Question One: I am in the process of preparing a security deposit itemization. Is it legal to deduct for painting charges after a tenant moves out? Also, how much can I charge for cleaning?
Answer One: From a security deposit, you are allowed to deduct for cleaning, unusual wear and tear and unpaid rent. Unless the tenant damaged the walls, you would not be able to deduct for painting. For example, if the tenant had put crayon marks on the wall or had repainted a wall, in that instance, the landlord would be justified in deducting the cost of painting from the security deposit. Therefore, unless there is some unusual factor, you cannot deduct for painting. Landlords are allowed to deduct for the cost of cleaning the unit. There is no set figure that can be charged. You are allowed to deduct your actual and reasonable costs.
Question Two: We posted a 24 hour notice to enter the property. A repair is required but the tenant is saying she won’t allow us access Are we allowed to enter, without her permission?
Answer Two: To access a unit, the law requires that a 24 hour notice to enter the dwelling be served upon the tenant. It must state the reason why access is necessary as well as the date and time. It is required that you enter during normal business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM. The notice may be served by posting it on the tenant’s door. If you have served a proper notice, you do not need the tenant’s permission to access the unit. After knocking on the door, you may use your passkey to gain entrance. If you do not have a key, you may engage the services of a locksmith to open the door.
Question Three: My tenants are moving out. They are having the public come into their unit to view furniture that they want to sell. Do I have to allow this?
Answer Three: Your tenants have the right to invite anyone into their unit. You cannot prevent this activity.
Question Four: My property is located in the City of Los Angeles. It was originally built as four units in 1929. It has now been reconstructed as a duplex and a certificate of occupancy was issued in 1979. My question is whether this property is under rent control.
Answer Four: Since you have obtained a Certificate of Occupancy issued after October 1, 1978, and the configuration of your property has changed, your property would not be subject to rent control.
Question Five: Many years ago, I obtained a judgment against my tenant for unpaid rent as a result of an eviction. I have never attempted to collect on this judgment and I do not even know the whereabouts of this tenant? Is it still possible to collect?
Answer Five: A judgment is good for 10 years and can be renewed for an additional 10 years. There is nothing preventing you from initiating collection procedures. Since you do not know where the tenant is, it is wise to engage the services of a collection agency. Most collection agencies work on a contingency basis. No charge is incurred unless they collect on the judgment. Collection agencies have the ability to search for bank accounts and to find where your former tenant is employed. Once located, bank accounts can be attached or wages garnished.
Question Six: My apartment building is located in Lancaster, California. Can I require new and/or current tenants to have Renter’s Insurance? Recently, a tenant sued me for damages to her personal property as a result of a water leak. I would like to avoid this situation.
Answer Six: You certainly have the right to require tenants to maintain Renter’s Insurance. I think it is a very wise practice. For new tenants, there should be a term in your lease agreement. Some jurisdictions require that the tenant must initial that specific paragraph. For existing tenants, who are on a month to month tenancy, you may serve a “Change of Terms of Tenancy” requesting that Renter’s Insurance be obtained. This would be permissible even in rent control areas.
Question Seven: I have a new tenant that just moved in on December 15, 2014. On Dec. 16, 2014 he sent me a text message which read, “There seems to be a heavy roach infestation on the premises. I was under the impression that the unit was fumigated prior to me moving-in. I’ve seen many bugs since I’ve moved-in.” He also attached a picture of ONE roach on a wall. I’m not sure what to do or how to respond to him. I did spray the unit with Spectracide Bug Stop purchased from Home Depot. I have the receipt for its purchase. How should I respond or what should I do?
Answer Seven: Under California law, it is the obligation of the landlord to keep the premises free of pests. The fact that you recently treated the unit is not relevant, if the tenant has a roach problem. You should inform the tenant that you will contact a pest control company and immediately schedule a service call.
Question Eight: Are there specific questions you cannot ask a prospective tenant when you are leasing a unit?
Answer Eight? Never ask anything that could be interpreted as discrimination under the Federal or California Fair Housing laws. Questions regarding race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, disability and sexual orientation should not be asked.
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.