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Legal Q & A – by Dennis Block, Attorney

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

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Question One: I have an 18 unit apartment building in Anaheim. I would like to advertise my building as a no pet building. Am I legally allowed to state that in my advertisements?
Answer One: Nothing prevents you from placing that statement in your advertisements. Be advised that if the applicant claims a disability requiring a service animal, you will have to permit the animal if you are supplied with a letter from a medical professional. 

Question Two: I have a tenant who has not paid rent timely for the last year. I am always forced to serve 3-day notices. This time the tenant did not pay and I filed an unlawful detainer. The tenant is contesting the proceedings. In the answer the tenant alleges that the premises are uninhabitable due to electrical issues and weather protection. Of course, I was never made aware of these problems. Does the tenant have a proper defense?
Answer Two: In order for a tenant to withhold rent, the tenant must inform the landlord of the condition and give the landlord a reasonable period of time to correct the issue. My experience is that most tenants that are being evicted will allege that things are wrong with the premises, but have never informed the owner. In many cases, an inspection of the premises will reveal that the items do not need to be corrected. You should inspect the premises and make any corrections that are necessary. I also recommend having a clause in your lease which requires that all repair requests, except in an emergency, must be made in writing. 

Question Three: I am purchasing a duplex in the City of Los Angeles that is under rent control. As part of the escrow terms, I have required that the landlord have the tenants vacate. I will need both units for my family. The seller has now come back to me and states that he cannot legally make the tenants vacate. He told me that I would have to do that, once I become the owner. Is this correct?
Answer Three: The seller is correct. Under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles an owner cannot ask a tenant to move based on the fact that the property is going to be sold. The new owner does have the right to ask the tenants to vacate if they intend to move into the unit. In that case, relocation funds would be required to be paid to the tenants. The relocation funds range from $7,600 to $19,700 per unit. 

Question Four: I have a tenant that damaged my building. This is forcing another tenant to vacate during the construction period. What is my obligation to this tenant, while his unit is being repaired?
Answer Four: You are only required to waive the rent, during the period in which the premises are being repaired. It is a wise idea to have a provision in your lease which requires tenants to maintain Renter’s Insurance.  With this policy, the tenant would have been able to obtain temporary relocation assistance. 

Question Five: My building is not under rent control. How much can I raise the rent each year and how much notice does the law require?
Answer Five: Since your building is located in a jurisdiction without rent control, there is no limitation on rent increases. You are not limited to only once per year. If in any one year period you are raising the rent in excess of 10%, you will need to serve a 60-day rent increase notice. 

Question Six: We had our house freshly repainted just two weeks before the tenants moved in. It has been two years and they are now leaving this month. Upon moving in, the tenants provided extra security deposit and stated they wanted to paint and make changes. Some of the changes were good, but the major work was a complete repainting of the interior. Some the rooms are purple, some pink, and beams that were brown are now white. The bathroom was painted over in a matt finish that is now starting to peel. They now state they should not have to return the house to its original condition/color. We requested the purple and pink rooms be repainted and the rooms with the improper prepping and matt finish to be done properly. Where do we stand with this issue?
Answer Six: Your tenants are certainly responsible to return the house to its original color. You may deduct the cost of the painting from their security deposit. You will have 21 days, from the vacate date, to provide them with this itemization. Since the cost will exceed $150, you will need to include invoices and/or estimates. If the security deposit does not cover the cost, you could sue the tenants in small claims court for the difference. 

Question Seven: I have a building in Costa Mesa. We would like to enforce a no smoking policy for our property in the common areas as well as inside the apartments. Do we have a legal right to enforce this? We have only four units, one down and three up over the garage area. We have a tenant challenging us on their right to smoke in the garage area. I would appreciate your advice on our rights as landlords. Thank you so much.
Answer Seven: You certainly have the right to enforce this policy. There has been a trend to sue landlords for failing to make their building “smoke free”. You should serve a 30-day change of terms of tenancy to each of your tenants, that the premises will be considered a “non-smoking” building. If any tenant violates this rule, it would be grounds for eviction. 

Question Eight: I’m in process of leasing a property to a person who relocated to San Diego. His company will be paying his rent. How do I draw up a contract with a company? I assume the individual should be listed on the contract.
Answer Eight: The person who will occupy your premises should be listed as a tenant on the lease and should be a signatory. You can have the company sign as a guarantor. In this way, occupant will be primarily responsible for any rent or damage to the premises.  

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”.