Question One: I have a tenant who has been in my property for 10 years and now is complaining of bedbugs. I believe that they brought them into their apartment. What is my responsibility to eradicate this problem? Also, they are now demanding that I replace their carpeting. Is that my responsibility as well?
Answer One: Under the Civil Code, it is the landlord’s responsibility to keep the premises free from pests and rodents. You mentioned that the tenant brought the bedbugs into the apartment, but that would be a very difficult fact to prove. You should immediately schedule a pest control company to schedule the work. You do not want this spread to other units. A landlord needs to replace carpeting if it is worn through or ripped. Given the age of the carpeting, it would appear that the carpeting should be replaced.
Question Two: I evicted a tenant for non-payment of rent and obtained a judgment. The Sheriff was scheduled to do the lockout when they informed me that the tenant had just filed bankruptcy and that the eviction is stalled. What are my options at this point?
Answer Two: You probably have nothing to worry about. If a residential tenant files bankruptcy after the eviction judgment has been obtained, the lockout can continue without any further legal action in the bankruptcy court in most cases. You need to send notice to the Sheriff’s office to proceed with the lockout notwithstanding the bankruptcy. The exception would be if the tenant, in his bankruptcy petition, certifies that the tenancy could be reinstated and one-month rent is posted with the bankruptcy court.
Question Three: I have a rent controlled tenant who has decided to take over the crawl space and make it a storage space. It is preventing me from making necessary repairs. He is refusing to remove his belongings. What can I do about this?
Answer Three: Most rental agreements, including the AOA lease, state that tenants cannot store items in the common areas. If this is the case, you could serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform Or Quit, which would give the tenant three days to remove the personal property. If the tenant fails to remove the items, this would be a ground for eviction.
Question Four: I have a couple living in a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles that is under rent control. They have now decided to have a family. Am I allowed to collect more rent?
Answer Four: Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, you cannot charge for the first dependant child which joins the tenancy. As to the second child or any other additional occupant you are entitled to charge an additional 10 percent. This additional charge must be requested within the first 60 days that the additional person joined the tenancy.
Question Five: Three young men have been renting our unit. When the existing lease expired, one moved out and the two who remained brought in a replacement tenant. I had them all sign a new lease. In the original lease we had taken a $1,650 security deposit. The man who moved out wants us to give him his portion of the security deposit. We feel the new tenant should pay that to him directly. What is the correct way to handle this?
Answer Five: In general, since the tenancy continues, you would not be responsible to return that portion of the security deposit to the vacated tenant. Unfortunately, you entered into a new lease. By entering into a new lease, you terminated the original tenancy and there has to be an accounting for the security deposit. That means that the vacated tenant is entitled to his share. This could have been avoided by requesting that the new tenant pay that portion of the security deposit.
Question Six: We have a tenant in West Hollywood and just found out he has been subleasing his unit for a long time. This tenant still pays rent, but no longer lives there and has someone else there. He is actually charging the subtenant more rent than what we are charging him! There is no subleasing allowed in his contract, so we want to evict. What steps should we take?
Answer Six: It is common for tenants, paying low rent, to move and sublease the unit to another person. This is another example of the “Evils of Rent Control” taking advantage of landlords. In this case, you should serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform Or Quit requiring the unauthorized occupant to vacate within three days. If this person fails to vacate, an unlawful detainer action could be filed to evict everyone from the unit. Please note that in the City ofWest Hollywood, your notice must quote the West Hollywood Ordinance regarding this type of eviction.
Question Seven: My tenant sent me a text that she would be vacating in 30 days. Is this a legal way to terminate a tenancy?
Answer Seven: In order for a tenant to legally terminate a month-to month tenancy, it must be a written 30-day notice. At this point, the law would not recognize a text or even an email sent by the tenant. You should require the tenant send a written notice. I am sure that it is only a matter of time before this will become legally sufficient.
Question Eight: I leased a single-family house in Culver City. Prior to leasing the house, I had installed automatic sprinklers to maintain the plants and the lawn in the backyard. The tenants have now vacated. I have discovered that the tenants had turned off the sprinklers in order to save money on their water bill. The plants and the lawn are completely dead. May I deduct the cost of replanting from their security deposit?
Answer Eight: Your rental agreement requires the tenant maintain the premises. Clearly the tenant’s attempt to save money on a water bill violated this term of the lease and you could properly deduct the cost from the security deposit. It is a wise idea for a landlord to pay for a weekly gardening service. In this way, the problem could have been quickly identified.
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. Download the Dennis Block FREE app for your Smartphone – “Landlord Legal Helper”.