Q&A

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 leased a condominium to a tenant less than a year ago. I have learned that the tenant has advertised the unit through apartments.com and is subletting the unit to other people. The lease indicates no subletting. Can the owner evict for violation of the lease?

Answer One: This would constitute a violation of the lease and an eviction can proceed. You would need to serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit and if the “stranger” was still occupying the premises, an unlawful detainer could be initiated. If your property is subject to Statewide Rent Control (AB 1482) a 3-Day Notice to Quit would need to be served after the first notice expires. Be advised that this is not a proper reason to evict if your property is located in the City of Los Angeles.

Question Two: Can I start an eviction for non-payment at this time? My property is located in the City of Los Angeles. Does the tenant have to inform me he is impacted by COVID-19 or not? Are there options available?

Answer Two: An eviction action for non-payment of rent cannot be brought in the City of Los Angeles if the tenant’s inability to pay rent is due to COVID-19. The tenant does not have to inform or show any documentation. If you start an eviction action, the tenant can merely allege COVID-19 as to the reason why rent was not paid. In that instance, the case would have to be dismissed. Theoretically, if you could prove that the tenant was not affected, you could bring forth an action. An example would be where the tenant was always on a fixed income and therefore not financially impacted.

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Question Three: I have a multifamily fourplex in the city of Pomona. My question is what rental percentage can I raise the rent?

Answer Three: If your property was built less than 15 years ago, you may raise the rent to market level. If you go above 10%, a 90-day notice is required. 10% or less would require a 30-day notice. If your property was built more than 15 years ago, you are subject to Statewide Rent Control. You are entitled to raise the rent 5% plus the Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is 3.6% at the time of the writing of this column. The new CPI percentage should be available by May 1, 2022, when this article is published.

Question Four: My tenant is storing his personal property in the common areas of my apartment building. The building is located in West Covina. I have asked him to remove these unsightly objects, but he refuses. I have had difficulty leasing out a vacant unit, as this truly looks terrible. Is there anything I can do to have his personal property removed? I know that there is an eviction moratorium at this time.

Answer Four:  Eviction protection is in place to assist tenants who have an inability to pay due to COVID-19. Clearly, this is not the case in this situation. You need to check your rental agreement. Most rental agreements prohibit storing of personal property in the common areas of the property. If that provision is not in your lease agreement, then assuredly it would have a provision that the premises must be kept in a neat and sanitary condition. Your tenant would be in violation of this rental agreement. You should serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit, giving the tenant three days to remove these items. If the personal property is not removed, you should take a picture and proceed to eviction. It should be noted that if your building is over 15 years old, it would be subject to Statewide Rent Control. This statute requires that you serve a 3-Day Notice to Quit, after the first notice expires, prior to filing the eviction lawsuit.

Question Five: I have a six-unit apartment in the city of Van Nuys. One of my tenants applied for rental assistance and I got paid for 18 months. This tenant still claims that she is affected by COVID-19 and owes me rent from October 2021 through this current month. Can I serve a 3-day notice to pay rent and start the eviction process?

Answer Five: The City of Los Angeles has a moratorium against evictions for non-payment of rent, where the tenant is claiming COVID-19. At the time of the writing of this column, the Los Angeles moratorium extends to April 2023. The city is just expecting you to survive without rental payment.

Question Six: I am thinking about purchasing a probate property, a single-family residence, in Duarte, Calif. There is a tenant in possession, without a written lease, that has been not paying rent. I want to move into the property. Is it possible to evict at this time?

Answer Six: You do not have the right to occupy the premises at this time, as you are purchasing the premises after June 30, 2021.  If you wait unit January 1, 2023, you can ask the tenant to vacate and relocation is not required. You might be able to evict based on non-payment of rent. This would seem like a more appropriate remedy, since the tenant is currently delinquent in rent.

Question Seven: If I want to raise rents 10% or more (5% +CPI), do I need to give a 30-day notice or a 60- day notice?  The properties are in Manhattan Beach. Thanks.

Answer Seven: Your property would be subject to Statewide Rent Control. You are entitled to a 5% increase plus the CPI, which cannot exceed 5%. If you are serving a rent increase notice raising rent 10% or less, a 30-day notice is required. It should be noted that there are no 60-day notices to increase rent. If the amount of the increase exceeds 10%, a 90-day notice is required.

Question Eight: I am in shock. I leased my house in the hills of Los Angeles for $15,000 per month. The tenant’s credit and references were thoroughly checked. He paid the first month rent and a security deposit in the sum of $15,000. Now that the lease has expired, he is claiming COVID and refuses to pay any further rent. I depend on the rent to pay my mortgage and property taxes. If no rent is received, I am in danger of losing my house. I have tried to talk to this tenant, but he is now refusing to take my calls. When he moved in, he had over $400,000 in savings. Clearly, he has money to pay the rent. In fact, last week he had a new car in the driveway. I understand that the City of Los Angeles has extended the moratorium until April 2023. I literally will not be able to keep the house. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer Eight:  I find it repugnant as to the laws that the City of Los Angeles has imposed on income property owners. Clearly, this is an abdication of your property rights. The city expects you to support this tenant for an additional year. I do have a possible solution. You should serve on your tenant a “30-Day Change of Terms of Tenancy” increasing the security deposit to the maximum allowed by law. Since the tenant paid a $15,000 security deposit, you would be entitled to request an additional $15,000 to make the total security deposit $30,000. If the tenant fails to pay the additional security deposit, you will be able to evict by serving a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit.

Dennis P. Block
Dennis P. Block

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”.