Question One: I allow my tenant to pay rent by depositing the funds directly into my bank account. When I did not get the rent, I issued the tenant a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. I did not receive the rent within the three days, so I initiated an unlawful detainer action. I now realize that the tenant recently deposited a partial payment into my bank account. How should I handle this situation?
Answer One: You have no obligation to accept partial payments or payments made after the 3 day notice expires. The fact that the rent was placed in your bank account does not mean you have accepted the rent. Once the tenant’s funds clear, you can issue your personal check to the tenant by mailing it to your tenant. You should include a note to your tenant that those funds represented an unauthorized deposit into your account. By returning the funds, you are allowed to continue with the unlawful detainer action.
Question Two: I have property in the City of Compton. I understand that a single family residence is not subject to the new statewide rent control. I also understand the property which received a certificate of occupancy within the last 15 years is also exempt from this statute. On my lot I have a single family residence. Five years ago I built, with permit, a granny house in the rear of the property. Both units are leased. My assumption is that I am not subject to rent control. Am I correct?
Answer Two: Two units on one lot subjects you to the statewide rent control statute. Prior to the construction of the accessory dwelling unit (ADU), the house would have been exempt from the statute. Since the ADU received a certificate of occupancy within the last 15 years, it is not under rent control. Unfortunately, the house is now governed by the rent statute.
Question Three: I have a building that is located in Hermosa Beach. I understand that it is now under AB-1482, rent control. I heard you speak last year and I took your advice and raised the rents 10% effective March 1, 2019. When am I legally able to raise the rents again?
Answer Three: I am glad that you took my advice. Since your rent increase took effect prior to March 15, 2019, you are free to immediately raise the rent at this time. The allowable rent increase is 5% plus the CPI which is currently 2.9%. Once your rent increase becomes effective, you will not be able to set another rent increase for a one year period.
Question Four: If I pay the utilities for my building, are my rent increases limited to 5% plus the CPI? My property is subject to the statewide rent statute.
Answer Four: Unfortunately, a landlord cannot exceed the amount set by the statute. The issue is whether a landlord can change the terms of the tenancy and require that tenants pay for their own utilities. The law is silent on this issue and would have to be decided by the courts. My assumption would be that courts would not allow this, as it would have the effect of being considered a rent increase.
Question Five: An air conditioner broke in one of my units back in July. It took me three months to have it fixed. I needed to wait for parts and I was also dealing with my insurance company. In the interim, I purchased a portable air conditioner for them. Last month, they deducted $200 from the rent. They are now telling me that they will be deducting an additional $1,100 from next month’s rent. Can they do this?
Answer Five: Three months seems like an excessive time period for the problem to be fixed. The fact that you purchased a portable air conditioner does show you exercised good faith. I would not challenge the initial $200 deduction. I would immediately inform them in writing that no further deductions will be tolerated and that you will initiate an unlawful detainer unless the full rent is paid.
Question Six: Mr. Block, one of my two tenants filed bankruptcy, returned the keys, and left. The other one is still in the unit. They both are on the contract. Now the one that left is requesting his security deposit be returned. This tenant was the one who gave me the cashier’s check at the initiation of the tenancy. The lease will mature August 2020 and the other one is still in the unit. What are the right steps to move forward?
Answer Six: You do not have to account for the security deposit until the unit is completely vacated. At that time, you will need to prepare a security deposit itemization. You will be able to deduct for any rent owed, unusual wear and tear and cleaning charges. If there are funds owed to the tenants, you should issue two checks, one for each tenant. The balance should be divided equally, regardless of who actually paid the security deposit.
Question Seven: I have a tenant that wishes to bring in an emotional support animal. He has given me a note from a doctor that indicates that he has a disability and having a dog would help his condition. He is intending to bring in a very large dog. I know I have to allow him the right to have a dog, but can I put restrictions on the size of the dog? I would be okay with a small dog.
Answer Seven: Under the Disability Act you would not be able to put restrictions on the size of the dog. If the dog becomes a nuisance, you could then ask the tenant to remove the animal.
Question Eight: I have an 8 unit building in Anaheim. I understand that my building is subject to the new statewide rent control statute and that I need good cause to evict. One of my recent tenants does not appear to be a good fit for the building. He has been argumentative with other tenants and on one occasion has blocked other tenants by leaving his car in the driveway. Would this be a ground to evict?
Answer Eight: That would not be sufficient grounds to evict your tenant. If the issues escalate, then you might at that time have cause to evict. Assuming your tenant has lived in the unit less than one year and is on a month to month tenancy, you would not need good cause to evict. You could just issue a 30 day notice to quit. I am recommending that landlords who are subject to this statute not commence a tenancy on a one-year lease. Limit the agreement to six months. In this way, once the lease expires you will be able to terminate the tenancy without good cause.
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”.