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DID YOU KNOW By – Dennis Block

Posted on 01. Jul, 2019 by in all, Magazine Articles

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Bed Bugs 

California Law enacted in July 2017 requires landlords to follow certain guidelines for bed bugs. Specifically, the law states the following:

  • Landlords must provide a lease addendum with education about bed bugs.
  • Landlords are prevented from showing or renting a vacant unit if there’s an active infestation.
  • Landlords are not allowed to retaliate against a tenant who has reported an infestation by trying to evict the tenant.
  • Landlords are not required to inspect for bed bugs if they haven’t seen them or received a tenant complaint. If there is an inspection, landlords are required to notify tenants of the findings within two days.
  • Tenants are required to cooperate with the inspection and treatment of bed bugs.

Hiring Resident/Property Manager

If you’ve hired a property manager or any other employee, then here’s what you need to know: California employers are not allowed to ask about criminal history or salary history during the hiring process. There is also a required parental leave for businesses with at least 20 people. 

Immigration Status

California law states landlords are not allowed to influence a tenant to vacate a unit, or attempt to recover possession of the rental, based on a tenant’s immigration status. Specifically, you cannot use their immigration status as a threat or fear tactic to get them to move out. 

Tenant Changing Locks

A landlord has a right and a need to have the keys to a tenant’s unit in case of an emergency. If a tenant changes the locks, a landlord should immediately demand that their tenant provide a key to the new lock. If the tenant refuses, the landlord should check his/her lease agreement. Most agreements prohibit tenants from changing the locks or making alterations.  Assuming this provision exists in your rental agreement, you should serve a 3-Day Notice to Perform or Quit, which would give the tenant 3 days to supply you with a key. If the tenant refuses, this would be grounds to evict. 

Corporation as a Tenant

As a matter of policy, you should refrain from renting to an entity such as an LLC or a Corporation. The problem with a corporation as a tenant is that if the tenant breaches the lease, collection would be very difficult. Corporations can be easily dissolved, and the collection would be fruitless. Many people might suggest having this person sign as a guarantee for the lease. In this way, you still would be able to hold the individual liable. I think the best approach is to have the individual person on the lease as a second tenant to the entity. This way, each tenant would be jointly and severable liable in case of a breach of the lease agreement.

Limitations of Small Claims Court

In Small Claims Court there is a jurisdictional limit of $10,000. Corporation and other business entities are limited to $5000.  You cannot, however, file more than two cases in Small Claims Court for more than $2500 each in any calendar year. Attorneys are prohibited in Small Claims Court, though you can seek their guidance prior to the trial. If you are a defendant, you have the right to an automatic appeal if you are not satisfied with the decision. As a plaintiff, there is no right to an appeal. The court’s decision is final. 

Landlord’s Liability to Tenant for Personal Property Damage

If a pipe burst in a unit which causes damage to the tenant’s personal property, is the landlord responsible? In general, a person is responsible on a legal basis under two theories of law. The first one would be on a contractual basis. Clearly no contract exists where the landlord assumes this responsibility. The second theory would be based on negligence.  The tenant would have to prove that that the landlord had advanced knowledge that a flood would likely occur and did not take steps to prevent it. This would be a very difficult proposition for a tenant to prove. On that basis, you are not liable for your tenant’s personal property. There is an additional way in which you should shield yourself from this type of legal responsibility. Your lease should contain a provision that the tenant is to maintain renter’s insurance. This policy would cover any damage to personal property or even relocation costs for the time the unit cannot be occupied. By having this requirement in your lease, you would strengthen your position that you are not responsible. You may also add this provision to your existing rental agreements by using a “Change of Tenancy” form. This form would be valid in both rent control and non-rent control units.

Disclosure to Tenants Regarding Sale of the Building

There is no requirement that an owner disclose to existing tenants that the premises are to be sold. The buyer, however, might require that tenants fill out an estoppel agreement. An estoppel is an acknowledgement that the tenants are required to sign. The tenants acknowledge the names of the occupants who are residing in the unit, the current rent and the amount of the security deposit being held.

 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, Orange: 714.634.8232, San Diego: 619.481.5423 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.  “Landlord Tenant Radio Weekly Podcasts can be heard at any time at www.EVICT123.com or download the app “EVICT123”.

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