Question One: I have a tenant that moved a “service dog” in before telling us. It took him several weeks to produce a letter regarding this “service dog.” When I went to check it out, the “doctor” doesn’t practice at the place that is on the letterhead and the phone number is an answering machine for someone else. I have accepted his rent but can I still enforce the terms of the lease which has a no pet policy?
Answer One: You certainly have the right to enforce the terms of your lease agreement. Under the Federal and California Disability Act, a landlord must allow for a reasonable accommodation to have a service animal. A tenant must produce a valid letter from a medical professional which outlines the patient’s need for a service animal. In this situation, it is clear that the note produced was fraudulent. You should immediately serve a “Notice to Perform or Quit” which will request that the pet be removed within the three-day period. If the tenant fails to comply, an eviction could be commenced. At this point, do not accept any further rent.
Question Two: My tenant has a verified comfort pet. The problem is that this dog barks all day long when the tenant is at work. I have received several complaints from my tenants and even from the next door neighbor. What should I do?
Answer Two: While a landlord has to allow a reasonable accommodation for a comfort pet, the situation you describe, would make this an unreasonable accommodation. I would send a letter to the tenant stating that the barking has to cease or you will withdraw your permission to maintain this specific animal on the premises.
Question Three: I have many repair problems at my building and I have had to access a tenant’s unit several times. My tenant has informed me that there is a limit as to how many times I can access her unit. Is there a limit on access to a tenant’s unit?
Answer Three: There is no limit on how many times a landlord can access a unit. You are required to serve a 24-hour written notice stating the date, time and reason why you are entering. You must request access during normal business hours and you must have a proper reason for accessing a tenant’s unit. For example, a proper reason is to make necessary or agreed repairs.
Question Four: An applicant signed a rental agreement and paid the first month rent and a security deposit. Prior to moving in, he now tells me that he has changed his mind and wants all of his money back. He states that under the law, he has three days to cancel the agreement. Is this true?
Answer Four: There is no “cooling off” period in regard to a lease agreement. If your applicant signed the agreement he will be responsible for the entire lease term. Tell him that you will not cancel the agreement. If he does not move in, send him a security deposit itemization which will indicate that he owes for the entire lease term. You are required, under California law, to use your best efforts to lease this unit to mitigate your tenant’s liability.
Question Five: I have rent control units in the City of Los Angeles. I have heard that I can charge the tenants for something called SCEP. I am not sure what that is, can you explain?
Answer Five: SCEP stands for the Systematic Code Enforcement Program. This is a program where the City sends inspectors to the premises on a periodic basis to check the condition of the unit. If they find deficiencies, they can issue an “Order to Comply” which will require the landlord to take corrective action. The City charges the landlord $43.32 per unit for the cost of these inspections. A landlord may pass through 100% of the annual SCEP fee per rental unit as a monthly surcharge of $3.61, provided that the landlord has paid the SCEP fee to Housing Community and Investment Department for the City of Los Angeles and given the tenant an advance written thirty-day notice.
Question Six: I have a building located near Loma Linda Medical School. I would like to reserve my units only for students who will be attending the university. My reason is that these students study most of the time and need a quiet environment. Is this legal?
Answer Six: I can understand your reasoning, but this would be considered discriminatory. I would certainly inform potential applicants that the building has many medical students, which require a very quiet environment. You might also consider leasing on a month to month tenancy so that if you get any complaints, it would be easy to terminate the tenancy.
Question Seven: One of my friends, who is a landlord, told me that I must give my tenants information on bed bugs. Can you explain?
Answer Seven: Under a new California law, there is a disclosure form regarding bed bugs which must be attached to every new lease. This form is available from the AOA. After January 1, 2018, you will be required to give this form to all of your existing tenants. Under this law, the tenant must cooperate with the pest control company by reducing clutter, washing clothes or performing other activities. Failure for the tenant to cooperate could result in an eviction.
Question Eight: I have a rent control unit in the City of Los Angeles. My tenant altered the premises in violation of the rental agreement. His unit has rather old carpeting and several cracked tiles on the kitchen floor. Without informing me, he has removed the carpeting and the tile floor and replaced them with new carpeting and tiles. Under the terms of the lease agreement, alterations cannot occur without the landlord’s written consent. Is this a good case for eviction?
Answer Eight: This would be a great case to lose! Your tenant has clearly improved the premises and no judge would view this conduct as grounds to terminate the tenancy.
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 or Orange: 714.634.8232 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. Get the NEW App for iPhone or Android phones. Search for “EVICT123“. “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.