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Legal Q & A by Dennis Block, Attorney

Posted on 01. Aug, 2016 by in all, Magazine Articles

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Question 1:  Due to the extraordinary hot weather, my tenant is demanding that I install an air conditioner. Do I have a legal obligation to do so?
Answer 1: There is no obligation for a landlord to install an air conditioner under the California Civil Code. A habitable dwelling does not require air conditioning. If, however, a landlord has supplied a unit with air conditioning, the landlord would be responsible to maintain the system.

Question 2:  I have a rent controlled building and the water usage has skyrocketed. Can I shift the burden of the water bill equally between all my tenants?
Answer 2:  Under rent control, a landlord cannot decrease service or increase the rent beyond the limits set by the municipality. Once a tenant is in possession, you cannot require that the tenant pay for this utility. Many landlords are setting up water meters so that the water usage of each unit can be determined. If these meters are in place, a landlord would be able to charge tenants for their water usage, but only for new tenants.

Question 3: My tenant has installed a satellite dish on the roof of the property without informing me. I’m not sure how to handle this. It is really well hidden, but I am upset that he did not ask me. What are your thoughts?
Answer 3: I think it sets a dangerous precedent, when tenants make alterations to your property without permission. I would send the tenant a letter expressing your displeasure and asking that it be removed. If the tenant fails to comply, you should serve your tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit to remove the satellite dish. If the tenant fails to comply, an eviction action should be brought.

Question 4: I have a female tenant that appears to be running a business out of her apartment. We have guys coming over at all hours of the day and night. I am receiving complaints from other residents. My building is located in Burbank. How should I handle this?
Answer 4:  Assuming your tenant is on a month to month tenancy, you should issue a 30 Day Notice to Quit. If your tenant has resided in the unit for one year or longer, you would need to serve a 60-Day Notice to Quit. If your tenant is on a fixed term lease, you would need to proceed with a nuisance eviction which would require other tenants to testify at a court proceeding.

Question 5: I have a rent controlled building that has a swimming pool. I am considering closing down the pool to save water, as recommended by the city. Am I legally able to do that?
Answer 5:  Even though California is suffering from drought conditions, you cannot just stop the pool service. The City of Los Angeles would force you to give each tenant a corresponding deduction in rent. Under the City guidelines that could be between $10 to $50 per month depending on the value of the unit.

Question 6:  I have a tenant that continually asks me to do the most minor things. Now she is demanding that I repaint her apartment. Am I obligated to do that, as the unit was painted when she moved in five years ago?
Answer 6:  A unit needs to be painted only if the paint is chipping or peeling. Inspect the unit to see the condition of the paint. Unless it meets the criteria, you have no obligation to comply with your tenant’s demands.

Question 7:  The electrical panel in my apartment building exploded due to the excessive amount of air conditioning being used. This caused the entire building to lose power. At a great expense, I had a new and more powerful panel installed. This was all accomplished in a 24 hour period. Some of my tenants are now requesting that I reimburse them for all the food that was spoiled. Am I responsible for that cost?
Answer 7:  A landlord has an obligation to maintain the premises. Once the building lost power, it would appear that you acted very quickly to remedy the situation. The law does not impose upon you the responsibility for the loss of the tenant’s food items.

Question 8: I have a tenant in Pasadena that is getting married and wants her husband to move into the apartment. Am I legally obligated to allow an additional person to move in?
Answer 8:  The terms of the rental agreement determine who can occupy the unit. If your rental agreement limits that only one occupant can reside in the unit, you would be within your rights to deny this tenant’s request.

On a personal note, I want to express my congratulations to my son Brandon and his new bride Krystal. Many AOA members have met Brandon at the AOA Trade Shows. Brandon heads up our Collection Department AND is very successful in getting our clients the rent money from their deadbeat 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. 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 Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.