Question One: My tenants normally pay the rent by depositing the money directly into my bank account. One tenant has not paid the rent and I want to issue a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit. May I specify in the notice that the rent payment be deposited into my bank account?
Answer One: You certainly can do that but you must follow certain guidelines. The bank must be within five miles of the subject premises. You must write your account number on the notice and give the bank’s address and hours of operation. Your phone number must also appear in the notice.
Question Two: I was involved in an eviction action that went to trial. The tenant did not have an attorney. I noticed that an attorney approached her in the hallway and then substituted into the case as her attorney. They have now requested a jury trial and the court allowed them to do this. The judge said that this was within his discretion. Since there were no courtrooms available, the case got continued for three weeks. This tenant has not paid rent for four months and now I have to go through a jury trial. This does not seem possible. Any suggestions?
Answer Two: It is against the Rules of Professional Responsibility to solicit litigants. You should immediately make a complaint to the State Bar of California regarding the improper actions of that attorney. All parties have the right to a jury trial. Technically, you must request it five days prior to the trial date and pay jury fees. The judge does have the discretion, however, to honor the request of a party at any time. Jury trials are becoming commonplace in eviction actions. Obviously, it adds to the cost and time to complete the eviction. Due to this, all leases should limit the attorney fee allowable in each case. This has a chilling effect on attorneys requesting a jury trial.
Question Three: Can I reject an applicant for having too many people that want to occupy my apartment? I have a two bedroom, one a one half bath unit. The application is requesting eight persons for this unit. Can I just tell them that there are too many people?
Answer Three: There is no legal formula for the amount of persons that can live in a unit. In this case, it seems clear that it would create an overcrowding situation and you could reject the application. As long as you are not practicing illegal discrimination, you can set the amount of persons that you believe, reasonably could live in your unit.
Question Four: I recently did an eviction against a tenant. This tenant failed to pay the rent and caused damage to my unit. Now this guy keeps coming back to the property and visits one of my other tenants. I really do not want this person on my property. Is it within my rights to demand that he stay away? I do have an order for eviction against him.
Answer Four: Your order of eviction only relates to the unit he was evicted from. Your other tenant has the right to invite any guests into their unit and they do not need your approval. If this is not under rent control, you could serve a notice to quit to your remaining tenant. You should also consider filing a small claims court action against your evicted tenant for the damage that he caused to your unit. Since he continues to frequent the premises, it will be easy to serve him with the lawsuit.
Question Five: My leasing agent didn’t disclose that someone died in one of my rental units. The death occurred on April 22, 2008 and new tenant moved in on April 1, 2011. The tenant wants to break her lease on that basis. Is this a proper reason for breaking a lease?
Answer Five: California law requires that you divulge a death to a potential applicant, if it occurred within the last three years. It is interesting to note that an exception exists if the death was caused as a result of the aids virus. In order for a lease to be broken, the breach cannot be trivial. In this case, it was almost three years from when the death occurred and I doubt a court would justify the breaking of a lease on that basis. Your tenant would have to demonstrate a clear case of emotional problems as a result of this nondisclosure.
Question Six: I have a Section 8 tenant in a rent controlled unit in the City of Los Angeles. I recently raised the rent on this tenant the 3% as allowed by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. My tenant is refusing to pay, stating that this is not legal. How is that possible?
Answer Six: Your tenant is correct. Notwithstanding that this is a rent controlled unit, under the Section 8 guidelines you can only increase rent based on approval from Section 8. The failure of Section 8 to grant any rent increases is the reason many landlords are opting out of the program. There is a campaign by the City of Los Angeles and Section 8 to mislead landlords that they must remain in the program for life. This is not the case! Landlords can terminate their relationship with Section 8. In that situation, the tenant would remain but would be forced to pay the full contract price. If the tenant failed to do so, an eviction action could be filed for non-payment of rent.
Question Seven: I am selling my house on a short sale. I have a tenant on a month-to-month tenancy, who has lived there for the last three years. I served a 30-day notice to vacate and the tenant is demanding that a 60-day notice to vacate is required as he has been in the unit over one year. If I do not get this tenant out, I could lose my sale. Any suggestions?
Answer Seven: Your tenant is correct that a 60-day notice is required to terminate a month-to-month tenancy if the tenant has occupied the premises beyond a one-year period. An exception does exist. If your property is currently in escrow and the buyer will occupy the premises as his primary residence, a 30-day notice can be served to terminate the tenancy.
Question Eight: I recently took an application for a unit that I am trying to rent. The family seemed very nice but the gentleman told me that it was his intention to be filing bankruptcy in the near future. Do you think it is okay if I rent to this family?
Answer Eight: I think you should immediately sell all of your property and get out of the rental housing industry.
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. Don’t miss his Landlord/Tenant Radio Show, every Tuesday morning at 11:00 a.m., KTYM 1460 AM. Now, you can also read Dennis Block on Twitter, www.twitter.com/dennisblock or text him at (818) 570-1557.