Legal Q&A by Dennis P. Block
Question One: I am suing my tenant for eviction based on non-payment of rent. He
claims that I will lose my case as I served the 3-day notice prematurely. I served him with
the notice on the 3rd day of the month. He claims that the contract provides for a 5-day
grace period and therefore I could not serve the notice until the 5th of the month. Is my
tenant correct and will I lose the case due to this issue?
Answer One: Tell your tenant to start packing immediately. You are permitted to serve
your 3-day notice, the day following the rental due date. A grace period determines when
a late charge will be incurred. It does not change when rent is due. You, therefore, were
permitted to serve the notice the day after the rent became due.
Question Two: I recently bought a four-unit apartment house at a foreclosure sale. One of
the units is occupied by a person who refuses to identify himself, or state if he is a tenant.
This is a rent controlled building. How do I handle this situation?
Answer Two: It is unfortunate but Federal and local governments make it easy and legal
for residents to commit fraud after a foreclosure sale. If this person were a legitimate
tenant, he would be protected by rent control. This means that you could not raise his rent
or evict, unless you had good cause. If he is not identifying himself, my suggestion would
be to assume that he is merely the previous owner. I would issue a 3-day notice to quit
and proceed with an eviction. Once the eviction commences, if this person is a legitimate
tenant, he would be forced to identify himself and to become part of the lawsuit. Once
part of the lawsuit, he could be forced to produce his rental information.
Question Three: I have a lease with a couple. One of these tenants wishes to move and to
give up her rights to the unit and the security deposit. The remaining tenant will remain in
possession. What is the best way to handle this situation?
Answer Three: The person, who is leaving, should sign a statement that they are vacating
and giving up their right to the tenancy and the security deposit. The remaining tenant
should sign a new rental agreement.
Question Four: I own and occupy a condo in Laguna Beach which I use as my personal
residence. I would like to rent it out for the summer months, as this really supplements
my income. Since this is only a short-term rental, can I request that only adults be able to
lease my unit? In the past, I have discovered that there is a high incident of wear and tear
when children are occupying the unit. Do I have the right to do this, especially since this
is my personal residence?
Answer Four: If you limit your choice of applicants to adults only this would be
discriminatory and you could face being sued. My suggestion would be to request a
maximum security deposit.
Question Five: I am a senior citizen and a Christian living in a single family home in the
San Fernando Valley. I have decided that I need to take in a lodger to help with my
expenses. Obviously, I would want to live with a female and I also would like to have a
person with the same faith that I share. Can I limit my choices?
Answer Five: The Fair Housing Council sued Roommates.com, which is a roommate
locating service. This company allowed their members to post specific criteria for their
potential roommates. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Roommates.com.
They stated that this was not considered a violation of housing discrimination. The court
reasoned that the space rented by a roommate, is something other than a “dwelling”
which would be subject to the Fair Housing Act. Based on this ruling, you are free to live
with anyone you choose.
Question Six: I own an eight unit building in the City of Compton. It has come to my
attention that the previous owner converted a 3-bedroom unit into two separate units.
Each unit is occupied. One of the tenants is now refusing to pay the rent as he states that
this is not a legal unit? Can he just stay there for free?
Answer Six: The law does not allow a landlord to collect rent on an illegal unit. You
would have to terminate the tenancy in both units. Once the units have been vacated, you
should return the units back to its original configuration. You might have a cause of
action against the seller of the building for failing to disclose this condition.
Question Seven: I have an applicant for my unit that would like to bring in a dog.
Normally, I do not rent to families with pets. Would it be permissible if I asked this
family to pay a higher rent then advertised, for the privilege of allowing a dog to occupy
Answer Seven: You have the right to set the rental amount for any of your units. Clearly,
an animal can create more wear and tear to a unit. You would therefore be justified in
charging a higher rent. This would not be considered improper discrimination.
Question Eight: My unit is located in Los Angeles and is under rent control. My tenants
want me to clean their air conditioning duct with a NADCA certified cleaning company.
They have allergies which they claim are getting worse. Is this my responsibility?
Answer Eight: I have never heard of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. I guess
I have lived a very sheltered life. In any event, it is the tenant’s responsibility to clean and
maintain their unit. As such, the cost would be the responsibility of your tenants.
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.