Question One: I recently attempted to evict my tenant as he failed to pay the rent. The tenant received free legal help and this firm has requested a jury trial and sent me interrogatories. My attorney is telling me that there is nothing he can do to prevent these requests and that my attorney fees, for a simple eviction, will be several thousands of dollars. My lease, signed by the tenant, specifically waives his right to a jury trial. How is this possible? This tenant just stopped paying the rent!
Answer One: Unfortunately, under California law, every litigant has the right to have the matter heard as a jury trial. The law supersedes your written contract. When discovery is propounded and jury trials requested, the time required to litigate a case, is greatly prolonged. California has instigated the “Shriver Project” which appoints attorneys to represent tenants in eviction cases, regardless of their economic situation. Literally, our tax dollars are being used as a scheme to hurt property owners. The law should be changed which would limit jury trials to matters where the controversy exceeds $10,000.
Question Two: I purchased an apartment building in February 2015. The previous owner had a laundry service with a company. According to the contract, there is a 10-year lease with two 10-year options. Can I change the terms of the contract since I am the new owner?
Answer Two: The laundry contract is transferred to the new buyer, by operation of law. You step into the shoes of the previous owner and are responsible to comply with the terms of this agreement. The way these contracts are structured, the laundry company is the only one who has the option to renew for successive terms. When entering into a laundry contract, owners should review the contract very carefully to be sure that there are no automatic renewal provisions. These contracts should never be longer than five years. In your situation, this contract will continue for 30 years!
Question Three: I have a long-term tenant who recently brought in another tenant to live with her. She never asked my permission and this is in violation of the rental agreement. What is the proper form I should serve to address this violation.
Answer Three: The form that you should use is a “Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit”. This form will give the tenant three days to remove this unauthorized occupant. If the tenant does not timely comply, you can bring forth an eviction action, which will result in ALL parties being evicted. The notice should explain the violation, how the tenant is violating the terms of the contract and what the tenant needs to do to remedy the violation. If this is a rent controlled unit, you need to state the names of the witnesses who observed this unauthorized party and the date this violation occurred.
Question Four: I just read that property owners are going to be facing huge fines if they do not limit their water usage. I own several apartment buildings. There is only one water meter for the building and I am afraid that my tenants will do nothing to conserve water and that I will be faced with absorbing these fines. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer Four: Most buildings are not separately metered for water, though the technology does exist to sub-meter. The law has not addressed this issue so there is very little that a property owner can do at this time. It would be a good idea to send letters to your tenants reminding them that water conservation should commence at this point.
Question Five: I want to increase the security deposit for one of my current tenants. He currently has $1,200 on deposit. This tenant has been there six years. Their rent was originally $1,900 and currently is $2,000. How many days notice do I have to give to increase the security deposit and how much can I raise it?
Answer Five: Assuming your property is not subject to rent control, you can raise the security to an amount, which equals two times the monthly rent. In this case, you can raise the security deposit to a total of $4,000. A 30-day notice would be required.
Question Six: I own a building that is not under rent control. I have a tenant with two dogs who were allowed outside of the building and off their leash. One of the dogs attacked and killed a neighboring building’s dog. What are my rights to require the tenant to get rid of the dogs? Animal control has not seized the animal, so they remain in the building.
Answer Six: Assuming the tenant is on a month-to-month tenancy, you should serve a 30-day Change of Terms of Tenancy requiring that the dogs be removed. If the animals remain after the 30-day period, you could bring an eviction action.
Question Seven: I served a Notice to Enter the Dwelling on my tenant to make a repair. He called me and told me that I could not come in at that time as he would have to be there when the repair was to be performed. My workers can only come on Tuesday mornings. Does the tenant have the right to dictate the time when the repairs can be made?
Answer Seven: Under California law, the landlord can set the time for the repair, as long as it is being performed during normal business hours. The fact that your tenant cannot be present is irrelevant. You have the right to make the repair at the time that you choose.
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.