Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by eviction attorney Dennis Block.
Question One: My property is subject to Statewide Rent Control. I have a tenant who will only pay the rent when he is served with a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit. When served, he always tenders the rent on the 3rd day. This forces me to serve a 3-day notice every month. Clearly, he is doing this to spite me. Is there anything I can do to evict this person?
Answer One: Under Statewide Rent Control you need “good cause” to bring forth an eviction. If the tenant is complying with the 3-day notice, you have not established cause to evict. You should increase his rent each year by the maximum percentage allowed under the statute. This year, the amount of increase is 10%. In addition, if the unit needs renovation, you could use this reason as cause to evict.
Question Two: I have an apartment that is in the City of Los Angeles. The building was built in the 1980’s, and therefore, is not under Los Angeles rent control but is subject to statewide rent control (AB-1482). I understand that I can raise the rent 10% this year and I plan to do so. For this building, I pay for the water and sewage. Is it possible that I can also make each tenant pay for their own water usage? I would just divide the bill by the number of units.
Answer Two: That would not be possible. Under Statewide Rent Control you can only raise rent a maximum of 10%. No other charges can be added to your tenant’s rent. You could institute this charge to new tenants if that provision is contained in the rental agreement.
Question Three: I have a non-rent controlled unit in the City of Santa Monica. Am I permitted to raise the security deposit to an amount equal to two months’ rent? An attorney from Legal Aid stated that this would be illegal. My tenant is on a month-to-month tenancy.
Answer Three: If your property is not subject to the Santa Monica Rent Control Ordinance, nothing prevents you from raising the security deposit. Under California law, a security deposit can be equal to two months’ rent. You will need to serve a 30-Day Change of Terms of Tenancy. If the tenant does not pay this additional amount, an eviction can commence.
Question Four: What is the status of the Los Angeles Eviction Moratorium? I have not received rent in over 11 months. It is truly difficult to hang on at this point.
Answer Four: At the time of the writing of this column, the moratorium has been extended until August 1, 2023. It should be noted that the General Manager for the Los Angeles Housing Department did an analysis and has recommended to the City Council that the moratorium end as of January 1, 2023. This has been taken under consideration by the Council. Let’s hope that they end this disaster and follow the recommendation of the General Manager.
Question Five: I have a long-term tenant who is in the City of Bell Gardens. I recently had occasions to make a repair inside his unit and I was shocked by the condition. His entire apartment is littered with boxes, newspapers, car parts, recyclable bottles, and cans. There is only a small path in which you can navigate throughout the unit. This is truly a safety hazard. What actions can be taken?
Answer Five: You should first check your rental agreement. Almost all rental agreements contain a provision that the premises must be kept in a neat and sanitary condition. Clearly, your tenant is violating this provision of the rental agreement. You should serve your tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit demanding the premises be restored to a neat and sanitary condition. If the tenant does not comply, you may proceed in the filing of an unlawful detainer action.
Question Six: I have an old judgment that I obtained against a former tenant. The judgment was for over $10,000. I have never attempted to do collections. The judgment is eight years old. Is it still permissible to attempt collections at this late stage?
Answer Six: Judgments are valid for 10 years and can be renewed for an additional 10 years. In many cases, an older judgment is easier to collect, as the defendant has now become better established. Unless you have the ability to do skip tracing, it is best to engage the services of a collection firm that can locate assets.
Question Seven: My property is in Alhambra. The tenants have not paid rent since January 2022 and have violated the lease by bringing in additional occupants. I know that I cannot bring forth an eviction at this time. Do you have a timetable when an action can be filed?
Answer Seven: You are incorrect that an eviction cannot be initiated at this time. A notice for the rent can be brought for all rent owed since April 2022 to the present. The only exception would be if a tenant communicated to you within the first seven days for each month, that the failure to pay rent was due to the pandemic. In addition, nothing prevents an action being filed for the violation relating to unauthorized occupants.
Question Eight: My property is located in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles. My tenant’s rental agreement states that they may not have any pets. I served my tenant with a 3-day notice to cure or quit to remove the dog that they currently have. My tenant called me and said that my notice was defective because my property is in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles. Is my tenant correct?
Answer Eight: Unfortunately, your tenant is correct. Although, you do have grounds to evict, you did not serve the proper notice. Under the County’s Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, a notice to perform or quit must provide the tenant ten days to cure the violation, not three.
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, Orange: 714.634.8232, San Diego: 619.481.5423 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. “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.