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Legal Q & A – by Dennis Block

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

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Question One: I have a rent collection box on the premises. All of the tenants deposit their rent checks into this receptacle. Last week, the box was vandalized and all of the contents were taken.  Two of the tenants had put in money orders which I am asking them to replace. They have informed me that the money orders have been negotiated.  Are the tenants responsible for the loss of these money orders?
Answer One: Unfortunately, the tenants have no further responsibility in this situation. You supplied the manner of payment and the tenants duly complied. Any loss would have to be absorbed by the owner. As a general rule, a rent collection box should be installed in a secure area, to help prevent theft. 
 

Question Two: I have a building with a strict “no pet” policy. I have an applicant that wants to lease my property and claims he has a disability that requires him to have a comfort dog. Can I require him to provide verification of his condition? Also, if the animal is permitted, can I require a greater security deposit?Answer Two: You certainly can require the applicant to show a letter from a medical professional which establishes the need for a comfort animal. With regard to the security deposit, you cannot request an additional amount. That would be considered discriminatory under the law. 

Question Three: I purchased a triplex property that was fully rented at the time of the purchase. Each of the tenants had signed a one-year lease and currently they are on a month to month tenancy. The building is owned in a LLC (Limited Liability Company) and I would like to have these tenants sign a new agreement in the name of the current owner. Do I have to offer a new one year lease, or is there some kind of operating amendment that I can have them sign?
Answer Three: It would be best to offer them a new lease. It can be either a month to month or a fixed term lease. If your building is in a rent control jurisdiction, you would not be able to force them to sign a new agreement.
 

Question Four: We need to evict our tenants of 15 years and we would like to verify that we only need to give them a 60-day notice without stating a reason. Our reason is to remodel the premises and then to put it on the market. This is a single family residence, not subject to rent control. Thank you for your help.
Answer Four: Since this is not a rent control jurisdiction, no reason is required to be stated in a 60-day notice.
 

Question Five: When I list a unit online, there are many people requesting a showing. Having to show the unit to everybody would be a waste of time, especially if they don’t qualify. Am I allowed to pre-screen tenants before showing them the rental unit? If so, what pre-screening criterion is considered valid? For example, if they have bad credit or cannot provide landlord references to verify past rental history, can I just deny the application without actually showing the unit?
Answer Five: You certainly have the right to pre-screen tenants prior to showing the unit. If the tenant has bad credit, or cannot supply information regarding prior rental history, you would be justified in denying the applicant without a showing.
 

Question Six: I had a tenant whose air conditioner stopped working. Due to the heat wave, it took me a week to have the unit serviced. The tenant is now deducting 25% of the rent, as she is claiming that the unit was not habitable for that period of time. Is she legally allowed to make this deduction?
Answer Six: A landlord has a legal obligation to repair items within a reasonable period of time. It can be challenging to obtain the services of an air conditioner repairman during a heat wave. It would appear you used your best efforts to have the unit repaired and deduction is not warranted. If the tenant does not pay the full rental amount, you should issue a 3-day notice to pay the rent. 
 

Question Seven: My tenant has informed me that he will be on an extended trip for three months. He is telling me that he will have a guest staying in the unit for this period of time. I am not sure how to handle this. Can you give me some suggestions?
Answers Seven: The definition of a guest is usually determined in your rental agreement. It can range from anyone staying 14 to 30 days. A person staying beyond that time period is considered to be occupying the premises. You certainly have the right to deny your tenant’s request. If you allow for this situation, both parties should sign a statement which outlines that this person is only a guest and specify a specific vacate date.
 

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”.