Question One: I rented a unit to a couple on a one year lease. Recently, the woman informed me that the couple had a fight and that the boyfriend went to jail for spousal abuse. At this point, one month’s rent is due. She informed me that she has moved from the unit as she is afraid to continue to live at the premises. There are still six months remaining on the lease agreement and she is demanding the return of her security deposit. What are my rights?
Answer One: A person who is a victim of domestic violence, can terminate a lease by serving a 30-day notice to vacate. Attached to the notice must be a copy of the restraining order, emergency protective order, or police report. This must be provided within 60 days of the day such order or report was issued or made. The tenant would be responsible for the rent during this 30 day period. You should ask the tenant to provide you with a 30-day notice and copy of the police report. The tenant will still be liable for all the rent owed through these 30 days. From the security deposit, you will be able to deduct for rent owed through this period and for cleaning and unusual wear and tear. Nothing prevents you from holding the boyfriend responsible for the remaining lease term.
Question Two: Our maintenance man had to remove a tenant’s refrigerator in order to make a repair. While moving the refrigerator, a figurine fell and broke into pieces. The tenant is claiming that it is an expensive Lladro figurine and is worth a few hundred dollars. Am I responsible?
Answer Two: It would appear that your maintenance man was negligent in allowing the figurine to break. As such, you would be responsible. You should check your lease to see if it required the tenant to maintain renter’s insurance. If that was a requirement of the lease, then you would not be legally responsible.
Question Three: Two years ago, I allowed my daughter to move into my rent controlled building. She was not required to pay any rent. Recently, she has allowed a boyfriend to move in with her over my objections. This man does not have a job and the only interests he appears to have is to get new tattoos. I have asked both of them to leave but they claim that they are protected under rent control. What should I do?
Answer Three: Your daughter and her “artistic” boyfriend have no rights under rent control. They do not qualify as protected tenants as they do not pay rent. The law views this situation as a “Tenancy at Will”. You need to serve a 30-day notice to vacate. If they fail to leave after 30 days, you can initiate an eviction action.
Question Four: We are currently screening potential tenants and have received an application from a husband and wife from Libya. They are international students. The husband has an out-of-state driver’s license, from Michigan. Neither have a social security number. Also, the husband’s visa expired in July of 2014. Since we can’t do a credit check on either of them, I’m not comfortable moving forward. Can I reject their application based on lack of social security number? I haven’t yet taken an application fee from them.
Answer Four: Since they do not meet your credit requirements and you have no effective way of screening them, you do not have to rent to them.
Question Five: What is the proper method of serving a rent increase on a tenant. In the past, I have had tenants simply state that they never received the increase notice.
Answer Five: A rent increase must be served by either handing it to the tenant, or if the tenant cannot be reached, you may post one on the door and mail one to the tenant by first class mail.
Question Six: I recently treated a unit for bedbugs. After a few treatments, the problem was finally eradicated. These tenants have thankfully moved from the premises. Do I have an obligation under the law to inform prospective tenants that the premises were treated for bedbugs?
Answer Six: The law does not impose this obligation. Your responsibility is to treat the problem, which you have done.
Question Seven: I heard your presentation at the AOA Trade Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I want to be certain of something that you discussed. I have a rent controlled apartment. One of the tenants is on a one-year lease which is set to expire in three months. Do I have the right to not renew the lease and just ask the tenant to vacate at the end of the lease term?
Answer Seven: Under the law, the tenant may remain in possession and the tenancy reverts to a month to month tenancy. You cannot force the tenant to move. Every tenancy will continue for the life of the tenant, unless you have grounds to terminate the tenancy pursuant to the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
Question Eight: I have a tenant on a one-year lease. This tenant has just handed me a mold report indicating that there was the presence of mold in his unit. He tells me that this is grounds to break his lease and that he will be vacating immediately. He never informed me that mold existed in the unit prior to the obtaining of a mold report. Does he have the right to break his lease?
Answer Eight: Your tenant is responsible for the entire lease term. If a problem exists in a unit, the tenant must inform the landlord and give the landlord a reasonable period of time to remedy the issue. In this case, you should immediately schedule a mold remediation company to treat the problem. Inform the tenant in writing the date and time when you will have the work performed. Explain to the tenant that he will still be responsible for the entire lease term.
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 is back on the air! Tune in every Monday at 1:00 p.m. on KTYM 1460 on your am dial and call in with your questions.