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Legal Q & A – by Dennis P. Block, Attorney

Posted on 15. Oct, 2012 by in all

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Question One: I had two persons that got evicted from one of my apartment units and I received a monetary judgment in the sum of $4,000. I feel sorry for one of the tenants. Am I allowed to collect the full amount of the judgment against one tenant only or am I limited to $2,000 from each party.
Answer One: All parties are jointly and separately liable for a judgment. On that basis, you can collect the full judgment from either party.

Question Two: My tenants are on a one year lease – they moved in on April 1, 2012 They now want to break their lease on the basis that there was a home invasion on our block where the homeowner was seriously hurt.  They stated in their email that they are afraid to live in the neighborhood due to this incident. They also want a full refund on their security deposit. How should I handle this request?
Answer Two: A landlord cannot prevent crime from happening. Crime occurs even in the best of neighborhoods. The fact that a home invasion occurred on your block does, not give your tenants the right to cancel the lease. Your tenant is responsible for the full term of the lease.

Question Three: My tenant is moving at the end of the month and refuses to give me a forwarding address. I usually send the security deposit itemization by certified mail. He has a large deposit and I cannot understand why he wants to make it difficult to receive his portion of the security deposit back. What are my options?
Answer Three: If you know where he is employed, you could mail it to that location. If this is not known, you should mail it to the last known address which would be the unit he just vacated. You should send it by certified mail. If the envelope comes back, do not open it. Leave it sealed as it will be the best evidence that you complied with the law.

Question Four: We are in escrow to purchase four rental homes. How do we change rental agreements to our names? I do not want to make any other changes to the lease.
Answer Four: A lease runs with the land. By purchasing the homes you incur the rights and obligations that are contained in the existing rental agreement. It is not required to have the tenants sign a new rental agreement, as the law would recognize you as the new landlord under that lease. Nothing prevents you, however, from preparing a new lease and presenting it to your tenants to sign. If your property is not subject to rent control, you could simply terminate their tenancy for their refusal to sign your rental agreement.

Question Five: Is it a good idea to allow my tenant to direct deposit the rent into my bank account? I have a tenant who stated that it makes it much easier to do so as he can just transfer the money from his bank account to mine.  Should I have any concerns?
Answer Five: It is a technological world and many landlords are allowing tenants to direct deposit into their bank account. Generally, this is an efficient way to collect the rent. This can cause a problem in eviction cases, however. During an eviction action the landlord is instructed not to accept any rent. If the tenant has your bank account number, sometimes the tenant will make an unauthorized deposit. In this situation, landlords should monitor their bank accounts and if an unauthorized deposit is made, the landlord should send his check immediately back to the tenant.

Question Six: We have a tenant that is feeding feral cats in our 12-unit apartment building. On numerous occasions, we have told the tenant to stop doing this, but they are not complying with our demands. Some of our other tenants have observed them feeding the cats, but they deny that they are doing so. This is a rent controlled building. What are our legal options?
Answer Six: I would presume that your rental agreement prohibits having pets on the property. By feeding these cats they are maintaining pets on the property and this would be in violation of your rental agreement. You should serve a Notice to Perform or Quit demanding that they cease maintaining pets on the property. If they continue to do this, it would be grounds for eviction. Under County law, a tenant is not allowed to maintain more than three cats or three dogs on a property without a kennel license.

Question Seven: I advertised my unit for lease and requested a security deposit equal to one month’s rent. I have an applicant who has poor credit. I am considering leasing to her if the security deposit was higher. Am I allowed to charge a higher security deposit to this person, or do I have to honor the advertisement that I placed?
Answer Seven: You are not committed to the terms of the advertisement that you placed. If your criteria is to charge a higher security deposit based on economic reasons, then you are free to charge this applicant a higher security deposit.

Question Eight: I have two luxury homes in the South Bay area. Recently, I received applications on each home. Each person has just recently moved into California. I am concerned about checking on their credit history, due to the fact that they are new residents of our state. The applications list their names as Mr. Howard and Mr. Nash. What would you recommend?
Answer Eight: I would welcome these people into your homes without any reservation. If fact, I suggest placing a red carpet on each driveway. Go Lakers and have a great Championship Season!

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.

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