Question One: 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 One: 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.

Question Two: I recently leased a rent controlled unit to a very nice couple. They seemed so nice and their credit checked out very well. Within the first 24 hours, I have now received a list of 30 items that need to be fixed. Each item is so minor or doesn’t even exist. I cannot believe how this couple has changed from sweet to the most unreasonable tenants I have ever had. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer Two: It would appear that your tenants are attempting to set up a habitability claim so that they can withhold rent. I would not be surprised if these tenants have been evicted before. Many times previous eviction cases cannot be viewed in a credit report, as the record was “sealed”. This allows tenants to move from place to place causing havoc on each landlord. You could suggest to the tenant that you will allow them out of their lease if they agree to vacate. If that is not accepted, you should immediately address the issues they raised in their list. You should hire a licensed contractor that can make the necessary repairs. In his report he should point out those items which had no validity. A follow up letter should be sent to the tenants addressing each item on their list. By having a good “paper trail”, you should be able to defeat their habitability claim, if they choose to withhold the rent.

Question Three: I just bought a duplex in the City of Los Angeles. I want my daughter to move into one of the units. Both units are currently occupied. What steps need to be taken to have the unit vacated?
Answer Three: Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, you must choose the unit which was last occupied. You need to complete an application process with the City. Once the application is approved, you need to serve a Notice to Quit on the tenant. Within 15 days of the service of the notice, you need to pay relocation fees to this tenant. The relocation fees can range from $7,550 to $19,500. The relocation fees are based on how many units you own in the City of Los Angeles and whether the tenant has minor children, is handicapped or  62 years of age or older.

Question Four: I have a tenant that constantly removes the smoke detectors that I have installed in his unit. He claims that it is his choice to have these devises. What can I do?
Answer Four. Your tenant is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be imprisoned for one year and fined up to $1,000 for tampering with any fire protection equipment.  This is pursuant to Penal Code 148.4. Your tenant’s action would constitute immediate grounds for eviction. Based on the safety hazard for other residents, legal action should be taken immediately.

Question Five: A tenant has a broken window that was broken from the outside. They suspect it was another tenant’s child, but do not have proof. Who is liable for the cost of replacing the window?
Answer Five: A landlord is responsible for all of the repairs to the building. The only exception would be if the tenant maliciously or negligently caused the damage. In this case, since you cannot determine how the window was broken, it would be your responsibility to fix the window.

Question Six: I lease a condo to a tenant. I recently received a letter from the Home Owner Association which informs me that only owners can have a key to the common area entrances. They threaten to fine me if my tenant continues to use this key. Is this legal?
Answer Six: Your association cannot make a law like this, nor can they prevent an owner from leasing out the unit. You should have a lawyer write them a letter indicating that you will be filing suit if they attempt to fine you.

Question Seven: I have a tenant whose lease provides that only one person can occupy the premises. Recently, without my permission, the tenant brought in another person to occupy the premises. The tenant claims that this person is acting as a caretaker. Can I start an eviction action based on this violation of the lease agreement?
Answer Seven: If the person is acting as a caretaker, your tenant has the right under the Federal and California Disability Act, to have a caretaker. Bringing forth an action would probably result in a lawsuit being filed against you.

Question Eight: I am a new owner of a building in a rent controlled building in Los Angeles. The building is in need of major renovation and it will require that the tenants vacate. How do you determine the relocation fee that is required to be paid to the tenants to vacate the unit?
Answer Eight:
Based on your fact situation, this is not a proper ground to have the tenants vacate the unit, regardless of how much relocation you offer.  Many years ago, the City of Los Angeles did allow for an eviction, if the landlord was going to do major renovation. That has now been removed as a cause for eviction. You can offer the tenants to move based on a Voluntary Vacate Agreement. This would require that your tenant consent to move based on the payment of an agreed relocation fee. You can also apply to the City for the tenants to move for a temporary period. You would have to apply for a Temporary Habitability Plan (THP). Relocation fees are required and the tenant would be able to move back into the unit at the same rental amount. 

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.