Question One: I have a tenant who gave notice to leave in mid-March. I told her that our policy was to have her pay the entire month’s rent on March 1st. We would then prorate back the excess rent after she moved out. This is the way I’ve always handled mid-month move-outs. She refused and only paid half-a-month’s rent, claiming she’s not required to pay for the entire month, since she was vacating on March 15, 2015. I’ve had people not leave on time, which is why I have this policy. What is the actual law about this?
Answer One: A tenant may serve a 30-Day Notice to Quit on any day of the month. The tenant is only responsible to pay for the prorated rent for the following month. On this basis, your tenant was correct in only paying a portion of the rent.
Question Two: I have a tenant in a rent controlled unit. This tenant refuses to pay the rent unless I serve him with a 3-Day Notice. Once I serve the notice, he promptly pays the rent. This creates extra work for me each month. Is there a way I could charge for my time?
Answer Two: You should put a provision in your rental agreement that if a 3-Day Notice is served, there will be a fee charged in the sum of $50. This would be a legal provision. Unfortunately for a rent controlled unit, you cannot impose this provision once the tenant is already in possession.
Question Three: My tenant failed to pay the rent and I issued a 3-Day Notice. She immediately paid me a partial payment. The three days have now expired and I did not receive the balance of the rent. Is it permissible to commence the unlawful detainer action?
Answer Three: By accepting a partial payment of the rent, you must now issue a new three day notice for the current balance owed.
Question Four: I own a house in Culver City. My tenant’s lease is over at the end of the month. The tenant has been there less than one year. I do not want to extend the lease. Do I issue a 30-day notice to quit, since the tenant has not been there over a one-year period?
Answer Four: Actually, no notice is required. A fixed term lease expires on its own terms. No notice is required to be sent to the tenant. I suggest sending an informal letter to the tenant explaining that you will not be renewing the lease and that you expect the premises to be vacated at the end of the lease term.
Question Five: I had a tenant who vacated a unit, leaving some of her possessions. I immediately leased the unit to another person. The original tenant came back and used her key to gain entrance to this unit to remove her belongings. The current tenant is now stating that a ring is missing with a value of about $3,000. Am I responsible for this alleged theft?
Answer Five: Under California law, a landlord must change the locks each time a unit is vacated. If the original tenant still had a key to the unit, you could be held responsible for any loss that occurred.
Question Six: I am going through a divorce and need to move back to a house I am currently renting. The lease is on a month-to-month basis. How much notice is required to give to my tenant?
Answer Six: If the tenant has occupied the house for over a one year period, a 60-day notice is required; otherwise a 30-day notice would be sufficient. It should be noted that recently the law has changed. New language must be contained in the notice to quit. Failure to have this language would render your notice defective. The following paragraph must be included in every notice to quit. “State law permits former tenants to reclaim abandoned personal property left at the former address of the tenant, subject to certain conditions. You may or may not be able to reclaim property without incurring additional costs, depending on the cost of storing the property and the length of time before it is reclaimed. In general, these costs will be lower the sooner you contact your former landlord after being notified that property belonging to you was left behind after you moved out.”
Question Seven: When leasing my units, I always run a credit/eviction check with the AOA. Included in that report is whether my tenant had ever been evicted. I recently commenced an eviction against my tenant and I found out that he had been evicted twice before. How is it possible that this did not appear on my eviction report?
Answer Seven: Many times, when a tenant is evicted, the judgment is sealed. If a judgment is sealed, it will not show up on any eviction report. Tenants’ attorneys are always negotiating for the record to be sealed. This gives the tenant the opportunity to continue to lease apartments and get evicted again. In one court in Los Angeles County, the judge encourages the tenants to negotiate for the record to be sealed!
Question Eight: I own a 32 unit apartment complex. I was recently sued by four of the tenants, based on my alleged failure to provide habitable living conditions. I have no problem with any of my other tenants. This group is always filing complaints with the Housing Department. They do this before even contacting my manager for the work to be done. Upon receiving notice from the Housing Department, we conduct an inspection. In many cases, it looks like the tenant created the problem, but we immediately take care of the issue. This appears to be a set-up. The same law firm is representing these tenants. Is there any advice that you can share with me?
Answer Eight: Unfortunately, spurious lawsuits by attorneys against landlords are on the rise. These lawsuits tend to be manufactured by attorneys in an attempt to extort landlords.
On May 14, 2015, at the AOA Million Dollar Trade Show and Landlording Conference, I will be addressing this topic at the Long Beach Convention Center. I will be speaking at 3:15 PM. This is really an important topic. Do not miss it!