amount. Who is correct?

Answer Seven: Technically, you are both correct. A single-family residence is not under rent control and there is no limitation on the amount of rent that can be increased. Your tenant is correct however, that the rent increase is illegal. Under a recent California law, if you are raising the rent in excess of 10%, a 90-day rent increase notice would need to be served. You should serve a new increase notice where the rent increase will not take effect for 90 days.

Question Eight: I have a resident who complained that her Amazon package went missing from the lobby. I reviewed the video recording and I can clearly see which tenant took the package. The victim is asking for a copy of the video. Should I allow her to have a copy?

Answer Eight: I think you should definitely make a copy available to your resident. In addition, I would confront your tenant and demand that the item be returned and that the premises be vacated. If the tenant refuses, I would initiate an eviction action.

Question Nine: What is the legal requirement for an emotional support animal? A tenant of mine just emailed me a document that looks like it was generated online, stating her cat is an emotional support animal. The document does not have any therapist name or license number. Thanks.

Answer Nine: The tenant must provide a written statement from a medical professional that states that the tenant has a disability and needs the support of a comfort animal. The issue is not whether the cat qualifies as an emotional support animal. The issue is whether your tenant has a disability which requires the service of an emotional support animal.

 

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”.