Question One: We recently had a city inspection at one of my rent controlled buildings. We attempted to gain entrance to one of the units, but the lock had been changed by the tenant. I was fined an additional fee of $242 as the inspector had to make a second trip. Is it illegal for the tenant to change the locks without my permission? Also, can I pass on the fee that was incurred to my tenant?
Answer One: There is no law that would prevent a tenant from changing the locks to a unit. This issue should be contained in the rental agreement. Most residential leases prohibit a tenant from changing the locks, without first obtaining the landlord’s written permission. Assuming your lease has this provision, you could demand the tenant provide you with a key or this could be grounds for eviction. Furthermore, the tenant would be responsible for the fine, assuming you had served proper notice of the inspection.
Question Two: My tenant refuses to leash his dog. This big dog regularly frightens people walking on the sidewalk due to his bark and size. I’ve asked the tenant to leash his dog, but he refuses stating that the dog is harmless and people should learn not to be afraid of dogs. I reviewed my lease and while a dog is permitted, I saw no provisions regarding leashing the dog. What should I do in this situation and what is my potential liability?
Answer Two: Most municipalities have a leash law requiring dogs to be kept on a leash when they are outside. I would send written notice to the tenant that the next instance will result in eviction proceedings. The law can hold a landlord responsible for a dog bite, if the landlord knew the dog had a propensity to bite. This generally means that after the first incident, the landlord could be responsible.
Question Three: I have a building in Inglewood. My tenant is telling me that I have to set up a special escrow account in which security deposits are to be kept. He is demanding that I show proof of this account. Do I have to segregate security deposits? In addition, I have several buildings; do I need a special account for each building?
Answer Three: Tell your tenant that California law does not require you to segregate your security deposits. The landlord is required to account for the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant vacating the unit.
Question Four: I have two buildings that are next to each other and share a common driveway. They each have 18 units. I understand that under California law I must have a resident manager, if I have 16 or more units. Is it possible to have one manager service both buildings?
Answer Four: If the buildings are each on their own lot, the law would require that you have a resident manager for each building. It is permissible to allow one manager to do the majority of the work for both buildings.
Question Five: I have a rent controlled building in the City of Los Angeles. Each year I pay the required fees and receive a Rent Registration Certificate. Is it sufficient to post this certificate by the main entrance?
Answer Five: The Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles requires that each tenant be served with this certificate. Therefore, each year when you receive the certificate, you should mail a copy to each of the tenants.
Question Six: I have a duplex in Redondo Beach. Each tenant pays the same amount of rent. One tenant is constantly asking me to fix minor issues in her apartment. She once requested that I change a light bulb in a chandelier. That request I refused. As a result of this extra expense, I raised her rent an additional $150 per month. She claims that I cannot do this as I did not raise the rent on the other unit. She is threatening to sue me. What are my rights?
Answer Six: You certainly have the right to raise her rent. Your reason for raising the rent was based on an economic issue. Acts based on an economic issue is permitted in most circumstances.
Question Seven: I am selling an apartment house and I have discovered that there is a registered sex offender in one of the units. Am I required to disclose to the buyer?
Answer Seven: There is no specific law requiring you to disclose this information to the buyer. The law states, however, that any issue that can affect the value of the property should be disclosed to the buyer. In order to avoid a lawsuit, I would inform the buyer during the escrow process.
Question Eight: I have a tenant who has been in my rent controlled building for over 10 years. This last New Years Eve he had a party that went into the late evening. You could see people drinking alcohol and dancing to loud music. How should I handle this?
Answer Eight: Ask the tenant for an invitation for next New Years Eve, as it seems like everyone was having a good time. Happy New Year to all of the wonderful AOA Members!
Important Programming Note: Happy to report that after a brief hiatus, Landlord/Tenant Radio is ALIVE and back on the air at our usual time, 1PM every Monday on KTYM-1460 AM radio. As always, I am with my wonderful co-host, Zachary Lawrence from Parkside Property Management.
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”.