Questions and Answers

Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by eviction attorney Dennis Block.

Question One: My property is located in the City of San Gabriel. My tenant is on a one-year lease. I discovered that he converted the garage into a living space and has subleased it to a family. He has refused to remove this family or to return the garage to its original condition. He states that since he has a one-year lease, he can do as he pleases, as long as he returns the premises to its original condition at the end of the lease term.

I was shocked by his attitude. May I issue him a 30-day notice to quit, as clearly, he has breached his rental agreement? The lease agreement specifically states that the premises may not be subleased.

Answer One:  You certainly can initiate eviction proceedings but a 30-day notice to quit would not be the proper notice. In this instance, you should serve a 3-day notice to perform or quit. The notice will require that the tenant remove the unauthorized occupants and return the garage to its original condition within the three days. Most rental agreements state that alterations to premises cannot be performed without the prior written consent of the landlord. The tenant will have three days to remedy these issues and if he fails to do so, an unlawful detainer action may be filed.

 

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Question Two: I am looking to sell my single-family house in the City of Downey. We have a tenant in possession on a month-to-month agreement. The buyer intends to occupy the premises. May I issue my tenant a 60-day notice to quit?

Answer Two: Your property is not subject to rent control and in prior times you could serve a 60-day notice to terminate the tenancy. Unfortunately, these are not normal times. The County of Los Angeles has issued tenant protections due to the pandemic. They have prohibited “no fault” evictions through December 2022. You would not legally be able to issue a notice to quit on your tenant. The new owner would be able to terminate the tenancy, if the owner intends to occupy the premises. At the current time, relocation would be required to be paid to the tenant. Relocation ranges from $7,654 to $21,411. This is dependent on how many bedrooms exist in the house and whether the tenant has minor children, is a senior, disabled or low income. If the new owner waits until January 2023, no relocation will need to be paid.

 

Question Three: I had a tenant who was occupying my apartment in the City of Los Angeles. My property is under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, RSO. For the last four months, I have not seen my tenant and a new person is occupying the premises. I spoke to this stranger who informed me that she is just house sitting. My tenant has not paid rent since January. I suspect that he has moved out and is allowing this person to occupy the apartment at no charge. Clearly, I am being defrauded. Can I initiate an eviction based on an unauthorized occupant residing in the unit in violation of the rental agreement?

Answer Three: Under the State of Emergency for the City of Los Angeles, a tenant cannot be evicted for having an unauthorized person, if it relates to COVID-19. Most judges in Los Angeles County are taking the interpretation that there is a prohibition against any eviction based on an unauthorized occupant. I currently have an appeal pending, which might change this situation. In the meantime, you may still commence an eviction based on this situation. If your tenant has in fact vacated, we can commence an eviction against the current occupant. The basis of the eviction would be that she is an unauthorized subtenant at the end of the lease. You will need to find out her name and then a 3-day notice to quit could be served.

 

Question Four: I have a four unit building in the City of Hawthorne. The rents are very low, and I would like to know if there is any strategy to raise the rents to market level. Comparable units are going for $500 to $600 more per month.

Answer Four: I am assuming that your building is over 15 years old and therefore you are subject to Statewide Rent Control (AB-1482). Currently, you can issue a rent increase in the sum of 10%, pursuant to the State law. In January 2023, you will be able to remove the tenants and raise rent to market level if you are willing to perform major renovation to these units. Major renovation is defined as taking more than 30 days to complete and that the work requires obtaining a building permit. In general, you will need to remodel the bathroom and/or the kitchen. Once the renovation has been completed, you will be able to raise the rent to match other comparable units.

 

Question Five: I have a tenant and I sent a rent increase notice. Once the increase became effective, the tenant paid the same rent.  When my agent asked him why the increase was not paid, the tenant claimed that he never received the notice. The notice was sent by first class mail. Am I now required to send it by certified mail and to wait another 30-days?

Answer Five: California Civil Code 827 states that a rent increase notice may be served by personal delivery or by first class mail. It is always suggested that you either deliver it directly to your tenant or to send it by certified mail. If you proceed to serve an eviction notice, it will be up to the judge to determine whether you properly mailed it. I would suggest serving an additional rent increase notice, instead of risking an adverse court decision.

 

Question Six: I have rent control apartments in the City of Los Angeles. I have not issued a rent increase since January 2020. My costs have gone up dramatically due to inflation. My tenants are getting a great deal and I know they will never leave. When can we finally raise rents?

Answer Six: The City Council of Los Angeles recently met to consider ending the State of Emergency. The vote to end the eviction moratorium was voted down by an 11 to 1 vote. Currently, the law states that rent increases can be imposed one year after the end of the eviction moratorium. The moratorium is currently extended to August 1, 2023. This means that rent increase cannot be instituted until August 1, 2024.

 

Question Seven: I have a single-family house in Fontana, CA. I would like to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in the backyard. I have a tenant that is occupying the property pursuant to a 1-year lease. The lease will expire at the end of November 2022. What notice should I be serving on this tenant to inform him that the work will soon be commencing.

Answer Seven: Since you leased the entire property, you cannot commence the construction until the end of the lease term. I would send a letter to your tenant that effective December 1, 2022, work will begin to construct the ADU. You can inform your tenant that if this is not acceptable, that the tenant can merely vacate at the end of the lease term.

 

Question Eight: I recently purchased a duplex at a foreclosure sale in the City of Los Angeles. One of the units are vacant and the other one is occupied by the previous owner. This person refuses to vacate and states that he cannot be evicted due to the eviction moratorium. Since the moratorium is extended to August 1, 2023, does that mean he can just live there rent free for another year? Is there any way I can force him to pay rent at this time?

Answer Eight: The eviction moratorium protects tenants. This is not the case in this situation. The previous owner does not get any protection under the moratorium. You can immediately commence an eviction. A 3-day notice to quit should be served, and an unlawful detainer action can then be filed once the notice expires.  You should not accept any rent. Acceptance of rent will create a tenancy. If he stops paying rent thereafter, he will be afforded the protection under the eviction moratorium.

 

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”.