Question One: Recently, I had a tenant vacate a unit and he left several items. I presumed that these items were abandoned so I put them in storage and after two weeks, I disposed of them. I have now received a letter from this tenant demanding his belongings or he will sue me for their replacement value. How should I handle this?
Answer One: A landlord is required to serve a Notice of Abandonment before disposing of any items left by a tenant who has vacated the property. This form is available from the AOA. The form must list the items and then it is mailed to the tenant’s last known address. If the tenant does not retrieve the belongings within 18 days, the landlord may dispose of the items if the value of the items is less than $700. If it is $700 or greater, you would need to hold a public auction.
Since you did not comply with this procedure you would be liable for the replacement value of the items. You might consider putting the following clause in your rental agreements: “All personal property left after the tenant vacates will be deemed abandoned and may be disposed immediately by the landlord.”
Question Two: I purchased an eight unit building and one of the units was occupied by the son of the former owner. He never paid rent and was to vacate the building upon the sale. This person has not moved out and is asking me for more time. I really do not believe he is actually trying to vacate, as I see no evidence that he is packing. How do I get him to leave my unit?
Answer Two: You will need to go through a formal eviction. You would start by first serving a 3-Day Notice to Quit and then proceed to file an Unlawful Detainer action. In addition to seeking possession, you are entitled to obtain a monetary judgment for the rental value of the unit for this period. You also could file a separate lawsuit against the seller of the premises.
Question Three: I recently leased my single family residence in the City of Los Angeles. The tenants signed a one year lease and paid the first month’s rent and a security deposit. Before they moved in they stated that they had changed their mind and wanted to cancel the contract. What rights do I have?
Answer Three: If they signed the rental agreement, they are responsible for the entire term of the lease. You need to send them a security deposit itemization within 21 days. You should list the rent owed for the entire year and therefore you will not be required to return the security or the first month’s rent. The law requires that you mitigate damages by using your best effort to lease the unit to another tenant.
Question Four: I had an applicant that came to me with a voucher from Section 8. When I advised her that we do not accept Section 8 tenants, she accused me of discrimination and told me that I would hear from her attorney. Did I get myself in trouble?
Answer Four: A landlord is under no obligation to accept Section 8 tenants. You have nothing to fear, based on your statement to this applicant.
Question Five: I have a 12-unit apartment building in the City of San Fernando. How often can I serve a rent increase on my existing tenants?
Answer Five: San Fernando is a civilized city, in that no rent control ordinance exists. As such, you are free to raise the rent as often as you like. If you are raising the rent in excess of 10%, in any 12-month period, you are required to serve a 60-day notice to increase the rent.
Question Six: I was told that if I serve a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit, I must thereafter give the tenant a 30-day notice to vacate. Is this true?
Answer Six: You do not need to serve any other notice. If the tenant does not pay within the three days, you have the right to initiate the unlawful detainer (eviction) action. Serving a 30-day notice would only allow the tenant to occupy the property for 30 additional days.
Question Seven: Can a tenant break a lease due to mold in an apartment? It is not clear if the mold was a pre-existing condition. The tenant had an inspection report by a mold company. The report stated that there was surface contamination in the kitchen and bathroom. Please advise. Thank you.
Answer Seven: A landlord is required to give a warrantee of habitability when leasing out a unit. This is similar to a car warrantee. A manufacturer of a car does not warrant that the vehicle will never breakdown. The warrantee will cover the repair to the vehicle, if a problem arises. The same is true with your apartment unit. Once a condition becomes known, you need to use your best efforts to remedy the problem. The tenant does not have the right to break the lease, unless you have refused to remedy the problem.
Question Eight: Please explain the new requirements regarding smoke detectors. I understand that there was a change in the law effective January 1, 2014.
Answer Eight: You are correct that there is a new law regarding smoke detectors that became effective this year. The law provides that a smoke alarm shall display the date of manufacture on the device, provide a place on the device where the date of installation can be written, incorporate a hush feature, incorporate an end-of-life feature that provides notice that the device needs to be replaced, and, if battery operated, contain a non-replaceable, non-removable battery with a minimum 10-year life that is capable of powering the smoke alarm for a minimum of 10 years.
You do not have to replace existing smoke detectors unless you have a building permit issued, for work exceeding $1,000, after January 1, 2014. In that case, you will need to replace all existing smoke detectors.
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”.