Question One:  Are landlords in Los Angeles County allowed to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent which is NOT related to COVID-19? My property is located in the City of Lawndale? My tenant moved into the unit on November 15, 2020, paid December 2020 and stopped paying rent in January 1, 2021. I gave her the 15-day notice and declaration. Can I file an eviction case against her now?

Answer One: Assuming the tenant has not returned the “Declaration of Financial Hardship”, you would be able to bring forth an eviction at this time. After the lawsuit is served, the tenant will have an opportunity to file the declaration with the court. If the declaration is filed, the court will be required to set up a hearing to determine if there was excusable neglect on the part of the tenant by failing to return the declaration within the original 15-day period. If the court determines that it was excusable neglect, the unlawful detainer action would be dismissed. My experience suggests that very few tenants file the “Declaration of Financial Hardship”, once the eviction is commenced. In those cases where the declaration has been filed, we have prevailed in 50% of the cases.

Question Two: My question deals with emotional support animals.  We have always had a no pet policy.  In the last couple of years, we have had a few people come up with letters from doctors saying they need an emotional support animal.  Now, I am getting many.  I own about 300 units.  I am now up to 25-30 animals.  Do I have to accept any doctor’s letter?  Most of them look they are home made.  Why can I not require a deposit for the animal? My experience is that there is a greater opportunity for the animal to make permanent damage to the apartment.

Answer Two: Unfortunately, there is little you can do to enforce your policy, due to the State and Federal law under the Disability Act. If the tenant presents a letter from a “medical professional”, which indicates that your tenant has a disability and requires the services of a comfort animal, you would be forced to accept this pet. The law does not allow you to charge an additional security deposit. Of course, the tenant would be responsible for any damage created. You certainly can investigate the document to see if it came from a legitimate source.

Question Three: I own an apartment building in the city of Los Angeles which is under the Rent Control Ordinance. I live in the building and I am considering getting a roommate. Do you have any recommendations on which rental contract I should use? Also, can I elect not to renew the roommate agreement after one year and just have the roommate move out without cause?  Does a roommate in my home have the same rights as a regular tenant?

Answer Three: Your tenant would be considered a lodger under Civil Code Section 1946.5. Good cause is not required to evict in this situation. Near the end of the lease term, you can merely inform the lodger that you will not be renewing the agreement. This person would then be legally required to vacate. The AOA lease agreement is excellent. I am not aware of a form rental agreement for lodgers. I suggest that you use the AOA agreement and add an addendum to the lease which would cover the additional issues attributable to a tenant living in your own home. I would further suggest that you only lease the room on a month-to-month basis, so that you will have a quick remedy to evict if the arrangement does not work out.

Question Four: Hi Dennis, I’m seeing on the news that the statewide eviction protections are being extended through June, 2021 but can find no details. I have a single-family home rental in Ventura where the tenants are behind on rent. They claim that they cannot pay due to COVID-19. I was hoping to finally get them out but now I am unsure what the new requirements are.  What are the new guidelines?  Any chance you’ll be doing a webinar on the topic? 

Answer Four: I am sure that the AOA will be scheduling a seminar on this topic in the near future. Please check their website at www.AOAUSA.com. Briefly, the eviction moratorium has been extended through June 30, 2021. The “transition period” is now from September 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The tenant will be required to pay 25% of the rent owed during this period, which will become due as of June 30, 2021. A 15-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit could be served in the month of June, 2021, which would cover the entire transition period. If the tenant returns the “Declaration of Financial Hardship”, and fails to pay 25% of the rent by June 30, 2021, an unlawful detainer action could be filed. Since your property is not subject to Statewide Rent Control, you can also issue a Notice to Quit, assuming the tenant is on a month-to-month tenancy. Under the Tenant Relief Act, an action can be filed if the tenant refuses to timely vacate. Be advised that you cannot obtain a judgment in an unlawful detainer action prior to July 1, 2021 based on this notice.  

Question Five: Hello. Can we serve rent increases and collect the increase in the city of Perris?

Answer Five: If your property is subject to Statewide Rent Control, you can issue a rent increase at this time for 5% plus the CPI as calculated in April, 2020 for your area. If your property is not subject to Statewide Rent Control, for example a single-family residence, you can raise the rent to any level. Be advised that if you are raising rent in excess of 10%, a 90-day rent increase notice is required.

Question Six: Hi Dennis, thank you for your help! In December, 2020, my family and I purchased a duplex with one unit occupied in Los Angeles. The property is under rent control. Our intention was to owner-occupy both units. We are mom & pop owners and do not own anything else. We are facing three issues.

1) It seems we can’t issue a Notice to Evict for Owner Occupancy due to COVID moratoriums. We tried to offer Cash for Keys and they denied the offer and chose to stay. They are paying their rent. Is there anything we can do? 

2) The empty unit is in a state of severe disrepair and cannot be occupied safely without some renovation work which includes installing floors and repairing the kitchen. The tenants are asking for rent abatement while we do the renovation on the top unit, because they claim the noise will violate their right to quiet enjoyment. Do they have a right to a rent reduction? The construction will only be during business hours.

3) Can we do anything to increase their rent right now? They are paying about $1,200 under market value.

Thank you for initial guidance in this situation. We’re losing so much money each month, paying our own rent and subsidizing their housing costs. It’s disheartening.

Answer Six: I certainly can understand the hardship you are going through. Here are the answers to your questions. Under the Los Angeles emergency eviction moratorium ordinance, “no fault” evictions cannot be instituted. On that basis, you cannot ask a tenant to vacate on the basis that you wish to occupy the unit. The ordinance timeline is open ended. This means that the law will continue until Mayor Eric Garcetti declares that the emergency is over. At that time, you will be able to commence the application process with the City to occupy your own residence. As to doing work on your upstairs unit, clearly you can do this renovation. As long as you are operating during approved construction hours, the tenant cannot deduct rent for their inconvenience. An owner clearly has the right to upgrade his unit. Lastly, the City of Los Angeles has placed a one-year freeze on rent increase until the emergency period has been lifted.  

Question Seven: Dennis, thank you so much for this valuable resource. We want to sell our house, but the tenant would only allow access to the property once a month, which is not helpful. We lost many buyers. We have to sell as we can no longer afford to keep the house due to our own financial losses relating to COVID-19. My tenant’s one-year lease extension ends on April 30, 2021. This is not a rent-controlled property. Can we give the tenant a 60 day notice to vacate on May 1st, 2021? Can we then file for the eviction if the tenant fails to vacate citing   COVID-19 issues?

Answer Seven: You should not serve a 60 day notice to vacate. You will need to send the tenant a letter that you will not be renewing the lease. If the tenant does not vacate, you will be able to initiate an unlawful detainer action.Question Eight: What are the legal aspects of tenants who smoke marijuana in the common areas of the property? I have a few tenants who say that since it is legal, they have the right to smoke in any common area of the property. Please clarify the law for rental properties.  Thank you

Answer Eight: I will respond by stating that cigarette smoking is also legal, but that does not allow a person to smoke in a restaurant or on an airplane. The fact that smoking marijuana is legal in the State of California does not allow a tenant to create a nuisance where the smoke is bothering other tenants. All landlords should have a non-smoking provision in their rental agreements that smoking is prohibited in any unit or any common areas of the premises. A tenant who violates this provision of the rental agreement can be the subject of an unlawful detainer action. If the provision is not in your rental agreement, the tenant can still be prohibited from smoking, if the activity is creating a nuisance to other residents. 

 

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”.