Question One: The world has just become insane. I allowed a tenant to have a dog when she moved into the unit. She has now presented me with a note from a doctor. The notes states that due to her emotional state, she needs two cats and an additional dog! Please tell me that I can prevent this absurdity. She is even refusing to pay an additional security deposit. Do the politicians who make these laws own property?
Answer One: You are absolutely correct, the world is insane. Politicians, in an attempt to care for every need, pass laws with no safeguards. Tenants just abuse the system. There is little you can do in this situation. To bring a legal action to challenge this doctor’s ruling, would be expensive and you would probably not prevail. The law also does not allow you to ask for an additional security deposit.
Question Two: If a tenant decides to terminate their tenancy, prior to lease expiration, is there a limit as to the amount of a non-refundable fee that can be charged? Would this fee have to be stated in the original lease agreement?
Answer Two: No fee need be stated in the lease agreement. Under California law, the tenant is responsible to pay the rent for the entire lease term. You are required to mitigate the tenants’ loss by trying to lease the premises during this remaining term. To the extent the premises are not leased, your tenant is responsible. The landlord should send a security deposit itemization form within 21 days of the tenant vacating the unit. On this form you should list all the rent that is due for the remaining term of the lease. You can give a further explanation that the amount requested will be lessened when the property is leased.
Question Three: I inherited a tenant who moved into the unit with “non-refundable” deposit 20 years ago, and deposit was only $800. The tenant pays the rent on time, but I do see damage to the unit, and I would like to ask for an additional security deposit. How can we proceed and would this be legal? Thanks.
Answer Three: A “non-refundable” deposit is not permitted under California Law. You are entitled to charge a security deposit up to two months of the current rent. If your property is not under rent control, serve a 30-Day Change of Terms of Tenancy to increase the security to the maximum allowed by law.
Question Four: I have a clause in my rental agreement which limits attorney fees to $500 and states that all parties waive their right to a jury trial. Can this be enforced? I am involved in an eviction action and the tenant’s attorney has requested a jury trial.
Answer Four: Unfortunately under California law, a party has the right to have the matter heard as a jury trial even though this greatly increases the cost of the litigation. Tenant’s attorneys routinely ask for jury trials in an attempt to force the landlord to pay the tenant to move so as to avoid the cost of the jury trial. The contractual provision to limit attorney fees is valid. The best approach, when faced with this situation, is to refuse to pay the tenant any money to move. Since the tenant’s attorneys will suffer a financial loss, if forced to go through with a trial, the matter usually will settle.
Question Five: I sent a text to my tenant to vacate the premises in 30 days. The tenant replied that she would in fact move. I saved these texts. Now she is telling me that she will not move. What legal action can be taken if she fails to vacate timely?
Answer Five: A text is not a proper notice to quit the premises, even if the tenant acknowledged that she would vacate timely. You would need to serve a formal “Notice to Quit” in writing. The notice must contain the required language regarding abandonment of personal property. This form is available from the AOA.
Question Six: During the recent windstorm, a tree located on my property fell and seriously damaged my tenant’s car. He is now demanding that I am responsible for the repair. He is threatening to withhold rent if I do not pay for the repair. Am I responsible?
Answer Six: A property owner is not liable for “acts of nature”. Clearly, one could not anticipate that the tree would fall. On that basis, you are not liable. Assuming you were liable for the falling of the tree, a tenant is never allowed to withhold rent for damage to the tenant’s personal property.
Question Seven: I leased an apartment to a person with one parking space. A tenant, who does not own a vehicle, has given this person the right to use her spot and now this person is parking two vehicles on the property. Can I prevent this from happening? My building is under rent control.
Answer Seven: You should check the terms of the rental agreement. Usually there is a provision that states that tenants cannot assign their parking privileges. In that case, serve both tenants with a warning notice to stop this situation. This could be grounds for eviction if they fail to comply.
Question Eight: I received an excessive Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power bill showing high water usage. I contacted the plumber to check the building who called each tenant. Only one tenant admitted she had a running toilet for over a month. The plumber could hear the toilet running and found no other problems. The building is non-rent controlled and the tenant is Section 8. Can I bill the tenant for the excessive water billing?
Answer Eight: There is no way to charge the tenant for the excess water. In addition, since the building has only one meter, it would be difficult to establish how much of the additional costs would be the tenant’s responsibility. Assuming that the tenant is on a month to month tenancy, you would have the right to terminate the Section 8 tenancy and force the tenant to vacate.
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 Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.