Question One: I recently bought my first rent controlled building in the City of Los Angeles. After the first month, one of the existing tenants failed to pay the rent so I served a 3-day notice to pay the rent or quit. When the tenant failed to pay the rent, my attorney filed an unlawful detainer action. At the trial, the tenant admitted he never paid the rent. His only defense was that I had not registered the unit with the Los Angeles Housing Department or served him a copy of the Registration Certificate. The unit is actually registered, but I did not serve a copy of the Registration Certificate. The judge ruled in favor of the tenant. Did the judge follow the law correctly?
Answer One: The Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles clearly requires that the Registration Certificate be served on each tenant before a 3-day notice can be served. Even though the unit was registered, if you did not serve the certificate, the judge properly ruled that you did not comply with the law. If you need a copy of the Registration Certificate you can obtain one online at: (https:/lahd.lacity.org/Billing ) It is good idea to serve the certificate with a copy of the 3-day notice to prevent this situation.
Question Two: My tenant failed to pay her rent, which was due on February 1, 2014. On February 3, 2014, I personally served a 3-day notice demanding the rent. My brother-in-law, who fancies himself an attorney, told me I served the notice prematurely and that I need to serve another notice. Is he correct?
Answer Two: Your brother-in-law would make an excellent candidate for law school. If the rent is payable on the first, you may serve a 3-day notice the day after the rent is due. There are exceptions to this rule. If the first falls on a Saturday, Sunday or a legal holiday, the tenant would have to the following day to pay the rent and the notice could then be served on the following day. February 1, 2014 was a Saturday. The rent would therefore be due on Monday, February 3, 2014. Therefore, the first legal day to serve the 3-day notice would be February 4, 2014. You will need to serve a new notice.
Question Three: I recently sent a security deposit itemization and a refund check to my former tenants. On the refund check I wrote the phrase “Paid in Full”. My tenants cashed this check and now they are suing me in small claims court, claiming that I owe them additional money. By cashing my check, are they not acknowledging that the refund was proper?
Answer Three: Unfortunately, writing that statement will not absolve you, if in fact you did not provide a proper accounting for their security deposit. The judge will still review the items that you deducted and make a determination whether those were proper deductions.
Question Four: I know that I have to distribute the security deposit within 21 days from when the tenant vacates a unit. One of my tenants has left the unit, but never turned in the keys. Does the time begin to run when I receive the keys or does it commence once I know the tenant has vacated the unit?
Answer Four: If the tenant gives you the keys to the unit that certainly would be considered as the day the unit has been vacated. Regardless of whether you have been given the keys, once you know that the tenant has vacated the premises, the time would commence from that point. If all of the personal property has been removed, it would be reasonable to assume that the tenant has vacated.
Question Five: I have a rent controlled building. My tenant has asked me to allow him to have a dog, even though it is not permitted in the rental agreement. I am considering allowing him to do this if he pays an extra $50 per month for the rent. Would this be permissible? In addition, by allowing this tenant to have a dog, am I allowing all the other tenants in the building to have a dog?
Answer Five: Under rent control, you cannot increase the rent on this basis. You are limited to the yearly allowable increases only. If you choose to allow this tenant to have a dog, it does not grant permission to other tenants in the building.
Question Six: I manage a 100 unit apartment complex. It was built approximately 40 years ago. Back then, the number of parking spaces was more than adequate. Most families only had one car. Now, most families have two or three or even four vehicles. I no longer have enough parking spaces to accommodate the demand. In an attempt to keep my existing tenants happy, I assigned all of the parking spaces to existing tenants. However, this means that I have none left over for prospective tenants. They must park on the street. Is there anything in the law that obligates me to provide parking for prospective tenants? I am concerned about future tenants who happen to be handicapped.
Answer Six: There is nothing in the law that would obligate you to provide parking. As a practical matter, you cannot manufacture parking spaces that do not exist. You do have to allow a reasonable accommodation to handicapped tenants. I would advise a handicapped tenant that if a space becomes available, one will be given at that time.
Question Seven: I have a rent controlled building and have heard that it is wise to have a separate rental agreement for the parking. Is this a good idea and what are the advantages?
Answer Seven: It is wise to lease the garage on a separate agreement, even for a nominal amount. A garage is not subject to rent control, if it is leased separately. In this way, you can increase the rent on the garage to any amount, without limitation. You can also serve the tenant with a 30-day notice to vacate the garage area. You do not need to have a reason. This empowers the landlord to control a tenant who is causing trouble in the building.
Question Eight: I recently bought a non rent controlled building in the City of Los Angeles. This is my first building and recently I received a tax bill from the City which asks me to pay one percent of the gross rents that I receive. I already pay state and federal taxes and I am dumbfounded that the City is now asking me to give up one percent of my gross revenue. This is absurd and how can this be legal?
Answer Eight: The City of Los Angeles imposes a gross receipt tax of one percent on all businesses within the City. An apartment building is considered a business. A gross receipts tax does not take into account any expenses. All revenue is taxed at a rate of one percent per year. Civilized cities such as Burbank, do not impose this tax and thereby encourages businesses to move within their jurisdiction.Los Angeles encourages businesses to move away. Our current Mayor, during his campaign, stated that he would be changing this tax. To date, nothing has been done. I think it is time to write some letters.
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”.