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Legal Q & A – by Dennis Block, Attorney

Posted on 01. Oct, 2016 by in all

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Question One: Prior to moving into my apartment, my tenant asked me to remove my refrigerator as she had her own unit. It is has been four years and the refrigerator has stopped working. She is stating that I am responsible to repair or replace this unit. Am I legally responsible?
Answer One: Since you did not supply the refrigerator at the inception of the tenancy, you have no obligation to repair or replace this appliance. Your tenant owns the refrigerator and it is her responsibility to repair or replace this unit.
 

Question Two: My tenant is contesting his eviction. In the answer he filed with the court, he had a “laundry” list of things that were wrong with the unit. This tenant has never asked me to fix a single thing. He is using this list as justification as to why the rent was not paid. How should I handle this situation?
Answer Two: In virtually every case I have filed for non-payment of rent, the tenant claims that things are wrong with the premises. In most cases, my clients have never been informed of a problem. You should immediately serve a “24 Hour Notice to Access the Dwelling”. You should access the unit to determine if any of the described items require assistance. It is very wise to have a clause in your lease agreement that “all non-emergency repair requests must be in writing”. This could also be implemented by serving a 30-Day Change of Terms of Tenancy. We have been successful in excluding evidence where the tenant did not request a repair in writing.
 

Question Three:  I have a rent controlled unit in the City of Los Angeles. I have a tenant who is a nuisance. Other residents have bitterly complained about noise for the last three months. I have written warning letters, but it just does not help. What should I do?
Answer Three: It is an obligation on the part of the landlord to provide a peaceful living environment for the residents. Since the situation has not gotten better, you will need to commence an eviction action. This requires that a 3-Day Notice to Quit be served on your tenant. It must state the specific conduct of the tenant, the dates when the conduct occurred and the witnesses to this conduct. I recommend that an attorney be used to determine if the conduct c constitutes a nuisance and to prepare this notice.
 

Question Four: I am selling my house and I served a 60-day notice on my tenant. It appears that escrow will close prior to the expiration of the 60-day notice. Will the tenant still have to vacate, even if I am no longer the owner of the property?
Answer Four: The tenant must still vacate the house, if the new owner chooses to enforce the notice. The notice impacts the tenancy, regardless of a change of ownership. 
 

Question Five: I allowed my tenants to have a dog when they moved into the unit. They have just moved and I noticed that my hardwood floors are scratched, as a result of the dog. Am I allowed to deduct the cost of refinishing the floors from the security deposit?
Answer Five: You are allowed to deduct from the security deposit any unusual wear and tear to the premises. Excessive scratches in the wooden floors would be considered unusual wear and tear and on that basis you would be able to deduct the cost from the security deposit.
 

Question Six: I recently lost my eviction case as the judge stated that my 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit was defective. I had stated in the notice that I wanted the tenant to pay by cashier’s check or cash only. I did not want to accept a personal check at this late stage. Why does this render the notice defective?
Answer Six: Under California law, a tenant may pay rent with a personal check. If a tenant’s check is dishonored, the landlord may request cash or a cashier’s check for the next three months. In your situation, there was no evidence of a check being dishonored. As such, the judge correctly and technically followed the law. 
 

Question Seven: I have accepted a partial payment of rent from my tenant. Do I have to wait until the following month or can I serve a 3-day notice this month for the balance that is due?
Answer Seven: A 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit can be served anytime rent is delinquent. You do not need to wait until the following month. If you commence an eviction action, the lawsuit will automatically apply to all future rent that becomes owed during the course of the lawsuit.
 

Question Eight: I have been an AOA member for over 25 years and I really enjoy reading this column. Now I have a question for you, Mr. Block. I have heard that this is now your 40th year in practice. Do you ever get tired of dealing with Landlord/Tenant problems?
|Answer Eight: Thank you for your kind words. It certainly has been a long career but I truly enjoy representing the interests of property owners. I feel our industry has been the target by our legislators, the media and our legal system. We all need to stand up to protect our rights. For the record, I have never considered retiring, I have too much fun!
 

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”.