Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California rent control laws followed by answers provided by eviction attorney Dennis Block.
Question One: I have a tenant that left without any notice, leaving behind a friend of his. This person has offered to pay the rent and I have refused. I told him that he must vacate the unit. He claims to have lived in the apartment for the last year and therefore has established his tenancy. Do I have to accept this person, and if so, can I increase the rent?
Answer One: If no rent has been accepted from this person, you have not created a tenancy. This person would be considered an unauthorized subtenant at the end of the lease term. Your previous tenant’s lease is terminated the moment he vacates the unit. In this situation, you could commence an eviction by serving this occupant with a 3-Day Notice to Quit. This person is not your tenant and has gained no “tenant’s rights”. It should also be noted that you could establish a new tenancy where the rent could be raised to fair market value.
Question Two: I recently bought two houses on one lot in the city of San Pedro. I checked on Zimas and it stated that the premises were not under rent control for the city of Los Angeles. My broker is stating that it is subject to Los Angeles rent control. How can I be sure?
Answer Two: Zimas, located at zimas.lacity.org, is the official website for the city of Los Angeles, regarding information on real property. That does not mean that the website is free of misinformation. Sometimes properties are updated, for example the construction of an additional unit, which is not reported to Zimas. In your case, if bought units were constructed prior to October 1, 1978, then those units would be subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the city of Los Angeles.
Question Three: I have a tenant in a single-family residence in Compton, California. This tenant continually pays rent at the end of month, even though rent is payable on the first of each month. She has exhausted all of her security deposit, due to late fees. She is on a one year lease which will then become a month to month tenancy at its expiration. Can I give notice that I will not be renewing her lease and ask her to move? Please advise.
Answer Three: Since your property is not subject to rent control, you can advise the tenant that the lease will not be renewed. This should be done in the form of an informal letter. The letter should state that the lease is not being renewed and that you expect the premises to be vacated at the end of the lease term.
Question Four: My lease states that any minor repairs are the responsibility of the tenant, if the cost is less then $275. Recently a plumber was required to fix a leaking pipe. The tenant refuses to pay the cost of this job. Is this a ground which I can use to evict this tenant?
Answer Four: Those provisions, in a residential contract, have been held unenforceable. On that basis, you would be responsible for the plumber’s invoice. The only exception is where the contract provides that the premises are being leased at a reduced rate as a consideration of the tenant being responsible for these repairs.
Question Five: I manage a large apartment building in the city of Los Angeles. What is my recourse for a tenant who moved in during Covid, almost immediately claiming Covid hardship to avoid paying rent? We have found him on social media traveling the world, eating at expensive restaurants, and in general living the best life. Clearly, he is taking advantage of the system, knowing we can’t do anything. Any advice is appreciated.
Answer Five: I hope the Mayor and those who sit on the city council are reading your question. The abuse that has occurred due to the city’s overreach to protect tenants, has literally created untold losses for income property owners. Under the laws for the city of Los Angeles, tenants can withhold rent if they are financially impacted by COVID. This was extended through January 31, 2023. Clearly, this is not the case for your tenant. On that basis, an eviction action may be brought for all rent owed commencing April 1, 2022.
Question Six: I understand that I am now forced to consider Section 8 tenants under California law. Does this mean that I must accept any applicant, regardless of their credit or other factors?
Answer Six: Absolutely not. While you do have to accept their application, you still have the right to check out credit standing and other factors, as you would do with any other applicant. If their credit falls below your normal criteria, you can reject their application. I have also heard that Section 8 does not allow a tenancy, where the initial term is less than one year. If your policy is to rent only on a month to month basis, my understanding is that Section 8 will not approve this lease. Something to consider.
Question Seven: I have two units on one lot. I live in the front house and my tenant lives in the rear house. The issue is whether my tenant has protection under Statewide Rent Control. I understand these facts would exempt my tenant from being subject to the statute. Please advise.
Answer Seven: Your tenant is subject to Statewide Rent Control. The exemption does apply where there is an owner occupied duplex, and the tenant moves in thereafter. Two houses on one lot are not considered a duplex. On that basis, your tenant has the protection under Statewide Rent Control, AB 1482.
Question Eight: I was always told that the owner of a property cannot serve tenants with a notice. My understanding is that it must be done by a third party, such as a manager or a process server. My friend has initiated an eviction action and there is a trial coming up next month. I advised him that he should start over now and avoid losing the case and wasting more time. Did I give my friend the right advice?
Answer Eight: I think you should stop practicing law! It is perfectly legal for landlords to serve notices to their tenants, including a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. An actual lawsuit, such as an Unlawful Detainer, must be served by a third-party and not someone who is your direct employee, such as your manager.
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”.