Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by eviction attorney, Dennis Block.
Question One: I have a tenant who recently moved into my unit. On the application, she indicated that she had no pets or animals. The rental agreement specifically prohibits animals being maintained on the premises. On the day the tenancy was to commence, she arrived with a Great Dane. The animal is as big as a motorcycle! When I objected, she handed me a note from a doctor which indicated that this pet was an emotional support animal. Clearly, this tenant is committing fraud. Can I start an eviction?
Answer One: Your tenant certainly is committing fraud, but there is little that can be done. Under the California and Federal Disability Act, if a tenant has a disability and needs the services of an emotional support animal the landlord must allow for a reasonable accommodation. Bringing forth an eviction could subject you to a discrimination lawsuit.
Question Two: I have a single-family residence in Studio City. Am I able to raise the rent, even though there is a moratorium in the City of Los Angeles?
Answer Two: Los Angeles has a prohibition against rent increases for property subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). A single-family residence is not subject to RSO. On that basis, you are free to raise the rent to market level. If you are increasing the rent more than 10 %, you will need to serve a 90-day notice.
Question Three: I have a townhouse in the City of Los Angeles. My tenant has not paid rent in over seven months. I have applied for relief under the California Rent Relief Program. Unfortunately, the tenant has not participated and therefore, I cannot be paid. Can I bring forth an eviction at this time?
Answer Three: Under the State of Emergency Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, if the tenant claims COVID-19, you cannot initiate an eviction. Under the insanity of this ordinance, you will need to wait for the State of Emergency to be declared over. Once over, the tenant will owe the rent for the following month. All rent previously owed will be deferred for one year!
Question Four: My property is under Statewide Rent Control (AB 1482). I heard your lecture, and I know I can raise the rent a total of 8.6%. My problem is that I pay for all the utilities, which are rising dramatically each month. Can I serve a notice that the tenant will now be responsible for their own utility bills?
Answer Four: That would be a violation of the statute. You can shift the cost of the utilities to new tenants, but you are limited to the approved rent increase for existing tenants.
Question Five: My lease requires the tenant to be responsible for the utilities. I have just learned that the utilities were never transferred to his name and those charges have appeared on my invoice. What steps can be taken at this time. My property is in the city of Foothill Ranch.
Answer Five: You should send your tenant a letter that the utilities will be turned off in seven days and that they should immediately be transferred to the tenant’s name. As to all the charges that have been incurred, you should send the tenant a copy of the utility invoices and make a demand for reimbursement. If the tenant fails to pay, you may issue a Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit. This will give the tenant three days to reimburse you the costs of the utilities. If the tenant does not comply, you are able to bring forth an unlawful detainer action.
Question 6: I have a tenant who has failed to pay the rent for over six months. He has bragged to me that the pandemic has nothing to do with his failure to pay the rent. He tells me that the law prevents me from evicting him and that there is nothing I can do. I am planning on serving him with a 3-day notice to pay rent. Since he has indicated that COVID has nothing to do with his inability to pay rent, am I forced to apply for rent relief under the State program?
Answer 6: Under the present law, a landlord must apply for rent relief, prior to the filing of the unlawful detainer. This is required, regardless of the circumstances relating to the nonpayment of rent. A landlord must allow 20 days to pass after the application is filed, before an unlawful detainer can be filed.
Question 7: I have a tenant who has failed to pay rent and I am about to serve a 3-day notice to pay rent. I have already applied for rent relief under the State program. Upon review of my lease, it states that I first serve a 30-day notice for any breach of the rental agreement. Am I forced to now serve a 30-day notice to pay rent, and if so, where would I get that form?
Answer 7: Notwithstanding the State law, a landlord must also follow the terms of the lease agreement. If your lease requires a 30-day notice, then those terms must be followed. You will not be able to find that form so just take a standard 3-day notice and change it to a 30-day notice.
Question 8: I have already filed an unlawful detainer action where the tenant failed to pay rent. I applied for my lost rent under the California Rent Relief Program. The tenant has not applied and so the application cannot be approved. My application was filed over two months ago. When I checked with the Calif Rent Relief Program, they told me that the tenant has not complied and as such the application is still pending. My attorney has told me that I cannot proceed unless I have a written rejection from the program. When I called, they refused to give me a written rejection. They will only state that the application is pending. It appears I am in a permanent holding pattern. Any suggestions?
Answer 8: We are experiencing a similar situation with our clients. Technically, the tenant has 15 days to respond to the application once they are notified. On that basis, the application should be rejected. To proceed with the default there is a form, UD 120, which requires the landlord to declare that the application has been denied. Clearly, this cannot be done. We have started a process where we will file a supplemental declaration which indicates that the time has expired and that the eviction process should continue. If the court rejects our default, we will be applying for an ex parte (emergency) motion to be heard by a judge. Stay tuned!
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.
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