Question One: I have a tenant who has vacated his unit with six months left on his lease. Even though he vacated, he is continuing to pay the rent. I know I have an obligation to find a new tenant. Am I allowed to advertise the unit for a higher rental amount? At this point, the market value of this unit has risen.

Answer One: If a tenant prematurely vacates under a lease agreement, the landlord does have an obligation to use his best efforts to lease the unit to another person. If you are going to hold the previous tenant responsible for the entire lease term, you must advertise the unit for the same rental amount. If you attempt to lease it for a higher amount, your previous tenant is not responsible for the rest of the lease term.

Question Two: I own a rent controlled building in the City ofLos Angeles. A friend of mine told me that I need to post a notice on my building advising my tenants that this is a rent controlled building or I could get fined. I have never heard of this and I do not know where to obtain this sign. Is this true?

Answer Two: Landlords, who rent properties subject to the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, must post a notice providing information about the RSO, as well as contact information for the Los Angeles Housing Department. The notice must be posted in a conspicuous location in the lobby of the property, near a mailbox used by residents of the property, or in, or near, a public entrance to the property. The notice must be written in English and Spanish. If the Los Angeles Housing Department notifies the owner of their failure to post this notice, then the owner will have seven days to comply. Thereafter, the owner could be fined $250 per day. The notice can be downloaded at: www.evict123.com/RSONOTICE.pdf  or the AOA web site, www.aoausa.com.

Question Three: I had an electrical panel blow out in my building that caused the power for the building to turn off. This happened on a Saturday evening. On Monday, I had a new panel installed and the power was reinstated. One of my tenants is demanding that I pay for all the food that was spoiled in her refrigerator and freezer. Am I responsible for the cost of her food?

Answer Three: Your obligation as a landlord is to repair your premises in a reasonable period of time. You could only be responsible, if the power was cut off due to your negligence. This clearly was not the case in this instance. It is always advisable to have a clause in your lease to have the tenant carry personal property insurance. This clause is contained in the AOA lease. 

Question Four: We provide free Wi-Fi service for the apartment building. I find it helps in leasing out my units. One of the tenants complained about the slow speed so I actually upgraded the service. One month later, this tenant is breaking her lease on the basis that the internet service is still too slow for her needs. Can she void her lease on this basis?

Answer Four: She certainly cannot break her lease for this reason. The Wi-Fi was offered as an amenity. There would have to be a material breach of the lease agreement for a tenant to void their lease. In this situation, the amenity that you offered, still worked. This would not even be a considered a breach of the lease agreement on any basis. Advise the tenant that she will be responsible for the entire lease term.

Question Five: I commenced an eviction against my tenant for non payment of rent. Shortly after I filed the lawsuit, the tenant vacated and so I dismissed the action. I am preparing the accounting for his security deposit. I realize I can deduct for any outstanding rent, but is it permissible to deduct the $240 filing fee for the lawsuit?

Answer Five: A litigant is never entitled to court costs unless they are the prevailing party. In this case, you dismissed the lawsuit and therefore you are not entitled to your court costs. Even if you had prevailed, while you would be entitled to your court costs, this is not an item you can deduct from the security deposit.

Question Six: My tenant had a break-in where someone smashed a window and damaged the door. Is the landlord responsible for these repairs? I suspect that it was my tenant’s angry boyfriend that did this damage.

Answer Six: In law, you can only prevail on that which you can prove. Unless you can prove the damage was caused by her invitee, you would be responsible for these repairs.

Question Seven: I have a tenant who vacated. I deducted for some damage to the flooring and kitchen cabinets. I provided legitimate estimates for these items. The tenant claims that since I actually did not do the work, I am not entitled to deduct it from the security deposit. I actually never did the work as the building was sold shortly thereafter. Am I entitled to these deductions?

Answer Seven: The fact that you did not do the work, does not prevent you from deducting these items from the security deposit. By way of example, if a person damaged your vehicle in a traffic accident, you are still entitled to the cost of the repair, even if you do not repair your vehicle.

Question Eight: My tenant called me to tell me that some tiles were falling off the shower. When I went to investigate I was flabbergasted with the amount of damage. Clearly, this problem had been going on for a long time and if I had been told promptly, the cost would have been negligible. Now I am forced to pay several thousands of dollars. Is the tenant responsible for failing to notify me in a reasonable period of time?

Answer Eight: Your tenant has no duty to notify you of a condition in the unit. If the tenant did not cause the damage, the landlord is responsible for the repairs. This demonstrates the necessity for landlords to inspect their units on a periodic basis. Tenants tend to be irresponsible in this regard.

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”.

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