Question One: I recently bought an eight unit building where one of the units is not legal. What are the ramifications of renting out this unit?
Answer One: If you are in Los Angeles, the consequences could be serious. The tenant can legally stop paying rent and you would be forced to pay relocation money to have this tenant vacate. Relocation can range from $7,500 to $18,850. In an area without rent control, the tenant can legally stop paying rent however, no relocation funds would be required to be paid.
Question Two: My manager spelled the tenant’s name incorrectly on the lease agreement. Does this invalidate the agreement? In addition, I am going to issue a 3-day notice for the rent. What name should I put on the notice?
Answer Two: The fact that the name was incorrectly stated on the lease agreement does not affect the legal sufficiency of the agreement. When filling out the 3-day notice, you should write the tenant’s correct name.
Question Three: I am currently in an eviction process against my tenant. He is renting a house I own in Montebello. Pursuant to the lease agreement, I pay for all the utilities. Since my tenant has failed to pay the rent, am I still obligated to pay the utility bills?
Answer Three: Unfortunately, you are required to pay for the utilities through the entire eviction process. Having the utilities discontinued would subject you to civil penalties of $100 per day plus actual damages to the tenant.
Question Four: I rented a unit to two individuals on a one-year lease. It appears that they are not getting along and one is going to be leaving. This person is demanding that I remove her name from the lease and wants 50% of the security deposit returned. What are my responsibilities here?
Answer Four: Both tenants are responsible for the entire lease term, whether they are in possession or not. Tell the tenant you will not be removing her name and if the rent is not paid in full she will be liable. Furthermore, the security deposit will only be accounted for once the premises are entirely vacated.
Question Five: I took a deposit on an apartment, while I was doing a credit check. The applicant credit sources checked out and I called the tenant and told him that he could have a lease. He now tells me that he found a better place and is demanding his full deposit back? Since he delayed me in renting out this unit, am I not able to keep his deposit?
Answer Five: Unless you had made an agreement with regard to this deposit, you are required to return it completely. No lease was signed and no contract exists as to the terms of retaining the deposit. In the future, you might want to have the tenant sign a deposit holding agreement. You can obtain this agreement on my website: www.evict123.com/hold.pdf.
Question Six: I have a rental house that is in foreclosure, but I am in the process of getting a loan modification. Currently, the house is vacant. Do I have to inform the prospective tenant that the house is in foreclosure? If I am forced to do this, it will be very difficult to lease the unit and will only speed the prospect that I will lose this house.
Answer Six: A new California law has just been passed which makes disclosure mandatory. The law requires that the landlord post a sign on the subject premises if a notice of default has been filed against the property. Failure to do so can result in fines to the owner.
Question Seven: I am aware of the law that requires landlords to install carbon-monoxide detectors in their units by January 1, 2013. I have an “all electric” building. Is it true that I would be exempt from this law?
Answer Seven: If you have a garage attached to the structure, you would still be required to install detectors. Only if the parking structure was completely separate from the apartment units, would constitute an exemption.
Question Eight: I leased a single family house in the San Fernando Valley. I had installed automatic sprinklers to maintain the plants and the lawn in the backyard. I have found out that my tenants, who have vacated, turned off the sprinklers in order to save money on their water bill. The plants and the lawn are completely dead. May I deduct the cost of replanting from their security deposit?
Answer Eight: Your rental agreement surely requires the tenant maintain the premises. Clearly, the tenant’s attempt to save money, on a water bill, violated this term of the lease and you could properly deduct the cost from the security deposit. It is a wise idea for a landlord to pay for a weekly gardening service. In this way, the problem could have been quickly identified.
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”.