Question One: I recently purchased a duplex in Sylmar that has rent control. Currently, I’m responsible to pay the water bill, since there is only one water meter. I’m interested in paying for the lines to be subdivided, so that the tenants will be responsible for their own water bills. Am I allowed by law to sub-meter the building? All of the tenants are on existing month-to-month contracts.
Answer One: It has become popular for owners to sub-meter the building, so that tenants will be responsible for their own water bill. The prices have come down greatly for this installation. By installing sub-meters, tenants will become more responsible with their water usage. Unfortunately, existing rent control tenants cannot be required to pay for water usage, as they are protected under the rent control statute. Only new tenants would be legally required to pay for their water usage. I still recommend sub-metering the building, as owners will be able to determine which units are wasting water. Some meters, even alert owners by text messaging, when water is continually running. This can potentially save thousands of dollars.
Question Two: I have a tenant that currently has a contract to have one dog. I have seen a second dog in her unit and every time I warn her about this dog, she removes it. The dog unfortunately will reappear in a week or two. I am tempted to serve a Notice to Perform or Quit, but I am afraid that she will just remove the dog within the three day period and then it will return thereafter. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer Two: You should serve the 3-day Notice to Perform or Quit. Even if the dog is removed within the three day period, you can still evict, as long as you have not accepted rent for the following month. I suggest that you serve the notice right after rent is collected. If the dog returns anytime within the month, you will have grounds to evict.
Question Three: Can I serve a rent increase notice or notice to access the dwelling by email? This would be a more efficient way of conducting business.
Answer Three: The law does not allow for serving notices in this fashion. You may however, place this as a provision in your rental agreement. If the tenant agrees to notification by email, then it would be proper.
Question Four: I recently lost an eviction case and I am at a loss to understand what happened. I have a building in Anaheim. I have a tenant who has resided in the building for over three years. I issued this tenant a 60-day notice to quit. I have used this same form for the last 10 years and never had an issue in court. This time the judge told me that the notice was deficient and dismissed my case. The notice was filled out correctly. Do you have any suggestions on what I did wrong?
Answer Four: You are using an outdated form. Under California law, the following paragraph must be inserted into your 30 or 60-day Notice to Quit. “State law permits former tenants to reclaim abandoned personal property left at the former address of the tenant, subject to certain conditions. You may or may not be able to reclaim property without incurring additional costs, depending on the cost of storing the property and the length of time before it is reclaimed. In general, these costs will be lower the sooner you contact your former landlord after being notified that property belonging to you was left behind after you moved out.”
This demonstrates the importance of your membership with the AOA. Landlords should always download the latest forms from the AOA website. In this way, you will not have to worry about any changes in the law. I suggest that you immediately serve a proper 60-Day Notice to Quit. At the same time you should serve a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit for any outstanding rent that is owed. If the tenant fails to pay the outstanding rent, you could immediately commence the eviction after the third day.
Question Five: I have a rent controlled building in Los Angeles and I raised the rent in accordance with the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. I also charge my tenants an additional monthly fee of $3.61 for the SCEP (Special Code Enforcement Program) fee. In computing the rent increase, do I apply the increase to the total rent including the SCEP fee?
Answer Five: You can only apply the rent increase to the base rent and then add on the SCEP fee. If you apply the rent increase to the total rent being charged, you would be asking for rent in excess of the amount legally allowed. This could have disastrous effects if you brought forth an unlawful detainer action. Even if your 3-Day Notice overstates the rent by a few cents, your case would be defective.
Question Six: I have a problem tenant in a single-family home in Los Angeles. Her lease started last August, but she has already had a couple of fights with the neighbors. I heard of two instances when police were even called. I am really concerned for my property and the surrounding neighbors. Neighbors have told me she is a troublemaker and apparently attempting to intimidate them. Her lease does not expire until July 2015. What are my options?
Answer Six: Since your tenant is on a lease, you would need to proceed on the basis of a nuisance. You would need to enlist the help of your neighbors that would be required to testify if the matter went to trial. You should first send the tenant a warning letter. Advise her that her conduct is creating a nuisance and that at the next instance an eviction action will commence.
Question Seven: I have a condo in San Diego, CA. Am I required by California law to paint the unit if a tenant has lived there longer than one year?
Answer Seven: There is no California law, which would require you to paint the unit after one year. You are required to paint if the paint is peeling or chipping. Remember, under California law, if your premises were built prior to 1978, your painter needs EPA Lead Certification or you can be fined thousands of dollars.
Question Eight: I currently have a Section 8 (Federally Subsidized Rent) tenant that has fallen behind on her portion of the rent due. The portion paid by Section 8 is set up on direct deposit, which is deposited automatically into my account. Since an Unlawful Detainer has just been filed, and the first of the month is approaching, what should I do when I receive this month’s rent from Section 8? I understand that no monies can be received after filing. Thank you.
Answer Eight: In general, you cannot accept rent once an unlawful detainer action is filed, as it will be considered a waiver and your case would be dismissed. In this instance, however, you are fine. You are allowed to continue to accept rent payments from Section 8 during the pendency of the action. It will not be considered a waiver.
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. Get the NEW App for iPhone or Android phones. Search for “EVICT123”. Landlord/Tenant Radio is back on the air! Tune in every Monday at 1:00 p.m. on KTYM 1460 on your am dial and call in with your questions.