Can I Say No to Pot in My Apartments When it is Legal in my State? – by John Triplett

With permission from AOA (Apartment Owners Association)

California just became the world’s largest legal marijuana market. When pot is legal in a state, what issues does this present to property managers and landlords of rental properties? Property managers are often confused and seeking to better understand how to handle the issues of legal marijuana and medical marijuana when it comes to tenants and rental housing in their states.

Laws are changing all the time in many states, just as California did on January 1, 2018, as voters approve different levels of permission when it comes to marijuana. This leaves property managers trying to figure out what should be in their leases around the issue.

You may be able to ban smoking, but do you really know what your tenants are eating or growing in their apartments? Do you really want to know if they are good paying tenants?

Rental Housing Journal did a recent interview with Seattle, Washington attorney Bret Sachter, an expert in tracking the progression and transformation of marijuana laws, to discuss some common questions property managers have about marijuana and tenants.

“I’ve been asked this a lot,” Sachter said, “but it does not come up as often as you might think. The overarching issue here is that, with few exceptions, people can do what they want to protect their property, even if the prohibited behavior is not illegal. You can prohibit smoking, prohibit pets, but with marijuana it’s much easier because it is federally illegal. So you can pretty much prohibit it if you want to no matter what, even medical marijuana,” Sachter said.

4 Questions About Pot, Tenants and Apartment Leases

Sachter says in terms of Fair Housing issues, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) it is a situation where HUD wants it in the lease that marijuana is illegal but enforcement is another issue, he said. It is not so much that HUD wants landlords to evict over marijuana, but that you have something in the lease language that allows for eviction in the instance of marijuana use on the property. “So it is pretty clear as far as HUD is concerned,” he said. Here are his answers to four questions on pot and apartments.

  1. 1.     Tenants With a Disability and Medical Marijuana

Question: If a tenant comes in and says I have a disability, here is a note from my doctor, I use medical marijuana, which is legal in this state, and I want to rent your apartment. Can a landlord prohibit that?

Answer: “A landlord can absolutely prohibit that because marijuana is illegal under federal law.” The landlord can say, “I understand our state allows medical marijuana but it is still a Schedule 1 drug and I prohibit it on my premises.”

  1. 2.     Marijuana is Legal in My State – But What Does the Lease Say?

Question: What if a tenant says marijuana is legal and they should be allowed to use it?

Answer: “If your lease prohibits smoking and prohibits use of illegal drugs, then the legality of marijuana at the state level is irrelevant because under federal law marijuana is illegal. If your lease does not have those types of clauses, you should talk to an attorney in your state or city to find the best solution for your lease.” There is no law about reasonable accommodation for marijuana users, federal laws do not require it. As far as the federal government is concerned it is not ok.

“One thing I would say, and it is important, I would encourage landlords just to make everything clear,” in the leases, he said. “Clarify in a lease that you must abide by all laws both state and federal.” That is the case in residential. He said it can be different in commercial.

“But in residential it is not as tricky, and I am speaking very generally here,” Sachter said. “The states may have their own thing going on with legal marijuana laws, but it is still federally illegal. Make it crystal clear in your leases is my best advice,” he said. “How can you attract tenants in a state where it is legal yet protect the owners of the property? You cannot have it both ways.”

“I know in Seattle there are Airbnb bed and breakfasts that specifically market themselves accordingly, as part of marijuana tourism to come and stay in our place where it is legal.” But if a property manager doesn’t want that going on, then they have to be up front in the lease.

“If your tenant is Airbnbing to a tenant who is then using marijuana – well if you can’t catch them you cannot do anything about it. You have to prove they are doing this.  They are going to be using marijuana regardless of what the lease says.”

  1. 3.     What if the Tenant Using Marijuana is a Well-Paying, Good Tenant?

“Landlords can certainly put a no-waiver clause in the lease. If I say, ‘Here is a list of prohibited things’ and if you do these prohibited things in the lease, you are subject to eviction,” he said.

“However, any time I waive any of these things does not constitute an overall waiver. It basically means you should not ever do it again,” he said. “Just because you get away with it once, does not mean you get away with it every time,” Sachter said.

  1. 4.     Can I say ‘no pot in my apartment

“Usually if you say, ‘No pot in my apartment’ and you find a tenant using marijuana and you haul them into court, more than likely the judge is going to say, ‘Have you stopped?’ to the tenant and ‘Are you going to do it again?’ and the tenant is going to say ‘No.”  And then judge will say, ‘Ok, dismissed.”

To put a more legalistic term on it, usually a court will be in favor of “allowing the tenant to cure the defect,” rather than evict for most things like that, Sachter said.

Technically, in Washington, a landlord would serve a 10-Day notice to comply or vacate with the terms of the lease.  This process, therefore, gives the tenant a chance to “cure” the violation before the landlord can evict. Check your local state laws on this.

 

What One Experienced Property Manager Says About Pot

Sam Driver, Product Director for Buildium.com, and an experienced property manager, said as far as marijuana use in apartments, due to the newness of the legislation, the federal laws that supersede state and county laws, and liability concerns, it is not a topic that comes up a lot – yet.

“Generally, the safest solution is to choose the most conservative path-impose a no-smoking policy, which can in some cased cover outside areas, and a crime provision that includes local, state and federal laws. In many states, there are setbacks from doors, and it is particularly important if the building is a place of work which a multi-unit apartment building certainly is. So your lease should contain a provision explicitly banning smoking and illegal activity. Because the feds still outlaw it, this should be sufficient,” Driver said.

“This of course only covers the smoking angle. If a resident consumes it in another way, you’d likely never know,” he said.

 

Growing Marijuana Could Put a Power Load on Your Apartments

“As for growing, that’s less clear. But in general, unless the electrical system is designed for it, the loads grow lights put on the apartment unit could be excessive. I’d consider a reasonable use clause that specifies all high load equipment, including lights, air conditioners and any kind of pump be approved by you.

“This would put you in a position to take action if they are putting too much load, without specifically calling out the use of the equipment. Pumps are a good area for monitoring, because of the intermittent load, they trip breakers, and anyone who is using a hydroponic system would need several,” Driver said.

 

What if I Want to Market My Apartment to Marijuana Users?

“If, however, you wanted to roll the dice and market to this crowd assuming your state laws allow it, remember that the federal laws would cover any bank deposits from proceeds,” Driver said.

“In this case, you’d be able to do it, assuming no federal intervention, in compliance with local laws. No insurer would provide EO&E (errors and omissions excepted) insurance to you, and you wouldn’t be able to deposit any funds into a federally-accredited bank. So you’d have to self-insure, and run an entirely cash business, but you could do it, risking only federal enforcement.

“The big question is, ‘Would the premium rents be worth the risk of forfeiture?’ If you run afoul of the federal drug laws, the asset seizure possibility is a huge risk. You could lose the building.
“If you’re managing other owners’ properties, then you’d be risking their assets even if you used different leases, unless you kept fully separate books, bank accounts, and co-mingled nothing. So I’d say it would be all-or-nothing,” he said.

“The timing is tricky, too. Leases contain a provision that stipulates that the contract is in force in a specific jurisdiction. If they change the laws rendering your lease out of compliance, what happens during the remaining time of the lease? Is it invalidated? Or does the contract remain in force until it expires? “Good questions for your lawyer,” Driver said.

Rich Triplett is a writer for the RentalHousingJournal.com which is an interactive community of multifamliy investors, independent rental home owners, residential property management professionals and other rental housing and real estate professionals. It is the most comprehensive source for news and information for the rental housing industry. Their website features exclusive articles and blogs on real estate investing, apartment market trends, property management best practices, landlord tenant laws, apartment marketing, maintenance and more.  

What Landlords Should Know About Section 8 – Myths vs. Facts – by Kristin Maithonis

With permission from the Apartment Owner’s Association (AOA)

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly known as Section 8) is a federally funded program providing monthly rental assistance to very low income tenants renting units in the private market. The rental assistance is provided through a local housing authority.

Myths about the Section 8 program continue to prevent Section 8 participants from finding landlords willing to rent to them. Below is a list of common misconceptions about the program to help you make a more informed decision about whether to give a Section 8 tenant a chance.

Myth: Section 8 tenants are problem tenants.

Fact: Most Section 8 tenants live in the same place over a long period of time (7-8 years on average). You should screen a Section 8 tenant the same way you screen all other tenants. By conducting thorough and consistent screening, you are less likely to end up with a problem tenant, Section 8 or otherwise.

Myth: If you accept one Section 8 tenant, then all your units must be rented to Section 8 tenants.

Fact: If you own multiple units, you may choose to have one or more of your units occupied by Section 8 tenants. Just because you accept one Section 8 tenant does not mean that you have to rent your next available unit to a Section 8 tenant. If a Section 8 tenant moves out, you are not required to rent the vacant unit to another Section 8 tenant.

Myth: The landlord is responsible for a lot of paperwork.

Fact: Most of the paperwork the landlord is required to complete is at the beginning of a new lease. This paperwork includes the Request for Tenancy Approval form, W-9 form, Lead Warning Statement and Lease Agreement. The Housing Authority will assist with completion of these documents if needed. From time to time, the landlord will receive letters, amending the rent portions, inspection reports, newsletters, and other program materials. The landlord does not need to complete these forms.

Myth: You cannot evict a Section 8 tenant.

Fact: If a Section 8 tenant has violated your lease agreement, you may evict the tenant in accordance with State law. Please note that if you want a tenant to move after the initial term of the lease but do not want to state the cause for the termination of tenancy, then you must give the Section 8 tenant a 90-day written notice. When a notice without cause is issued, the Housing Authority will provide the tenant with a new voucher to relocate.

Myth: The Housing Authority has very tough inspection requirements.

Fact: The Housing Authority inspects the unit before a contract is signed with the landlord and annually or bi-annually thereafter. The Housing Authority checks the unit for any health and/or safety problems. The Section 8 inspection is not a code enforcement inspection. The Housing Authority checks the working order of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, water heaters, appliances, exits, window and door locks, fans, outlets, plumbing fixtures, heaters, and light fixtures.  The presence of trip and fall hazards, structural defects, rodents or roaches, peeling paint, excessive dirt or clutter, broken windows and the like are also checked. These are all items that most landlords would want to inspect themselves before renting a unit.

Myth: Evicting problem tenants on Section 8 does not accomplish anything.

Fact: The tenant may lose their Section 8 Voucher if they are evicted for lease violations. This ensures that problem tenants are not recycled to other unsuspecting landlords and acts as an incentive for participants to comply with their leases in order to continue participation in the program. Once a participant loses their Section 8 assistance, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get back on the program.

Myth: Section 8 tenants are all on welfare and do not contribute to society.

Fact: Section 8 tenants come from all walks of life. In California, 61% of Section 8 participants are elderly or disabled, and 33% of Section 8 households are wage earners. Most housing authorities offer participants a chance to participate in the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program. The goal of FSS is to assist participants with obtaining the education and skills they need to secure high wage jobs, start their own businesses, move off of assisted housing, and become homeowners.

Myth: The landlord cannot raise the rent.

Fact: Landlords may raise the rent for a Section 8 tenant after the initial lease term with proper written notice to the tenant and the housing authority. The housing authority does not have a pre-determined annual percentage rent increase. The rent increase requested must be reasonable when compared with similar units in the neighborhood. For multi-unit buildings, the rent for the Section 8 unit cannot be the highest rent in the building.

Section 8 vouchers help low-income people in your community afford a decent place to live. Without landlord participation in the program, more people would be forced to live in overcrowded and unsafe conditions or on the streets. For more information about how you can benefit from being a Section 8 landlord, please contact your local housing authority. To locate your housing authority, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website at https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/california/renting.

 

Kristin Maithonis, is Housing Manager for the City of Norwalk Housing Authority and former President of the California Association of Housing Authorities.

AB 291 – IMMIGRANT TENANT PROTECTION ACT

California Apartment Association

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will deter landlords from discriminating against any tenant based on their immigration status. AB 291, introduced by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, is set to protect tenants from unethetical landlords who seek to intimidate them by threatening to report them to immigration authorities, or those who seek to acquire possession of the premises based off a tenants’ inability to provide proof or documentation of their immigration status. [ Learn More ]

AB-2330 Walk-through – the Initial Move-Out Inspection – by Grayce Long, Attorney

With permission from AOA

When was the last time you had a walk-through with your tenant prior to them vacating the unit? The law regarding having a pre-inspection with your tenant was passed in 2003 however, many of you are still not following the proper procedures. Did you know that the number one reason a landlord is sued by their tenant is because of the landlord’s retention of the tenant’s security deposit?  You need to be very vigilant in your dealings with your tenant during their tenancy so that you have no problems and you protect yourselves from future litigation.   This article will outline the procedures that you must follow in order to comply with AB-2330.

Move-in Procedure

The first thing you always need to do is to take pictures of your unit prior to renting to the tenant.  Make sure that you have these dated and keep them in your property file.  If you accept a tenant, make sure that you go through the unit with them and you do a move in/move out checklist. This form can be obtained from AOA.

Move-Out Procedure

When does the AB-2330 kick in?  Normally, it is when either the owner or the resident gives notice to terminate the tenancy or the lease is about to expire.  You must, within a reasonable amount of time after the notice is served, inform the resident of their option to request an inspection and option to be present.  You can send them AOA’s form 135 entitled “Right to Request Initial Move-Out Inspection”.

Once the tenant receives the form they either request an inspection or do not request one.  If the tenant denies the inspection then there is no further action required by landlord!  However, if the tenant requests an inspection, then you must schedule an inspection on a mutually agreeable date that needs to take place no sooner than two weeks prior to the date the tenant vacates.  You can either agree on a date for the inspection, or if you don’t agree on a date, you still must do the inspection.  It is imperative that you give that resident at least a 48 hour written notice that you are going into their unit to do the inspection.   The notice can be waived but the waiver has to be in writing so it is best just to give notice of the date.

If the tenant withdraws the inspection then you do not have to do anything further.   If the inspection goes forward, the tenant has the option of being present at the inspection or not.  Either way the landlord can proceed with the inspection.

You then need to fill out the Initial Move-out Inspection Record which is part of AOA’s Form No. 135.  The inspection record requires you to go through each and every room and item and determine the condition of the item.  Once you do the inspection, you will need to do an itemized statement specifying repairs’ or cleanings that are proposed to be the basis of any deductions from the security deposit you intend to make.  The itemized statement must include the following statement:

“State law permits former tenants to reclaim abandoned personal property left at the former address of the tenant, subject to certain conditions. You may or may not be able to reclaim property without incurring additional costs, depending on the cost of storing the property and the length of time before it is reclaimed.  In general, these costs will be lower the sooner you contact your former landlord after being notified that property belonging to you was left behind after you moved out.”

The tenant then shall have the opportunity during the period following the initial inspection until they vacate to fix any of the identified deficiencies.   This is a landlord’s nightmare giving the tenant the right to make their own repairs and fix the unit.  Be advised that if the tenants work is not acceptable by a reasonable person’s standard, you can still deduct for the cost of the repair.  You are not stuck with accepting the tenants repairs if they are inferior.  Also, you are not limited to what you do on your initial inspection.  If you find something else that you missed on the pre inspection, you can still deduct from the security deposit for repairs.  Remember to attach the receipt for the work with the name and phone number of the person who did the work or estimate.   Also, you are not required to do the work in or deduct the estimate from the security.

Make sure that you take pictures of the damage and the subsequent repairs to the unit and keep those in your file for the tenant.  If the tenant sues you in small claims court for failure to return their security deposit, you will be well armed with all evidence to support your claims!  Make sure that if you do get sued that you file a defendant’s claim for all the money the tenant owes you and also specify any damages to the property.  Further, do not stipulate to a judge pro tem always ask for a judge or commissioner.

[Editor’s Note:  AOA members may download form 135, the AB-2330 Walk-through (at http://www.aoausa.com) which includes instructions and required forms to perform the initial move-out inspection.] 

Attorney Helen Grayce Long is an attorney at Fast Eviction Service. She attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a bachelor of arts.  She then attended the University of San Francisco School of Law.  Grayce has been an attorney for 25 years and specializes in Real Estate Law.  She’s done landlord/tenant work throughout the state of California with an emphasis on Rent Control law.  For more information, call (800) 686-8686, email hglongatty@fastevict.com or visit www.fastevictionservice.com

New bed bug disclosure law goes into effect soon By Gideon Kramer, SPOSFI News Editor

With permission from the SPOSFI (Small Property Owners of San Francisco)

May 19, 2017

Effective July 1, Assembly Bill 551 will place new obligations on all California residential landlords and tenants regarding the disclosure and treatment and control of bed bugs. In brief:

  • A landlord is prohibited from showing or renting a unit if bed bugs are known to exist.
  • Tenants must cooperate in the investigation and eradication of bed bugs in their unit, surrounding units, or common areas.
  • Landlords must include a statutory bed bug notice as an addendum to the lease for all new tenants. All existing tenants needn’t be noticed until January 1, 2018. This notice must provide information regarding bed bug identification, behavior, and biology as well as the landlord’s and tenant’s obligations in the event a bed bug infestation is discovered.

Our June issue of SPOSFI News will include a more detailed discussion of the new law, and why it pays to be very vigilant when it comes to bed bugs.

Los Angeles City Rent Stabilization – Reminders and Updates – by Patricia A. Harris

Hopefully, if you own apartments in the City of Los Angeles and are under the L.A. Rent Stabilization Ordinance, you have already paid your building’s registration fees of $24.51 per unit which was due by February 29, 2017.  Serving a timely notice, you may collect one half of those fees from your tenants.  Note:  You used to collect this fee in the month of June, but for 2017, it has been changed to August. 

Collect $12.25 Registration Fees in AUGUST

The Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Division allows owners to pass-through one half of these fees ($12.25) with a 30-day notice, collectible in the month of August only.  That means you MUST serve the notice of the one time annual rent increase (found on the following page) in the month of July in order to collect this annual fee from your tenants.  AOA recommends you serve the notice on July 1st to collect this fee along with the rent due on August 1st.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The notice of the one-time annual charge must be accompanied with a copy of your Rent Stabilization registration certificate to show that you paid the fees.

Code-Enforcement Pass-Through Fees

The SCEP fee of $43.32 per unit charge for the Housing Department’s code-enforcement inspection fee may also be passed through to your tenants.  This fee, however, must be amortized over a 12 month period and is collectible at a monthly rate of $3.61.  A 30-Day Notice of Change of Terms of Tenancy must be served to each tenant after you pay your bill before you can collect this fee.  That means with proper service, you can legally raise your rents (as long as you paid your bill!), $3.61 per month. Every little bit helps!  Your tenant may elect to pay this fee all at once, however they will not be awarded a refund should they move before the end of the year.  Also, if your building IS NOT under rent control, you may request and collect the fee in its entirety after serving the 30 day notice.

Other Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Updates

  • SECURITY DEPOSIT INTEREST:  Please note that the required 2017 interest that must be paid on security deposits for units in L.A. City is 0.12 percent. A landlord may pay tenants the actual rate of interest earned if security deposits are kept in a separate account by providing a copy of the bank statement showing the actual interest rate earned for the year.
  • ALLOWABLE ANNUAL RENT INCREASE:  The Los Angeles Rent Control’s annual rent increase is currently 3% through June 30, 2017.  As of this printing, the July 2017 rental increase percent was not yet determined but we were told it will most likely remain the same.  The actual amount should be made available to us in June. 

Via https://www.aoausa.com/

New Landlord Requirements Regarding Bed Bugs – by Patricia A. Harris

AB551 prescribes the duties of landlords and tenants with regard to the treatment and control of bed bugs.  The below describes in general, a landlord’s responsibilities.

What Must a Landlord Do?

  • On and after July 1, 2017, prior to creating a new tenancy for a dwelling unit, a landlord shall provide a written bedbug notice to the prospective tenant. [Note: Tenant acknowledgement of this notice is now included in the revised AOA Rental Agreements – please download and use the new rental agreements for new tenancies.]
  • This same notice shall be provided to all other tenants by January 1, 2018.
  • The notice shall be in at least 10-point type and shall include, but is not limited to, the following: General information about bed bug identification, behavior and biology, the importance of cooperation for prevention and treatment, and the importance of and for prompt written reporting of suspected infestations to the landlord. (AOA Members may download the form “Information About Bedbugs” for FREE in the forms alphabetical listings at www.aoausa.com.)
  • The landlord shall notify the tenants of those units inspected by the pest control operator pursuant to Section 1954.604 of the pest control operator’s findings. The notification shall be in writing and made within two business days of receipt of the pest control operator’s findings. For confirmed infestations in common areas, all tenants shall be provided notice of the pest control operator’s findings.
  • Entry to inspect a tenant’s dwelling unit shall comply with Section 1954(2) – (to make necessary or agreed repairs …) with a 24-hour notice to enter the premises. Entry to inspect any unit selected by the pest control operator and to conduct follow-up inspections of surrounding units until bed bugs are eliminated is a necessary service for the purpose of Section 1954. Tenants shall cooperate with the inspection to facilitate the detection and treatment of bed bugs, including providing requested information that is necessary to facilitate the detection and treatment of bed bugs to the pest control operator.
  • A landlord shall not show, rent, or lease to a prospective tenant any vacant dwelling unit that the landlord knows has a current bed bug infestation.

For more information, visit http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB551

Via https://www.aoausa.com

Repeal Costa-Hawkins? Assembly Bill 1506 seeks to kill this bedrock California property rights law

In February 17, 2017, Assembly Members Chiu, Bonta, and Bloom introduced AB 1506, an effort to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act—a state law that places strict limits on a city’s ability to impose rent control on housing. Prior to Costa-Hawkins, rent control ordinances had long been held to be a valid exercise of a city’s “police power”—the ability to regulate the health and safety of their residents—and five California cities (Berkeley, Santa Monica, Cotati, East Palo Alto, and West Hollywood) had “strict” rent control ordinances, imposing what is known as “vacancy control” on empty units even after a tenant voluntarily vacated. In 1995, State Assembly Member Hawkins introduced AB 1164 (with State Senate Member Costa as a co-author), advancing what they saw as a “moderate approach to overturn extreme vacancy control ordinances [that] unduly and unfairly interfere with the free market.”

Costa-Hawkins achieves several forms of decontrol on local price ceiling regulations. It prohibits rent control on new construction and on single-family homes and condos (subject to certain conditions and limitations). It also prevents vacancy control by prohibiting cities from setting prices on vacant units and by allowing landlords to impose market-rate increases on subsequent occupants, once the last “original occupant” has vacated.

While Costa-Hawkins seeks a middle ground between inflexible price controls, on the one hand, and “rent-gouging” and displacement on the other, some lawmakers have expressed concern about the consequences of vacancy decontrol in tough situations. (For instance, Supervisor Jane Kim has proposed a “compassion clause” to protect the surviving spouses/partners of recently deceased, rent-controlled original occupants.) However, Costa-Hawkins has now been on the books for over two decades, and a sudden repeal would wash away the existing case law and local regulation that navigate between these competing interests.

As with the recent proposed legislation by Assembly Members Chiu and Bloom to amend the Ellis Act (AB 982), the purpose of AB 1506 is unclear. Costa-Hawkins expressly allows cities to impose limits on evictions. Local real estate blogs, like SocketSite.com, have recently reported that rental rates in San Francisco are dipping back down to 2014 levels. So, rather than ward off climbing prices, this kind of gesture would merely seem to further cement protections for incumbent tenants, as compared to anyone else in the market for a rental unit. It may also have unintended consequences, where landlords rush to invoke the Ellis Act, which allows its own form of vacancy decontrol if a property goes back onto the rental market.

Help defeat AB 1506
AB 1506 will remain in print for 30 days (until March 21, 2017) before it goes to committee. In the meantime, you can help build political pressure by expressing your opposition to this legislation directly—make the four calls suggested in the Call to Action. (Information listed below)

CALL TO ACTION

Say “No” To AB 1506!!
AB 1506 must be defeated. Please phone both offices of
our two California State AssemblyMembers David Chiu and
Phil Ting. Each office tallies the number of calls on any bill,
so calling both will have the greatest impact.

  • Assembly member David Chiu
    Sacramento: (916) 319-2017
    San Francisco: (415) 557-3013
  • Assembly member Phil Ting
    Sacramento: (916) 319-2019
    San Francisco: (415) 557-2312

Also, please consider traveling with us to Sacramento in the
next few weeks to show up in numbers at the Assembly’s
Housing Committee hearing on AB 1506.We’ll let you know
when we have a definite hearing date.

The membership of SPOSFI has been instrumental in protecting the rights of small property owners in the past. In 2014 and again in 2015, Senator Leno introduced successive efforts to stifle San Francisco property owners’ use of the Ellis Act (in SB 1439 and SB 364, respectively). Members voiced their opposition (and even got on buses to Sacramento) to apply the necessary political pressure to preserve property rights. A repeal of Costa-Hawkins would take away the ability of property owners to decide the price at which they will enter the market (or to continue renting to a stranger), giving those rights to tenants and city bureaucrats instead.

Via https://www.smallprop.org/

7 Action Steps Apartment Owners and Managers Need to Do to Prepare and Get Ready for an Unlawful Detainer Trial

INTRODUCTION

Many landlords/ property managers have been involved in unlawful detainer/ eviction cases in one form or another.   Eviction cases take many forms and factual circumstances.   Some cases go smoother than others !    Some of the most common scenarios are either a tenant was not paying rent on time, or a tenant is being a problem and a nuisance and is disturbing the quiet enjoyment of neighbors in the apartment building.

When unlawful detainer cases are filed, under state law, they receive “trial setting” priority in the courthouse- usually are set quickly within 21 days after a Memorandum to Set for trial is filed by the plaintiff landlord in Court.    If your property is in a rent control jurisdiction like the City of Los Angeles, the grounds for unlawful detainer are set forth in the local rent stabilization ordinance, which is part of the municipal code.     If your property is not in a rent control city- lucky you !  You have more flexibility in terms of serving a notice to terminate the tenancy, although you must comply with state law notice requirements, case law, and the local rules of court.

To get you through the process of being a party in an unlawful detainer action with a level of comfort and confidence, there are a few things that you should do to prepare for the unlawful detainer trial so you are organized and mentally prepared for the process and the trial.  Here is a useful checklist to review with your attorney:

 

  1. REVIEW THE COMPLAINT AND ANSWER:   Review the complaint, summons, and defendant’s answer, and all the exhibits. Does your complaint need amending ?    The tenant’s answer sets forth affirmative defenses that the tenant may try to argue at trial to win the case.    Make a list of what facts and exhibits you can present to counter and defeat the tenant’s affirmative defenses.

 

  1. REVIEW THE EXHIBITS:    Review your Notice to Terminate the tenancy, the proof of service of the Notice to Terminate the tenancy, the rental agreement,  rental payment history, and the calculations to determine how much rent, daily damages, and costs is due on the date of trial.   It is a good practice to bring to court as an exhibit your business license, and proof of registration with the local city housing department if you are in a rent control city because a tenant may argue as a defense that you are not registered with these agencies.  If you are running your business as a corporation or LLC, you should confirm that your entity is in good standing with the Secretary of State.  Your attorney should bring a sufficient amount of exhibit copies to court.  

 

  1. WITNESSES SHOULD BE READY TO TESTIFY:    Compile a witness list, and have your attorney serve subpoenas if necessary to third party witnesses.  Review the case and the complaint with your attorney and primary trial witness.     If you are involved in an unlawful detainer situation where the tenant is alleged to be a nuisance- you should serve trial subpoenas to any neighbors who will testify in your favor to help prove the nuisance allegations.  You have the burden of proof.  If the tenant is contesting proper service of the notice to terminate the tenancy, please have your process server or the person who served the notice to terminate the tenancy appear in court as your witness to counter these allegations. 

 

  1. JURY TRIAL:   Check to see if the tenant has posted jury fees, and filed a counter memorandum to request a jury trial.    If so, you should have your attorney prepare appropriate jury instructions and special verdict forms to bring to the trial so you are prepared for a jury trial.   If you have time, you may want to file a Motion for Summary Judgment against the tenant to try to get an early judgment, and avoid a jury trial.  

 

  1. IS POSSESSION OF THE PREMISES AT “ISSUE” ?: The primary issue in an unlawful detainer case is possession of the property.  Before the trial date, check to see if the tenant has “caved in” and has vacated the premises.  Please check with your property manager or neighbors to confirm whether possession is at issue.    If possession is no longer at issue- then you may convert the case into a collection case if the tenant owes back rent and other charges,  and is collectable.

 

  1. WHO WILL BE THE TRIAL JUDGE  ?:        On the day of trial you will have to face either a judge pro tem, a Court commissioner, or a fully credentialed  judge who will conduct your trial and will decide your case.    Certain judges or commissioners may have a bias that favor either tenants or landlords- you should discuss with your attorney whether you want be in front of a judge, commissioner, or a judge pro tem.   Ask your attorney whether your attorney has had a case with the proposed judge in the past, and what happened in that case.   You can also look up the judge or commissioner on line to see if there is any information on the person, and whether it is positive or negative.  If you want to have a fully credentialed judge try your case, then don’t agree to have a commission or judge pro tem hear the case- your case will be assigned to a judge.  You may have to wait in the hallway before a judge is available to hear your case !!

 

  1. WORK OUT A SETTLEMENT WITH THE TENANT IF POSSIBLE:

At Court when all parties are present, before the trial is about to commence,  is the perfect time to negotiate a settlement, and enter into a written and signed stipulation for entry of judgment with the tenant.   Perhaps you may need to give the tenant a few extra days to move out or a small rent concession.  You should have a well drafted, specific, and clear stipulation and  agreement that applies to all parties and all issues.    Having a well drafted stipulation for judgment and settlement with a “drop dead date” to vacate the premises, that binds all tenants in the unit, and that allows for a sheriff’s lock out after a date certain is truly in your best interest.    If the tenant does not have an attorney, ask the judge to make sure the tenant understands all of the terms of the stipulation, and make sure that the tenant personally signs and dates the stipulation, and make sure the Judge signs it as well.  

CONCLUSION- Be Prepared and Confident

This seven point list is not an exhaustive list for preparing for your day in eviction court, but is just a starting point to get you ready for an unlawful detainer trial.  You should consult with your attorney on all issues, questions, procedures, and dealing with uncertainties.   If you follow the steps on this checklist you should have a level of comfort going into the trial. When you let a judge or jury decide your case, there is no guaranty of victory. Try to settle the case in writing with your tenant if you can. If there is any problem, you can request a continuance from the Court, but for most garden variety non payment of rent eviction cases, you should be able to complete your business in the first go around !!  

The author of this article, Nate Bernstein, Esq., is the Managing Counsel of LA Real Estate Law Group, and a member of the State Bar of California and his practice concentrates in the areas of complex real estate litigation, commercial litigation, employment law,  and bankruptcy matters. The contact number is (818) 383-5759, and email is natebernstein44@gmail.com.   Nate Bernstein is a 22 year veteran Los Angeles real estate and business attorney and trial lawyer.   Mr. Bernstein also has expertise on bankruptcy law, the federal bankruptcy court system, creditor’s rights and debtor’s bankruptcy options.    He previously served as Vice President and In House trial counsel at Fidelity Title Insurance Company, a Fortune 500 company, and in house counsel at Denley Investment Management Company.      Nate Bernstein created www.laquiettitleattorney.com, a leading educational resource on quiet title real estate litigation.     Nate Bernstein is a local expert on real estate law and economic trends in the real estate and leasing market, business law, bankruptcy law.    Nate has personally litigated more than 40 major real estate trials, and has settled more than 200 complex real estate and business cases.

By  Nate  Bernstein, Esq.   –  Managing  Counsel, LA Real Estate Law Group

New For 2017 – LA’s Rent Registry

Due to a recent amendment to Chapter XV of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, beginning in January 2017, the City will collect rent rates for all units subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). Previously, landlords were only required to pay the annual registration fee and provide an emergency contact. The Los Angeles City Council enacted the City’s Rent Registry Program (Ordinance #184529) effective October 4, 2016. This ordinance provides that, in addition to paying the annual registration fee, landlords must also provide the rent amount for every rental unit subject to the RSO by the last day of February of each year. Registration is complete only when all outstanding registration fees have been paid and all required rental amount and tenancy information, including emergency contact information, is provided.

All necessary information and will be included in the materials mailed by HCIDLA with the annual RSO/SCEP bill. The 2017 annual RSO/SCEP bill will now include a two-page double-sided Rent Registry form. An online Rent Registry Portal has also been created at registerLArent.org to provide Landlords a more effective and efficient means to ensure accuracy and avoid any mailing delays. The Rent Registry Portal includes an online downloadable excel template, which will be especially helpful for owners and managers of larger properties. This template can be downloaded and, once information has been entered, the information entered on the template can be uploaded automatically to the online rent registry portal. Landlords who pay their annual registration and submit their completed Rent Registry form online will receive their Annual Statement of Registration (Certificate) within minutes of online submission. Much of the information entered in 2017 will be automatically saved for registration in future years.

The RSO allows a landlord to pass-through 50% of the registration fee to the tenant as a lump sum surcharge. Beginning in 2017, this fee will be eligible to be collected in the month of August due to the recent amendment in the RSO (in prior years, surcharge could only be collected in the month of June). Registration Statements (Certificates) issued in 2017 will be valid from May 1, 2017 to July 31, 2018. Subsequently, the Registration Statements will be effective from July 1st to June 30th of each year, reflecting a fiscal calendar year.

The Rent Registry Program will build a historical data of rent trends for the City’s rent-stabilized housing stock and deter unlawful rent increases while simultaneously assisting new or prospective landlords who may inherit or buy property through foreclosure or from property owners who fail to provide rent records or tenant estoppels upon the sale of occupied rent-stabilized properties.

The Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) is working to make this new program as easy as possible for landlords. Workshops will be offered throughout the month of January to assist landlords in understanding and complying with this new requirement. Additionally, a “Drop-In” session is available on the first Tuesday of the month from 2:00 to 4:00 by calling (213) 928-9075 to request an appointment. To learn more about the new Rent Registry Program, please visit registerLArent.Org or call (866) 557-(7368).

Reprinted with permission of AAGLA (Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles)
AAGLA EXPO APRIL 19, 2017, FREE REGISTRATION AAGLAexpo.com