Question One: I have a seven unit building. We just tented the building for pest fumigation. When they took the tent off the building, we found out that someone went inside the tent and broke into two of the units. They entered through an open window in one unit and cut the security door on the other. Do we have any legal obligation to compensate the tenants for the items they lost? If so, what proof of lost items should they produce? One tenant claimed she lost $500 cash and then later said she lost $1,000. I do not think she is being honest.
Answer One: You can only be responsible if you were negligent in allowing this break-in to occur. It would appear that the tenants, who left the window open, did not take proper precautions to safeguard their possessions. As such, you would have no legal obligation to compensate for their loss.
Question Two: I have a townhouse in Los Angeles which was built in 1976. A tenant is telling me that I need to pay interest on the security deposit that he paid. He tells me that my property is subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles. Is this true?
Answer Two: If you own property subject to the rent control ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, you must pay interest on security deposits on a yearly basis. Your property is subject to the ordinance and therefore you must register your unit each year and pay the interest. Under state law, however, you are not subject to rent limitations.
Question Three: My rent is due on the first of each month. A tenant served me with a 30-day notice on the 20th of the month. This tenant paid rent through the 20th of the following month and did move out on that date. Am I entitled to deduct from the security deposit for the additional 10 days rent?
Answer Three: A 30-day notice can be served on any day of the month. The rent would be prorated through the following month. On this basis, the tenant was in full compliance with the law and you cannot deduct for any further rent.
Question Four: I have a non-permitted unit in the City of Los Angeles. My tenant learned of the status of the property and now is refusing to pay the rent. Can I just issue this tenant a 30-day notice to vacate or should I serve a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit?
Answer Four: Unfortunately, both options are not available to you. If your unit has not been issued a Certificate of Occupancy, the tenant has no legal obligation to pay the rent. Therefore, you cannot serve a 3-day notice for the rent. The City requires that you file an application with the City and once approved, you can then serve a Notice to Quit on your tenant. The City requires, however, that you pay relocation to this tenant in a sum that ranges from $7,450 to $18,650.
Question Five: I have a one-year lease with a tenant which has just expired. The tenant recently brought in a dog. Since the lease expired, am I still entitled to enforce the provision in the lease which prohibits pets?
Answer Five: Under California law, if a tenant continues to occupy the premises after the lease has expired, it is deemed to be a month to month tenancy on the same terms and conditions as the original lease. You can, therefore, enforce all of the lease provisions including the prohibition of pets.
Question Six: I have had some vandalism in my building recently and I am contemplating installing security cameras. Do I need to inform my tenants or get their approval?
Answer Six: You control the common areas of your building. You can install cameras and there is no requirement to inform your tenants. Prices for these systems have been falling and I think it is a good investment for all buildings.
Question Seven: I have a tenant who is using the common laundry room as their personal storage area. I have asked this tenant to remove her belongings, but she just refuses. My building is under rent control. How should I handle this situation?
Answer Seven: Most lease agreements prohibit tenants from storing items in the common area of the premises. You should serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit, demanding that the items be removed. If the tenant does not comply, you may initiate eviction proceedings.
Question Eight: I just purchased a four unit building in Costa Mesa, CA. The rents have not been raised in over four years. They are all on a month to month basis. I would like to raise the rents to current market rates. Are there any limitations on how much I can raise the rent?
Answer Eight: Costa Mesa is a civilized jurisdiction as they do not have rent control. On this basis, there is no limitation on raising the rent. Under State law if you are raising the rent greater than 10%, you must do so in a 60 day notice of change of terms of tenancy. If 10% or less, a 30 day notice is sufficient.
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”.