This article was posted on Tuesday, Jul 01, 2014

Question One: I paid a real estate broker to fill my vacancy. The tenant gave a deposit of $1,090.00 but the broker never got a signed lease. I paid the real estate broker his commission and then the tenant changed his mind and asked for his deposit back. When I told the real estate broker, he said that since the tenant gave a deposit, the commission was still due and refuses to refund me. There is no written contract between me and the broker. Do I have to refund the tenant’s deposit and can I demand my commission payment back?

Answer One: Since you have no written contract with the tenant, you would be required to return the security deposit. The broker is liable, however, to return his commission. Your oral agreement with the broker was to obtain a tenant for your vacancy. Clearly, this was not accomplished and therefore the broker must refund the commission. You might consider filing a complaint with the Department of Real Estate.

Question Two: Am I required to give a tenant a “Spanish” 30 day notice for a rental increase? My tenant only speaks Spanish and is demanding that all notices be in this language.Answer Two: If you negotiated the lease in English and used an English rental agreement, you are not required to supply notices in Spanish. I recommend that all negotiations be conducted in English. This might require your tenant to provide an interpreter. If the negotiations were conducted in Spanish, or if you used a Spanish lease agreement, all notices would be required to be in that language. This would include a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. In this situation, you could lose your eviction action by using a notice in English.

Question Three: I own a duplex. My tenant wants to put up a political lawn sign on her small front yard. I do not want her to put these signs up, as it could cause vandalism. Do I have the right to deny this.
Answer Three: Unfortunately, underCalifornia law, you cannot prevent the tenant from posting a political sign on your property. The sign cannot exceed six (6) square feet and can only be set up 90 days before and 15 days after the election day.

Question Four: I have a tenant in a wheelchair who lives on our second floor. Our only elevator will be down two weeks for maintenance. Are we responsible to pay for alternative accommodations, as this tenant will not have access to her unit. This tenant specifically chose to lease a unit on the second floor, even though a first floor unit was available.
Answer Four: You would not be responsible for the cost of alternate accommodations. You should not, however, charge the tenant the rent for this two week period.

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Question Five: I have a tenant in a rent controlled unit in Los Angeles. After eight months, this tenant brought in an additional person to occupy the premises. Is it true that I can raise the rent 10%? Also, would I be able to raise the rent on the first year anniversary, the allowable percentage under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance?
Answer Five: You are allowed to raise the rent 10% if an additional person joins the tenancy. This person must be occupying the unit over 30-days. In addition, you must serve the increase notice within 60 days from when you had knowledge of this additional person. When the tenancy reaches it one-year anniversary, you are allowed to raise the rent the allowable percentage. You should compute this amount on the original rental amount, before adding the additional 10 percent increase.

Question Six: I have a tenant that has lived in the same unit for over 16 years. We have a month to month rental agreement. Does it take a 30 or 60 day notice to have the tenants move from the unit?
Answer Six: UnderCalifornia law, if a tenant has occupied the premises over one-year, a 60-day notice is required. If one-year or less, a 30-day notice is required. On a notice to quit, it is permissible to serve the notice by certified mail.

Questions Seven: Is it permissible to take a security deposit and a last month rent? I am leasing my house on a one-year lease. The rent is $2,500 per month. I would like to get the first month, last month and a security deposit for a total of $7,500.
Answer Seven: You certainly could do this, but it is not recommended. You should not collect a last month rent. UnderCalifornia law, you are entitled to take a security deposit equal to two months’ rent.

By designating it a security deposit, you would still be able to collect a total of $7,500. If you designate part of the deposit as a last month rent, the tenant can avoid paying the rent for the twelfth month. If the tenant then fails to vacate, you will only be holding a deposit equal to one month rent.

Question Eight: I just leased my single family residence to a couple with children. They signed a lease which provided that they were to pay all utilities. It has been a month and I have come to find out that they never switched the utilities to their name. How should I handle this situation?
Answer Eight: This could have been an easy oversight on the part of your tenant. Send your tenant the utility bill and require them to make immediate payment to you. In addition, inform them that you will be having the utilities turned off in one week and it will be required that they have it switched into their own account. If they fail to pay on the invoice, issue a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit.

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 Now, you can also read Dennis Block on Twitter, or text him at (818) 570-1557.  Download the Dennis Block FREE app for your Smartphone – “Landlord Legal Helper”.

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