Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California and Orange County rent control laws followed by answers provided by eviction attorney Dennis Block.
Question One: My building is subject to Statewide Rent Control (AB-1482). I have a tenant that is in violation of the lease by having an additional occupant that is not permitted. I served the tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit. The tenant did not comply, and I contacted an attorney to initiate an eviction action. My attorney informs me that we cannot proceed with the lawsuit until I first serve an additional 3-Day Notice to Quit. This makes no sense. Am I required to serve this notice?
Answer One: Under Statewide Rent Control, there is a reference that a 3-Day Notice to Quit should be served after service of a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit. The language in the statute states a 3-Day Notice to Quit “may” be served. Some judges have interpreted this as a requirement of the statute. On this basis, I would recommend serving this additional notice.
Question Two: I own a duplex. In the rental agreement it states that the tenant shall pay for all utilities except for water. The tenant has been there for over 6-months, and I just realized that the utilities are still in my name. How shall I handle this issue?
Answer Two: I would send a written notice to the tenant that the utilities must be put into their own name. Indicate to the tenant that the utilities will be automatically turned off in 7 days. In addition, I would send the tenant copies of the utility invoices and make a demand for payment. If the utilities are not paid, you may issue a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit demanding payment and proceed forward with an unlawful detainer if payment is not made.
Question Three: I own a 6-unit apartment in Anaheim. Since there is no rent control in Anaheim, I raised the rent to all my tenants by 20%. My units were well below market level and this increase brings my building into conformity with other units in the area. One of my tenants has informed me that this rent increase is illegal. How is that possible?
Answer Three: All cities in the State of California are subject to Statewide Rent Control j(AB-1482). The exception would be if there is a local rent control statute. While you are correct that Anaheim has not established a rent control statute, you would be subject to the State law. Assuming your building is over 15 years old, the maximum rent increase you can charge at this time is 10%. I would issue a new rent increase by serving a 30-day notice which establishes this new rent increase.
Question Four: My tenant had a plumbing leak which caused a flood in two rooms of his unit. The work will take at least 7 days to complete, and the tenant is asking to be reimbursed for his hotel expenses. Am I responsible for these expenses?
Answer Four: Your responsibility as a landlord is to make the repair in a reasonable and expeditious fashion. You should not charge the tenant for those days that the unit could not be occupied. There is no law that states you are responsible for relocation expenses. In addition, you should check the terms of your lease agreement. Many rental agreements have provisions which specifies that the tenant must procure renter’s insurance which would cover any temporary relocation expenses. This would absolve the landlord from any responsibility.
Question Five: My residents are complaining that a particular tenant is a heavy smoker which causes the smoke to permeate into their units. One tenant suffers from asthma and is particularly sensitive to smoke. I inherited the smoker from the previous owner and the rental agreement does not have any provisions prohibiting smoking on the premises. What options do I have?
Answer Five: While there might not be a specific provision in your rental agreement, a tenant cannot create a nuisance. A nuisance is defined as an unreasonable interference with the comfort, safety, enjoyment of other residents. I would issue a warning letter to the tenant that this conduct is creating a nuisance. If the conduct continues, you can terminate the tenancy by issuing a 3 Day Notice to Quit.
Question Six: I have a tenant who vacated the unit and left a few boxes filled with assorted items. I am not sure if he considers this trash or if he just forgot and would be returning to retrieve these items. I have tried to contact him, but I have not received a response. May I just dispose of these items?
Answer Six: You are permitted to remove these items, but you should keep them in a secure location. You are required to comply with the law regarding abandoned personal property. There is a form which can be obtained on the AOA website. You must complete this form by describing the abandoned personal property and then you must mail it to the tenant’s last known address. The tenant will have 18 days to obtain the items. If the tenant does not, you may dispose of these items if the value does not exceed $700.00. Technically, if it does exceed $700, you are required to hold a public auction.
Question Seven: My apartment building is located in the City of Santa Ana. I understand that we now have rent control which limits the amount of rent increases that can be imposed. What is the current rent increase that I can demand from my tenants? Are there any other issues that I should be aware of?
Answer Seven: Assuming your building was constructed after February 1, 1995, the current rent increase permitted is 3%. You will need to register your units with the city and you will need “Just Cause” to terminate a tenancy. In general, a tenancy may be terminated for non-payment of rent, breach of a material term of the rental agreement, and nuisance or criminal behavior. A tenancy can also be terminated on certain “No-Fault” causes such as owner or family member intent to occupy the unit, removal of the unit from the rental market, or demolition or substantial renovation. In those cases, relocation equal to 3 month’s rent would need to be paid to the tenant.
Question Eight: A resident complained that her vehicle was maliciously scratched while in the parking lot. I have a surveillance camera that covers this area. When I reviewed the video, I saw that the damage was done by another tenant who resides in the building. I know that these two tenants did not get along, but I was shocked that he would act in this manner. How should I handle this situation?
Answer Eight: Clearly, you do not want to have a tenant in your building that could cause malicious damage. I would offer to share the video with the affected resident. I would then confront the tenant and demand that he vacates the unit. If he refuses, I would bring forth an eviction based on nuisance.
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”.