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

Posted on 01. Jun, 2013 by in all

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Question One: As a landlord, I have made a practice of never renting to family or friends. I find that it is very difficult to do business in this situation. If the family member or friend meets my qualifying criteria, could I be sued for discrimination for refusing to rent?

Answer One: The law only prevents discrimination against “protected classes”. Your family and friends would not be considered a “protected class” and therefore you are free to continue with your policy. For the record, I think your policy is very wise.

Question Two: I have a building inCulver City. A tenant’s one year lease is about to expire and I would like to raise his rent 15%. Am I obligated to serve him a 60-day rent increase notice?

Answer Two: In this situation you can send him a new lease to sign where it will reflect a 15% rent increase. Ask the tenant to immediately sign and return the lease. You should explain that if the lease is not immediately signed, you will consider the tenancy terminated at the end of the current lease, and that the tenant must vacate.

Question Three:  I have an apartment building inLos Angeles. One of my tenants is insisting that her boyfriend can park his car, a brand new $100K BMW, in her space at any time. The house rules that she signed, specifically state that there can be no guest parking at the building and that parking is limited to vehicles registered in the tenant’s name.  She states that since she does not own a vehicle, that she can allow anyone to park in her space. Can I have enforce the rule??

Answer Three: Based on the contract you certainly can enforce this rule. You can either have the vehicle towed or this would be grounds for eviction. On an eviction action, you would need to first serve a 3-day Notice to Perform or Quit. If the vehicle continues to be park on the premises, an unlawful detainer could be filed.

Question Four: I had a tenant who moved out March 31st. I put the security deposit itemization in a mailbox on Saturday, April 20th but it was not postmarked until Monday, April 22nd. Has the landlord breached the 21 day requirement? 

Answer Four: As long as you deposited the itemization in a mailbox within the 21 days, you are in full compliance with the law.

Question Five: I have a tenant that has a problem with another tenant in my rent controlled building. He is asking to be let out of his lease early for safety reasons. He states that this other tenant has verbally harassed him, is aggressive, screams and slams doors. The police have been involved on a couple of occasions. I tend to believe this tenant as I have had issues with this other tenant as well. Do I need to honor my tenant’s request to terminate the lease early, as he does feel threatened? 

Answer Five: You have an obligation to provide a quiet and peaceful environment. In this case, I would advise you to allow your tenant to terminate his lease. In addition, you should immediately initiate eviction proceedings against the offending tenant. 

To initiate an eviction action against the offending tenant, it will require you to have witnesses willing to testify in court. In many instances, this is difficult to do, as the “good” tenants are afraid of retaliation. This has the effect of causing “good” tenants to leave. It is pitiful that the City Council of Los Angeles has not taken this into consideration when they passed the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. 

Question Six: I am leasing out my unit and I would like to know if it is legal to ask for pay stubs and a W-2 to verify income. Also, is it legal to state, “other applicants are more qualified” as a reason to refuse leasing to an applicant.

Answer Six: Asking for a pay stub or a W-2 is perfectly permissible for verifying income. With regard to the other issue, the law would require that you accept the first qualified applicant. I would avoid using that as your reason to deny acceptance. 

Question Seven: I own a building inLos Angeles which is under rent control. I have a tenant who was involved in a car accident and has lived in another home for physical rehabilitation for more than two months. During this period his son, without consent, has gradually moved in to his apartment and has occupied the apartment for more than two months. He also just recently paid the rent. What are my options?

Answer Seven: It would appear that your tenant will eventually be moving back into the unit. On this basis, you could serve a 10% rent increase. Assuming you have a lease which limits the occupants, you also have the right to demand that this person vacate the unit or initiate eviction proceedings.

Question Eight: I have no idea where my tenant moved, so I mailed the security deposit itemization to his last known residence, which was the building address. The envelope came back undeliverable. What should I do with envelope?

Answer Eight: Do not open the envelope. Leave it sealed to prove that you timely complied with the law. A new law has passed in California which allows landlords to email the security deposit itemization to their tenants and also the right to direct deposit, into the tenant’s bank account, any refund. This law requires the consent of the tenant and therefore should be a clause added to your lease agreement where his email and banking information are provided. This is a wise move because if the tenant vacates owing you money, you will have his banking information! 

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”.