Question One: I have a tenant in Los Angeles, under rent control, who is a hoarder. She has stacks of boxes, newspapers, clothing and other items throughout her unit. Some of the rooms are so filled with items, that the room literally cannot be accessed. I have previously written to her demanding that this must be cleaned up. To date, she has ignored my requests. How should I handle this matter?
Answer One: Excessive clutter can be a serious health and safety issue. This condition can lead to pest infestation and is also a fire hazard. Most rental agreements require that the tenant maintain the premises in a neat and sanitary condition. This is also a requirement of California Civil Code 1941.2. In this situation, you should serve a 3-day Notice to Perform or Quit, demanding that the premises be returned to a neat and sanitary condition. If the tenant fails to comply within the 3-days, you can commence an unlawful detainer action to evict this tenant.
Question Two: I have a rental applicant that is claiming to have a service dog. I am aware that I cannot deny the application if it is a true service dog. Can I request proof of the disability, which requires the use of a service animal?
Answer Two: Under California and Federal law, a tenant has the right to have a service animal, if the tenant suffers from a disability. You can require this applicant to provide you with a letter from a “health professional”. The letter would attest to the fact that the applicant has a disability, which requires the use of a service animal.
Question Three: My property is located in Long Beach. Due to the water crisis, we would like to start charging $10 per person in each unit for water. Is there a form to give our tenants and is this legal?
Answer Three: Assuming your tenants are on a month to month basis, you may simply serve a rent increase notice on each unit. The form, Change of Terms of Tenancy, is available from the AOA. The notice should be handed to the tenant. If the tenant is absent from the premises, then you should post one on the front door and mail one by first class mail.
Question Four: I have a building in Inglewood in which I plan to do extensive remodeling. Each unit will be getting new floors, kitchens and bathrooms. I have served on the tenants a 60-day notice to vacate the property. They have been asking me about the return of their security deposit. How should I handle this?
Answer Four: Under California law you have 21 days to send the tenant a security deposit itemization. You are allowed to deduct from the security deposit reasonable cleaning charges, unusual wear and tear and any rent owing. In this case, since you are doing extensive remodeling, you should return the security deposit in full.
Question Five: I have an eight unit building in the City of Los Angeles. One of the units is not permitted. It has been leased to a family for the past five years. During a recent City inspection, I was served with an “Order to Comply”, requesting that I discontinue using this unit as a residence. I have asked the tenants to move and they are refusing. How can these tenants refuse to move when the City has issued an “Order to Comply”?
Answer Five: The tenants do not have to move until proper procedures are met. The City requires that you file an application with the Housing and Community Investment Department. This application is called, “Declaration of Intent to Evict in Order to Comply with a Governmental Agency’s Order”. Once that application is approved, you are required to serve a 60-day notice to vacate on your tenants. You are then required to pay these tenants relocation fees in the sum of $19,300.
Question Six: After leasing to a tenant, I discovered that he lied on his application. On the application he indicated that he had never been evicted. I have now heard from his previous landlord that he was evicted for being a nuisance. Do I have the right to evict him? Currently, he is on a one-year lease.
Answer Six: Misrepresentations on an application is not grounds for eviction unless there is a specific provision in your lease agreement. The provision should state: “All statements in tenant’s application must be true or this will constitute a non curable material breach of this lease agreement.” If you have this or a similar provision in your lease agreement, you could serve a 3-Day Notice to Quit.
Question Seven: Our tenant just informed us that he is breaking his lease as he cannot afford to pay the rent. He also states that he has a woman, which we did not approve, living with him. He tells me that while he will be vacating at the end of this month, she is refusing to leave. Can I just change the locks after my tenant vacates?
Answer Seven: Unfortunately, you cannot use “Self Help” to evict this stranger. You will need to go through a normal eviction process. I would suggest not waiting until the end of the month. You could serve on your tenant a Notice to Perform or Quit, giving your tenant three days to remove this unauthorized person. If this person does not move within three days, you can commence an eviction to remove everyone from the unit.
Question Eight: I am concerned with California’s urgent request for water rationing, where I might get fined for the acts of my tenants. My tenants do not pay for water and therefore there is no incentive to conserve. What steps should I take?
Answer Eight: The politicians have yet to address this issue. I would suggest having your units checked for any water leaks. All outdoor faucet bibs should be locked, to prevent tenants from washing their vehicles on the property. Low flow toilets and shower heads should be installed. Many municipalities have programs to install low flow toilets at no charge to the owner. Letters should be written to your tenants advising them of the water shortage and requesting them to conserve water. Lastly, for those single landlords, you might suggest showering with your tenants to save water.
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.