This article was posted on Sunday, Dec 01, 2013

Question One: We have a tenant that has a medical marijuana license to smoke marijuana. We had all of our tenants sign a “Smoke Free Addendum” that allows smoking outside of their units only. This tenant is smoking inside his unit and we are getting complaints from other residents. How should I handle this?
Answer One: The California legislature adopted a medical marijuana bill for persons with severe medical problems. Marijuana was to afford some comfort to these individuals. Unfortunately, the law has been bastardized, where anyone can obtain a marijuana medical license, regardless of his or her condition. Under the American and California Disability Act, it would be considered a violation for not affording this tenant a reasonable accommodation based on an alleged medical condition. This does not allow your tenant to trample on the rights of other residents. I would advise this tenant that you are allowing a reasonable accommodation, by permitting smoking outside of the unit only. If this tenant continues to smoke inside the unit, this would be a ground for eviction.

Question Two: I have a rent controlled unit in the City of Los Angeles. I have not raised the rent in several years and the unit is far below market value. Is it permissible to raise it for all the years that I missed?
Answer Two: Under Rent Stabilization for the City of Los Angeles, you are permitted only one rent increase per year and it cannot exceed the amount that has been set by the City. For this year, landlords are entitled to a 3% rent increase. You are not permitted to accumulate missed rent increases.

Question Three: I have a rent controlled unit. My daughter will be away for school and will return by the end of next year. I would like to lease this unit where the new tenant will be required to vacate when my daughter returns. Is there any way to accomplish this?
Answer Three: Once you create a landlord/tenant relationship, you cannot ask the tenant to vacate at the end of the lease term. The law requires that you have good cause to evict and literally this constitutes a life estate for the tenant.

Question Four: Recently, a tenant reported that a knob for a stove had broken off. The stove is in decent condition but there is no way I can replace the knob. Am I required to replace the stove and shouldn’t the tenant bear the responsibility for breaking the knob?
Answer Four: It is the owner’s responsibility to replace or repair appliances that are non- functional. It is unlikely that you would be able to prove that the tenant negligently used the knob, which caused it to break. On this basis, if you are unable to locate a knob, you will be forced to replace the stove. You might consider going on eBay to find the missing knob.

Question Five: I bought a six-unit apartment house at a foreclosure sale. There was an existing laundry company with a long-term lease. I have asked the company to remove their machines but they claim that as the new owner, I have to honor the existing lease. Is this true?
Answer Five: The laundry company would be correct if you had purchased the building directly from the previous owner. This is not the case in this instance. Due to the foreclosure, this commercial lease was extinguished and there is no obligation to honor this lease. The only exception would be if the lease was created prior to the deed of trust.

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Question Six: I have a tenant in Bellflower that threatened the gas meter reader with a machete. The City Attorney is prosecuting him. The City Attorney states that we must terminate his rental agreement or we will be responsible for any further actions that occur. Is this a legal reason to serve a 60-day notice? Also, is it true that I would be liable for the future conduct of this tenant?
Answer Six: I doubt that you would be liable for the future conduct of this tenant. In any event, I would take all necessary steps to end this tenancy. To terminate a month-to-month tenancy where the tenant has resided in the unit for over a one year period, a 60-day notice is required. In this case, you should serve a 3-Day Notice to Quit based on nuisance.

Question Seven: I have my own staff do the cleaning after a tenant vacates the unit. One of my employees gets paid $13 per hour and the other one gets paid $10 per hour. When deducting the reasonable cleaning costs from the security deposit, can I calculate the amount of hours based on these two hourly rates or am I limited to minimum wage?
Answer Seven: You are allowed to deduct your actual and reasonable costs to clean the unit. You are not limited to minimum wage and you certainly can deduct the actual charges that were incurred.

Question Eight: One of my tenants is an attorney and is always quoting the law to me. Recently, he changed the locks citing security issues, as there was a burglary on our block. He is refusing to give me a key. What are my options?
Answer Eight: Your first option is to never rent to an attorney. They make terrible tenants. Check your lease agreement. Most agreements provide that the premises cannot be altered without the landlord’s written consent. This would be considered an alteration. You should serve your “Perry Mason” with a Notice to Perform or Quit, giving this tenant three days to supply you with a key. If “Perry” does not comply, an eviction should be commenced.

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 Now, you can also read Dennis Block on Twitter, or text him at (818) 570-1557.  Download the Dennis Block FREE app for your Smartphone – “Landlord Legal Helper”.

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