Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by eviction attorney Dennis Block.
Question One: Mr. Block, my tenant has not paid rent for over 28 months. In addition, he has also brought in additional people, which has caused my water bill to increase. When is this nightmare going to be over? When can I finally bring forth an eviction? I am hanging on by a shoestring.
Answer One: The City of Los Angeles has finally come to their senses and has declared that the State of Emergency is over effective February 1, 2023. On that basis, you will be free to demand payment for rent for the month of February 2023. All other rent owed will be deferred until February 1, 2024. It should also be noted that landlords are now free to commence evictions for unauthorized persons and pets. During the moratorium, these types of violations could not be the subject of an eviction.
Question Two: My tenant just installed a washer and dryer in his unit. I am not sure that he installed it correctly and I really do not want to pay for the additional water usage. Can I demand that he remove it? This is a six unit building in Agoura.
Answer Two: You certainly can ask the tenant to remove it. Under the terms of most rental agreements, alterations are not permitted without first obtaining the written consent of the landlord. Clearly, this would be an alteration. You would need to serve a 3 Day Notice to Perform or Quit, which would give the tenant 3 days to comply. If the washer and dryer have not been removed, you may commence the eviction process. Assuming your building was built over 15 years ago, your property would be subject to Statewide Rent Control (AB 1482). In that case, you will need to serve an additional notice. After the initial notice expires, you are required to serve a 3 Day Notice to Quit. Once that notice expires, an unlawful detainer action may be filed by the court.
Question Three: My property is located in the City of Los Angeles and is under rent control (RSO). Thankfully, my tenants have all been paying the rent. In February 2022, I issued a 3% rent increase which all the tenants have paid. I just heard that rent increases are prohibited for RSO property. Is this true and if so, how should I handle this?
Answer Three: For Los Angeles properties, subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, rent increases are prohibited. Rent increases will only be allowed as of February 1, 2024. Your rent increase was clearly improper. You should immediately notify your tenants in writing that their rent is being returned to the original amount. You should immediately refund all additional rent that you accepted. Once completed, you should have no further problem.
Question Four: I leased a single-family residence to a family. Under the terms of the lease agreement, I allowed my tenants to have two dogs. The property is very large, and I did not think that this would create a problem. On a routine inspection I noticed that the tenant now has four dogs. I immediately requested that two dogs be removed. The tenant then produced a document from a licensed physician that one of the tenants has a disability and needs to have four dogs for emotional support. I am shocked that a doctor would write such garbage. Do I have any options? I do not like the fact that the tenant is abusing my property.
Answer Four: The State of California has passed new legislation making it more difficult for tenants to claim that a pet is an emotional support animal. In general, it must be prepared by a licensed health professional located in California. The document must list the professional’s title and license number. The professional must have treated the patient at least 30 days prior to issuing the document. Assuming that the support letter is in accordance with this law, there is another avenue you might check. Most municipalities prohibit having more than three dogs without obtaining a kennel license. I would check with the city to see if this prohibition exists. Regardless of the doctor’s recommendation, the tenant cannot violate the law and at least some of the dogs would have to be removed or an eviction could be commenced.
Question Five: My lease agreement states that the tenant must obtain renter’s insurance. I require this as I do not want to be liable for the tenant’s personal property. My tenant steadfastly refuses to obtain a policy. Are these grounds to evict the tenant?
Answer Five: To evict a tenant for a violation of the rental agreement, it must be considered a “substantial breach”. Courts have determined that failure to obtain renter’s insurance is not considered a substantial breach of the lease. On this basis, you cannot proceed with an eviction. To avoid this situation, I would require the tenant to obtain the policy, prior to the tenant receiving possession of the unit.
Question Six: My tenant has a roach infestation in his unit. I have engaged a licensed pest control company on three occasions, but the problem keeps recurring. The company states that the condition of the premises is the cause of the problem. I viewed the unit and clearly the tenant has no housekeeping skills. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer Six: Almost all rental agreements require that the tenant maintain the premises in a neat and sanitary condition. In this case, I would suggest that you serve a 3 Day Notice to Perform or Quit requiring the tenant to clean up the unit. You should be very specific as to what conditions currently exist and what needs to be corrected to remedy the situation. If the tenant fails to comply, an eviction action may commence. Conditions like this may constitute a nuisance, as it is likely that the problem will spread to other units.
Question Seven: My property is located in Torrance and is subject to Statewide Rent Control. I discussed with my tenant that she will be receiving a rent increase notice in the next month. She immediately told me that rent increases are prohibited for one year. She stated that her attorney specifically advised her of this fact and that she would not be paying any rent increase. Is this true?
Answer Seven: Please inform your tenant that she needs to find a new attorney. Under Statewide Rent Control (AB 1482) a landlord is allowed to serve a yearly increase in the sum of 5% plus the CPI. The increase cannot exceed 10%. This year the CPI is 7.9% and, on that basis, you may serve a 10% rent increase. A 30-day rent increase notice would be required. If she fails to pay, an unlawful detainer action can be commenced.
Question Eight: My property is subject to Los Angeles rent control. 15 years ago, a mother and her minor child moved into the unit. They were the only occupants allowed under the terms of the rental agreement. For the past 5 years, the child has not lived there. The mother has now informed me that she will be vacating the unit and her son will be moving back with his girlfriend. Am I required to accept this new arrangement? The rent is way under market, and I would prefer to have new tenants.
Answer Eight: Even though the son moved out, many courts would rule that he is still a protected tenant under the terms of the lease agreement and can return to the unit. This is not the case for his girlfriend. If she occupies the apartment, that would be a violation of the lease and would be grounds for eviction.
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, Orange: 714.634.8232, San Diego: 619.481.5423 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. “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.