Question One: I have several clients that have bought apartment buildings, with existing tenants. In many instances, these tenants do not have security deposits. Can a new owner require an existing tenant to pay a security deposit? If so, what are the guidelines and restrictions?
Answer One: If this is a property not subject to rent control and the tenant is on a month-to-month tenancy, a security deposit can be demanded. It would be required that you serve a 30-day change of terms of tenancy, requesting a security deposit equal to two months rent. If the tenant is under rent control, or if this is a fixed term lease, then you would not be able to demand a security deposit.
Question Two: I have a tenant who signed a two year lease and paid a security deposit. The first month will commence at the end of this current month. At that time, the tenant is to pay the first month’s rent. If the tenant changes his mind and does not take the unit, may I retain the security deposit?
Answer Two: If a lease is signed, the tenant is obligated for the full term of the lease. This is true regardless if the agreement did not commence until the following month. You would need to prepare a security deposit itemization form and mail it to the tenant’s current address. It would show that you are deducting rent for the entire term of the lease. The landlord has an obligation to mitigate damages, by attempting to lease the unit. Once the premises are leased, your original tenant’s obligation terminates.
Question Three: We have a tenant who hired a mold remediation company to test their residence for mold. We were never alerted to this problem. The remediation company report showed elevated presence of mold. They removed drywall and treated for this mold. The tenant is now presenting us with a huge invoice. What is our responsibility?
Answer Three: UnderCalifornia law, the tenant must advise a landlord that a problem exists, and give a reasonable amount of time for the landlord to correct the issue. In this instance, the tenant did not give any notice, so the landlord would have no obligation to reimburse for these expenses.
Question Four: I am now managing a building inSanta Monica for my father. Recently, I served a tenant with a rent increase notice, in accordance with the Santa Monica Rent Control Ordinance. This tenant contacted me and stated that my father told him that he would never raise the rent, as long as he lived in the building. My father does not remember making this promise, but in any event, am I prevented from raising the rent?
Answer Four: Even if your father made that statement, it would not be enforceable unless it was in writing and had a specific term. An open ended verbal promise cannot be enforced.
Question Five: I have a four unit building. The tenants would like me to increase the security of the building by installing security cameras. Are there any restrictions against installing cameras?
Answer Five: A landlord, with or without the tenant’s consent, may install cameras in the common areas of the premises. On a personal note, I have installed cameras on my properties and find it very useful. The cost of the cameras and its installation is very inexpensive and does provide an additional level of security. I can even view my buildings on my cell phone!
Question Six: I have a building inBurbank, which does not have rent control. Six months ago I raised a low paying tenant. I gave a five percent rent increase. At this time am I able to raise the rent again, by the same amount? In addition, how much notice must be given?
Answer Six: SinceBurbank does not have rent control, a civilized place to own property, you are free to raise the rent without limitations. The law requires that you serve a 60-day rent increase notice if you are raising the rent in excess of 10% in any one-year period. Since you are raising the rent exactly 10%, you may serve a 30-day rent increase notice.
Question Seven: My property is located inUpland. One of my resident managers gave a tenant a 60-day notice to vacate. That notice expired at the end of April. The tenant asked if she could have an extra month. Based on this request, the resident manager and the tenant signed an agreement where the resident agreed to vacate on or before May 31, 2014. My manager accepted the rent for the month of May. By accepting rent for May, did that waive the 60-day notice and do we still have grounds to evict this tenant?
Answer Seven: By accepting the rent for May, you waived the effects of the 60-day notice. A notice is automatically waived if you accept rent past the expiration date. You still have grounds to evict, based on the signed agreement, and an immediate eviction could be filed.
Question Eight: Are companion pets and service dogs treated the same as other pets? Am I able to charge extra and have them sign a pet agreement?
Answer Eight: Under the law, you are not allowed to charge an extra deposit or even require the resident to sign a pet agreement. Their right to possess this animal is governed by the American and California Disability Acts. [AOA’s form#122, the Comfort/Service Animal Agreement is available for this purpose.]
NOTE: Last month’s column noted that the interest rate on security deposits was 0.15%. Please forgive the typo – it is currently 0.18%.
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”.