Question One: I have a rent controlled unit in the City of Los Angeles. Last month I increased my tenant’s rent, the annual raise of 3%. I now realize that an additional person is occupying that premises. Am I entitled to raise the rent again, or do I have to wait another year to do so?
Answer One: Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles, you are entitled to raise the rent 10% for each additional person who occupies the unit after the tenancy was formed. You must give a rent increase notice within 60 days from when you realized this additional person moved in. Since you already gave a recent rent increase, you will need to serve a 60-day notice to increase the rent. When you are raising rent in excess of 10% in any one-year period, a 60-day notice is required.
Question Two: I have a tenant on a one-year lease. At the end of the lease term he vacated but a friend of his remains and refuses to vacate! This stranger even refuses to give me his name. I called the police but they would not do anything. What are my options?
Answer Two: Even though your tenant physically vacated the unit, he is legally still occupying the premises, as he did not return a vacant unit. As such, an immediate unlawful detainer should be filed against your tenant, based on “Termination of Tenancy”, as the lease expired.
Question Three: I own property which has two houses on the same lot in Los Angeles. Is there any way to avoid being under rent control? I don’t need to raise rents as I am getting fair market value for the area. My problem is the fees imposed by the Los Angeles Housing Department and the nitpicking inspections, with their associated costs. I am a good, fair landlord who provides a nice place for my tenants. They have no complaints. Is there a trick to getting out from under the thumb of LAHD? I would appreciate you letting me know.
Answer Three: Two or more houses, on one lot, are subject to rent control. While I feel and appreciate your frustration, there is no “trick” to get out of rent control in this situation. Take solace in the fact that you are at least charging market rent. Many landlords are facing your situation AND have units they are forced to rent way below market value.
Question Four: I have a rent controlled unit in the city of Los Angeles and my tenant has a vehicle parked in his parking spot that is non-operational or currently registered. I inherited this tenant from the previous owner and I do not have a written rental agreement. He refuses to remove or repair this vehicle. Is this grounds for eviction?
Answer Four: Even though you have no written rental agreement, this could be a ground for eviction. Under a Los Angeles City Ordinance, vehicles parked on a premise must be operational and currently registered. You could serve your tenant with a Notice to Perform or Quit, giving this tenant three days to either remove the vehicle or make it operational and registered. If the tenant fails to comply, this could constitute a viable eviction action.
Question Five: What new laws should I be aware of for the year 2013? Each year it appears that the landlords are saddled with new regulations which just cost me more money.
Answer Five: You are right that the California Legislature feels the need to promulgate more regulations on all businesses. This is especially true for income property owners. Here are some of the new laws:
1. In 2013 landlords are required to install carbon monoxide detectors in all of their units.
2. When a tenant leaves behind personal property, the landlord must sell the abandoned property at public auction, if it is worth $700 or more. The prior law required you to hold an auction if the abandoned property was worth $300 or more. (This actually constitutes an improvement for landlords!)
3. Landlords who allow tenants to keep dogs or cats, cannot require tenants to have their pets declawed or devocalized. (Easier just not to allow pets at all)
4. Landlords who are in default for their residential units, 1 to 4 units, must post a sign on their property that the premises are in default for all potential rental applicants to see. (This will make it real easy to lease out your vacant units!)
Question Six: My tenant claims that his unit is uninhabitable. He has a few cracks in a counter-top. Clearly, this could not make the unit uninhabitable. Just what is the definition for habitability?
Answer Six: California Civil Code Section 1941.1 states that a dwelling unit is considered to be uninhabitable (unlivable) if it substantially lacks any of the following:
- Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
- Plumbing facilities in good working order, including hot and cold running water, connected to a sewage disposal system.
- Gas facilities in good working order.
- Heating facilities in good working order.
- An electric system, including lighting, wiring, and equipment, in good working order.
- Clean and sanitary buildings, grounds, and appurtenances free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents and vermin.
- Adequate trash receptacles in good repair.
- Floors, stairways, and railings in good repair.
- Contains lead hazards such as deteriorated lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, lead-contaminated soil, or disturbing lead-based paint without containment. (Health and Safety Code Section 17920.3 added to Civil Code Section 1941.1 on January 1, 2003.)
Question Seven: A tenant vacated my unit even though his lease did not expire for several additional months. There was an incredible amount of damage to the unit. After repairing the damage, it took me an additional two months to lease the unit. After deducting his security deposit, he owes me about $8,000. What is the best way to recover this money?
Answer Seven: If the tenant refuses to pay, the most cost efficient method would be to sue your tenant in small claims court. You can sue for an amount up to $10,000. Small claims court is somewhat informal and you can merely tell your story to the judge. Be sure to bring copies of all receipts for the repairs that were made, the lease agreement and the lease agreement for the new tenant. Please understand that if you bring an action in small claims court, you may not appeal if the decision is not favorable.
Question Eight: I have a unit that is leased to two tenants. One of the tenants has come to me and tells me that his roommate has been rude and argumentative and has been stealing from him. He wants me to take him off the lease and to change the locks. How should I handle this situation?
Answer Eight: You should not get involved in this dispute. It is their responsibility to work out any differences between themselves. As a landlord, you should only be concerned with receiving your rent, damage to the premises and the tranquility of the building.
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 follow 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”.