Question One: I served my tenant with a 60-day notice to vacate. After 30 days, the tenant vacated without any notice. I deducted one month’s rent from her security and she is now threatening to take me to small claims court. Her position is that since she found an acceptable apartment within the 60 days, she is free to move at anytime. Is she correct?
Answer One: Your tenant is wrong. When you served the 60-day notice to vacate, she was responsible for the rent during this entire period. Since she just left after 30 days, she is liable for the entire 60-day period.
Question Two: I have a tenant who has lived in my building for the last two years. This tenant is demanding that I have the carpets cleaned. He claims that this is my responsibility. Am I responsible for cleaning their carpets?
Answer Two: You do not have to wash his dishes or clean his carpets. Your tenant is responsible to keep the premises in a neat and sanitary condition. It would be his responsibility to clean the carpets.
Question Three: Do I have a responsibility to warn my tenants regarding sex offenders that live on the same block as my building?
Answer Three: This law does not require you to inform your tenants of this issue. You are required to have in your lease agreement a notice of the California website which discloses the location of sex offenders. This will allow your residents to do their own investigation.
The required clause is: “Notice: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offender’s criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and ZIP Code in which he or she resides.”
Question Four: I do not want to lease to Section 8 applicants. My experience is that they usually have disabilities, which can expose me to insurance claims. Am I required to rent to Section 8 applicants?
Answer Four: In general, you are not required to lease to Section 8 applicants. In this situation, however, you could be sued. It would appear your reason for not leasing to Section 8 applicants is based on their disability. Under Federal and State laws, you are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of a disability. Since your true motivation on not leasing to Section 8 applicants is based on their potential disabilities, you could face a discrimination complaint.
Question Five: Two years ago I bought an 8-unit rent controlled building in the City of Los Angeles. In the escrow, all of the security deposits were transferred to my account. A long-term tenant is now moving and is demanding his security deposit plus the interest on this deposit. This tenant has been in the building for the past 18 years and the previous owner has never distributed the interest on the security deposit. Obviously, this interest was not transferred as part of the escrow. Am I responsible for this interest?
Answer Five: You should be very happy that a long-term tenant is moving, which will now allow you to raise the rent to market level. Under the law, however, you are responsible for this interest. Under the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, a landlord must pay interest on the security deposit and distribute this sum on a yearly basis. California law states that any “successor in interest” is responsible for the security deposit, which would include the interest. I would pay this tenant the full sum and you would have the right to seek reimbursement from the previous owner.
Question Six: A potential tenant filled out application and checked NO to having any pets or liquid filled furniture. We accepted them for an upstairs apartment with wood laminate flooring. They signed their lease and moved in. They had a problem and when I went into the unit, I found a 60-gallon salt-water tank in the living room. When I asked her why she didn’t tell us, she stated that she does not consider them pets. My lease agreement prohibits pets or liquid filled furniture. Is a 60-gallon salt-water aquarium with fish considered pets or liquid furniture? My lease states no pets and requires the tenant to carry insurance for liquid filled furniture.
Answer Six: Most courts would consider fish to be a pet within the meaning of your lease agreement and therefore the tenant would be in violation of their agreement. The AOA lease specifically prohibits pets AND aquariums so this situation would not be open to interpretation.
Question Seven: Is it legal to run a credit check on prior tenants that still owe money, as part of an effort to locate them and serve notice or initiate legal proceedings?
Answer Seven: This would not be legal. Your authority to run a credit check was permitted by the tenant for the sole purpose of checking their credit to lease your unit. After that, you have no authority to run a credit check again. If you want to locate the tenant, you would have to enlist the services of a skip tracer.
Question Eight: I am a new owner and love the benefits I have received as a member of the AOA. Where can get I more information regarding the operation of my building?
Answer Eight: You should definitely attend the AOA Trade Show and Landlording Conference, which is being held on April 25, 2013 at the Long Beach Convention Center. I will be doing the legal seminar at 3 PM and this will be “must see” performance!
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 read 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”.
Dennis Block is speaking at the Long Beach Trade Show for more information click here.