Question One: I advertise for “non-smoking” tenants only. Recently, a tenant started smoking marijuana which is bothering other tenants and a direct violation of the lease agreement. When I questioned the tenant, he produced a prescription which states he has a medical necessity to smoke marijuana. How should I handle this situation?
Answer One: Marijuana and cigarettes are carcinogens which affect the health of other residents. The California Disability Act requires that persons with a disability must be afforded a reasonable accommodation. Violation of this act can result in huge penalties. It would appear that these two issues must be balanced. The approach I recommend is to first suggest to the tenant to smoke in a place where other tenants will not be affected. If this is not possible, tell the tenant that there are choices. The tenant can be required to use edible marijuana or to use a vaporizer. In each case, the health of the other tenants will not be affected and you would be in compliance by allowing your tenant a reasonable accommodation.
Question Two: My tenant just got incarcerated and I have been told he will be in jail for about a year. At this point, rent is owed. Can I just change the locks?
Answer Two: Even though your tenant is in jail, you still cannot use “self help” to evict your tenant. The normal eviction rules would apply. I would serve a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. Since the tenant is not at the unit, I would post one on the door and mail one to the premises. If you know the location of the tenant, you can also mail one to the jail. After the 3-day notice expires, you can serve the lawsuit by either serving the tenant in jail, or if you do not know the location of the tenant, you may serve the lawsuit by an “Order to Post”.
Question Three: My current tenant has given me a 30-day notice to vacate. She is highly recommending her cousin, as a prospective tenant. The cousin has no job, but it is a full time student getting federal aid. What is your opinion on renting to students on federal aid? Thank you.
Answer Three: When reviewing a prospective tenant’s credit worthiness, you cannot discriminate based on the type of income. If the income that the student receives, matches your credit requirements, then you should lease the premises to this person.
Question Four: We have a gym at our building and have been receiving complaints about shirtless residents using the facilities. Can we have a dress code that a shirt is required? The gym is currently designated as a complimentary amenity, used at the resident’s own risk, at no additional charge. Can we address this issue?
Answer Four: The management certainly has the right to institute a dress code policy. Failure to wear a shirt while exercising is a health issue and should be immediately addressed.
Question Five: I have a tenant who bounced a check. I have served a 3-day notice and the tenant is offering to pay with another personal check. Do I have to accept this?
Answer Five: If a tenant has a check dishonored, you can demand in writing that the tenant pay with cash or cashier’s check for up to three months. If you did not put this in writing to the tenant, I suggest serving a new 3-day notice for the rent and a demand in writing that the rent is to be paid in cash or cashier’s check for the next three months. [Use AOA’s form #138 – Notice for Rent to be Paid in Cash Only.]
Question Six: I have a tenant in a rent controlled unit in Los Angeles. This tenant is on Section 8 and has been in the building for over one year. I attempted to raise the rent the standard 3% charge, but my tenant is informing me that this is not legal. How can that be?
Answer Six: Under the rent control ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, landlords are entitled to a yearly rent increase. Currently, this increase is 3%. This is not the case for Section 8 tenancies. If you agree to accept a Section 8 tenant, all increases must be approved by Section 8. In general, Section 8 loathes allowing any rent increases. This is another reason why you should refrain from accepting Section 8 tenancies.
Question Seven: My tenant has moved and took the stove. The premises were leased with a stove, but the tenant stated that the stove I supplied was not adequate so they purchased their own stove and dumped my stove. Now there is no stove in the unit. Is the tenant responsible?
Answer Seven: The tenant needed your permission to remove your stove. Since the tenant did not leave the replacement stove, he is responsible for providing you with another stove of similar quality. If he fails to do this, you can deduct the cost of a stove from his security deposit.
Question Eight: I own a duplex. I live in one unit and I have leased the other unit to a young couple. This New Year’s Eve the couple had a major party and did not ask for my permission. They had it catered, had a DJ and set up a bar with a bartender. Many people were invited including scantily clad women. The party just kept going on into the early morning hours. How should I handle this?
Answer Eight: Inform your tenant that this conduct can never happen again unless you receive a personal invitation.
Happy New Year to all the AOA members. Let’s all have a great year!
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.