Question One: I have a tenant who moved after serving me proper notice. The condition of the unit was terrible. The tenant left trash and junk everywhere. The premises looked like it had never been cleaned. To haul out all this stuff will probably fill half of a dumpster. The carpets were damaged beyond cleaning or repair, due to their pet. The carpet was 18 months old. What can be deducted from the security deposit?
Answer One: Under California law you have 21 days from when the tenant vacated the unit, to account for the security deposit. You must send a written itemization to the tenant’s last known address. From a security deposit you are allowed to deduct for unreasonable wear and tear, cleaning and any rent owed. Obviously, you would be able to deduct the expense of cleaning the unit, including the expense of hauling out all the trash. Since the carpeting was relatively new, you would be able to deduct the replacement cost of the carpeting, based on the fact that it is completely destroyed.
Question Two: I own property in the City of Los Angeles. Originally, I had a house built in 1922, which I know was not subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. In 1983, I constructed an upstairs second unit and a new garage. I received a new Certificate of Occupancy for this unit. After all these years, the City is informing me that my premise is now under rent control. I know that a single family residence is not subject to rent control. I am also aware that structures which received a Certificate of Occupancy after October 1, 1978 are not subject to the ordinance. I am at a loss as to how my property is now under rent control. Please explain.
Answer Two: You are completely correct in your analysis of the ordinance, but there is further clarification. The ordinance specifies that if the premises “FIRST” received a Certificate of Occupancy after Oct. 1, 1978, it is not under rent control. In this case, the premises first received a certificate of occupancy prior to 1978. Even though you have a new Certificate of Occupancy, it does not qualify for an exemption under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. In addition, it no longer is a single family residence.
Question Three: I received a call from one of my tenants stating that another tenant had a late night party until 6 AM. This was in complete violation of the house rules. I was not present and the police were not called. I am afraid that the offending tenant will just deny the allegation. What approach should I take in this situation?
Answer Three: A one-time incident is generally not grounds for an eviction. It is best to send a warning letter to this tenant, explaining that complaints were received from another resident. If the incidents continue, you should obtain written complaints from other residents and then this would be sufficient proof to bring forth an eviction action.
Question Four: I have a tenant who has lived in my unit for over 10 years. He is demanding that I replace the carpeting. Is there any law that states that I have to replace carpeting?
Answer Four: There is no California State law which requires that you replace carpeting based on its age. You are required to replace carpeting if it is worn out or ripped. You should inspect the carpeting and replace if necessary.
Question Five: I have a 10 unit rent controlled building in the City of Los Angeles. At one time, not all of the parking spaces were being used, so I leased a unit to a tenant with two parking spaces. I now need this extra space. Am I legally able to take this space away? All of the other units have only one parking space.
Answer Five: You are able to take away this additional parking space, but you would have to give a corresponding deduction in the rent. The guidelines, as promulgated by the City, would be $10 to $50. The amount is determined by the ease of street parking and/or the availability of local parking structures. The City’s guideline for reduction in services can be found at this site: http://evict123cases.com/rent_reductions.pdf.
Question Six: Is it legal to ask an applicant if he has ever been arrested? I have a very quiet building and I screen my tenants very carefully.
Answer Six: You can ask if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime, but since all persons are presumed innocent unless convicted, your question would be considered improper.
Question Seven: This is in reference to Senate Bill Number 745-Smoke Alarms. Two years ago, I replaced all smoke detectors in my eight units with smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. Does this bill require I replace them all over again in 2015 to comply with this new law?
Answer Seven: The law does not require that you replace your smoke detectors. The law only requires that manufactures and retailers sell a specific kind of smoke and carbon monoxide detector as of July, 2015.
Question Eight: I have appeared in evictions court many times over the past 10 years. Normally, the judges are very reasonable and listen to the evidence. The last time I appeared in court, the judge was completely unfair. He would not listen to my side of the case and appeared to have completely made up his mind before the trial started. Everything the tenant said was taken as truth. I felt like I was the one who was on trial. Is there anything that can be done?
Answer Eight: If you feel the judge made an error in law, or did not follow the proper procedures, you have the right to appeal the decision. Appeals, unfortunately, are costly and take about a year to resolve. In many cases, it is less expensive and quicker to just start the case over. As a party, you have the right to exclude one judge, for any reason. Obviously, you would not want this particular judge to hear your future cases. Since my firm is in all of the local courtrooms, we have created a new website which rates judges. www.reviewthisjudge.com. This website can be used by attorneys, as well as litigants. Please feel free to check it out.
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.