LEGAL Q & A BY DENNIS BLOCK
Question One: I just closed on a duplex which is subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) for the City of Los Angeles. Assuming the city’s “State of Emergency” ends as of September 30, 2021, can I serve a 30-day notice to quit on September 1, 2021? My intention is to occupy the residence.
Answer One: The short answer is no! You will first need to wait for the “State of Emergency” to be declared over. Once this occurs, you will need to file an application process with the city. Once the city approves the application, you will be able to serve a notice to quit. If the tenant has occupied the premises longer than one year, a 60-day notice is required. In addition, relocation fees would need to be paid to the tenant.
Those will range from $9,000 to $22,000, depending if the person is a “Qualified” tenant. A “Qualified” tenant is a tenant with minor children, is 62 years of age or older, or is handicapped. Two additional rules must be followed. You must select the tenant with the least seniority and any tenant that is 62 years of age or older and has occupied the premises more than 10 years is exempt.
Question Two: My property is located in the City of Los Angeles and is under rent control. I recently took over the management for my mother, who is very ill. I tried to raise the rents but a tenant has told me that rent increases are not permissible at this time. I thought the ban on rent increases ended in June of this year. The units are severely under market. When may I raise the rent?
Answer Two: Under the “State of Emergency”, as promulgated by the Mayor of Los Angeles, no rent increase on RSO properties can be issued until ONE YEAR after the emergency is declared over.
Question Three: I really try to avoid personal contact with my tenants. This is partly based on health reasons relating to the pandemic. In addition, I prefer that all communications be memorialized in writing. I have set up rent payments to be made at a local bank. I have supplied my tenants with the address of the bank and my account number. Some tenants are objecting and are demanding that I collect the rent personally. Am I required to do this?
Answer Three: It is permissible that rent payments be made at a financial institution. You will need to supply the tenants with the name of the bank, the address, your account number, and the banking hours. In addition, the bank must be located within 5 miles of the subject property.
Question Four: I own an apartment house in the City of Lomita. I am afraid that once I lease the premises, the tenant will immediately claim COVID and stop paying the rent. Do you have any suggestions to avoid this situation?
Answer Four: You should screen your applicants thoroughly, to be sure that they are clearly able to pay the rent. In addition, you should request a security deposit equal to two months’ rent. Assuming your building is subject Statewide Rent Control (AB 1482), no reason need be given to terminate a tenancy during the first year. On that basis, I would suggest leasing your unit on a month-to-month agreement. In this way, you will be able to terminate the tenancy without cause anytime within the first year.
Question Five: My rental townhouse is located in Montebello. It had a fire possibly caused by an overloaded E-Battery. The lease ends December 10, 2021. It is now red-tagged and the inside is “totally” destroyed. What should I do regarding the lease and the security deposit?
Answer Five: Destruction of the premises terminates the lease. If you cannot prove that the tenant negligently created the fire, you would have an obligation to fully return the security deposit.
Question Six: My property is located in the City of Los Angeles. I have several tenants who claim that they are financially impacted by COVID. I have not received the rent for several months. One tenant even owes me 20 months of rent. In September, I applied for the Rent Relief Program but the city informed me that the program is closed at this time. How can that be? The program is administered through the State of California. Why is the city stating that the program is closed at this time?
Answer Six: The totally incompetent City of Los Angeles chose to administer the Rent Relief Program. They finally came to the realization that they could not properly supervise the program. This is why it has been closed since April, 2021.The city has now turned the administration back to the State of California, as of September 1, 2021. If your property is located in the City of Los Angeles, please apply for your rent relief immediately!
Question Seven: My property is located in the City of Claremont. Please advise whether the city has rent control. Also, am I prohibited from issuing a rent increase due to COVID protections?
Answer Seven: The City of Claremont does not have rent control. That being said, every city in the State of California is subject to Statewide Rent Control (AB 1482). The exceptions would be a single-family residence, town homes, condos and property built within the last 15 years. If your property is subject to Statewide Rent Control, you would be able to issue a rent increase in the amount of 8.6%. It is permissible to serve this rent increase at this time.
Question Eight: It appears that Statewide Rent Control (AB 1482) included a time-bomb to convert single family residences (SFR) to rent control. Normally SFR’s are exempt. If a rent control exemption notice was not included in the rental agreement by July 1, 2020, or a separate notice was not sent by August 1, 2020, it appears that SFR’s are then subject to California’s onerous rent control. If a landlord failed to give notice, should they give notice now and hope for the best, or are they safe anyway?
Answer Eight: Failing to serve notice that the premises are exempt from Statewide Rent Control would subject that property to the statute. Any rent increase or notice to terminate the tenancy would be ineffective. The problem can be easily rectified by serving the proper notice now, even if it was not served timely. The form is available on the AOA website. If your residential property is not subject to any rent control statute, you MUST serve this form on your existing tenants. It also must be included in any rental agreement that is entered into at this time or in the future.
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”.