Legal 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 have a single-family home in Santa Monica, not subject to rent control, and my tenants are on a month-to-month tenancy. Can I raise the rent and if so, how much?

Answer One: A single-family home is not subject to rent limitations. You are free to raise the rent to market level. If your rent increase exceeds 10%, a 90-day notice to increase the rent is required. If 10% or less, a 30-day notice is required.

 

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Question Two: I own a house in Van Nuys and I took in a boarder. He has lived here for over two years and at this time, I wish to terminate the tenancy. I issued him a 30-day notice to vacate. If my tenant does not vacate, must I go through a formal eviction process or can I just change the locks?

Answer Two: Self-help is never permitted in the State of California. Unfortunately, you cannot issue a notice to terminate at this time. Under the Los Angeles State of Emergency, no-fault evictions are prohibited until the State of Emergency is declared over.

 

Question Three: I have a tenant who has not paid rent since August 2021. I wish to serve a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit and proceed with an eviction. Are there any special rules in serving the notice? My property is located in the City of Fullerton.

Answer Three: If your notice demands rent for the period of August 2021 through March 2022, the case will be delayed unless you can produce a rejection notification from the California Rent Relief Program. For that period, it is best to rely upon the California program for compensation or you may sue your tenant in Small Claims Court.

For rent owed commencing April 2022, a standard 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit should be served. If rent is not paid within the 3-day period, an unlawful detainer may be initiated.

 

Question Four: I have a single-family house in Manhattan Beach. My tenant is currently on a month-to-month tenancy. I have plans to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in the rear of the property. My tenant claims that this will affect her use of the backyard and, therefore, she is telling me that I cannot proceed with my plans. I contemplated reducing her rent but now I am not sure I can proceed at all. What are my rights to proceed with this project?

Answer Four: A single-family residence is not subject to any rent control statute. On this basis, you only need to serve a 30-Day Change of Terms of Tenancy. This notice will inform the tenant that an ADU will be constructed and that a portion of the yard will no longer be part of her tenancy. No compensation is required to be paid to your tenant. It should be noted that once you receive your Certificate of Occupancy, your single-family residence will now be subject to Statewide Rent Control, AB 1482.

 

Question Five: I bought a triplex in the City of Los Angeles in December 2019. I bought the property with the intent to demolish and construct affordable, low-income housing. The lot will allow for the construction of 10 units. I had plans drawn up and permits were obtained. Of course, my project was delayed with the advent of the pandemic. It has now been 2 ½ years and I still cannot get my project off the ground. This is due to the City’s “State of Emergency” which is preventing all no-fault evictions. At this point, I am in danger of losing my property. My project will actually assist the residents of the City of Los Angeles. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Answer Five: There really is no hope in sight for your project. At this time the city has extended the moratorium through June 2023. There is no guarantee that this will not be extended once again. The extension of the moratorium is clear politics on the part of the City Council and the Mayor. Clearly, at this time, no one is financially impacted by COVID-19. Employers are desperate to fill open job positions. In addition, on what basis can governmental officials predict what will happen next year? My recommendation is to sell the triplex and renew this project in a different city. This is the prime reason I moved my law practice to Burbank.

 

Question Six: I am the owner of a 4-unit building in Redondo Beach. One of the tenants is constantly complaining about other tenants who are slamming doors and playing music too loud. This tenant also complains about barking dogs and kids that are yelling. None of the other tenants complain. I have spoken to the other tenants, sent emails and installed a door to prevent it from slamming. What is my responsibility in this situation? This tenant has now threatened to withhold rent due to the noise. If she does not pay the rent, can I serve her with a 3-day notice and proceed to eviction?   

Answer Six: A landlord has an obligation to insure the peace and quiet enjoyment of the premises. If your other tenants are truly disturbing the peace of the building, you might consider initiating an eviction. This issue is whether the noise being generated is excessive, or common for a multi-unit building. I would investigate further to see if the noise is truly excessive. Since none of the other tenants are complaining, it would appear that your tenant is hyper-sensitive. I would send a letter to your tenant that you have investigated the situation and determined that the noise is not excessive. You might suggest that she is welcome to vacate. If your tenant withholds rent, you could commence an eviction.

 

Question Seven: I recently bought an older building in the City of Riverside. Most of the tenants have no rental agreements. The previous owner was not proficient at keeping records. How do you suggest that I get these tenants to sign my standard rental agreement?

Answer Seven: If your property was built over 15 years ago, you are subject to Statewide Rent Control. You cannot force an existing tenant to sign a rental agreement. You should send the tenants a letter that you are the new owner. This letter should contain your name, physical address, phone number and times when it is appropriate for the tenant to contact you during the week. The letter should also contain an address where rent is to be paid.  I would have a rental agreement attached to this letter and ask for the tenant to sign and return the contract. If the tenant refuses, there is little that you can do.

 

Question Eight: My property is located in Los Angeles County and is subject to Statewide Rent Control. Is it permissible to raise the rent at this time and, if so, what is the percentage that I can be raised?

Answer Eight: Under the state law you are permitted to raise the rent 5% plus the CPI, as published for April of each year. This year, the percentage of increase is 7.9%. It would appear that the increase would therefore be 12.9%. Unfortunately, the yearly maximum rent increase cannot exceed 10%.

 

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”.