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L.A. rule aids tenants in no-fault evictions

December 29, 2002|Kevin Postema | Special to the Times

Question: I am 77 years old and I have lived in my rent-controlled apartment in Los Angeles for the last 26 years. If I were told to move from my apartment for whatever reason, would I be eligible for $2,000 or $5,000 in relocation assistance?

Answer: If you were asked to leave the apartment as the result of a no-fault eviction (one in which you were not at fault in any way), such as an owner-occupancy eviction, you would be entitled to $5,000 for relocation assistance under the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance. Those entitled to the higher $5,000 level of assistance include tenants 62 and older, the disabled and renters with children younger than 18.

Relocation fees apply only to no-fault evictions. If the reason you are told to move because of an eviction where you are at fault, such as for nonpayment of rent, you are not entitled to relocation fees.

Relocation fees are paid per unit

Question: I am buying a rent-controlled triplex in Van Nuys and I am planning to move into one of the units. I will have to evict two tenants from a unit and I think that I may have to pay them $2,000 each in relocation fees. Is this true?

Answer: This is not true. Relocation fees, which are only payable to rent-controlled units in Los Angeles (other cities may have their own versions of relocation assistance payment laws), are paid per unit, not per tenant. If your tenants are entitled to relocation fees under the law and the amount of the assistance is $2,000, then they are entitled to $2,000 in total for relocation money, or $1,000 each.

Is paint included in wear and tear?

Question: A previous column said that painting and cleaning fees can be charged against the security deposit, but charges for normal wear and tear are exempt. Aren't painting and cleaning charges exempt as normal wear and tear if someone lives in an apartment unit for at least one year?

Answer: You may think it's a dirty deal, but cleaning never is considered normal wear and tear, even if you live in the apartment for 20 years.

If the apartment is clean when you move into it, it is your duty to leave it just as clean. Otherwise, the landlord can deduct the actual costs of cleaning the apartment to get it back into its original condition.

Painting charges are a horse of a different color. Although the law does not specify how long normal wear and tear is for painting, most courts have decided that it is somewhere between three and five years, not one year.

Thus if you live in the apartment for one year and it must be repainted when you move out, expect to pay 66% to 80% of the painting cost, the prorated amount of the paint job.

For example, if the owner prorates the painting cost over five years, you will be charged 80% of the cost of repainting. If the owner uses three years, you would pay 66% of the cost.

Owner must add interest to deposit

Question: I own a rent-controlled apartment building in Los Angeles and I have a long-term tenant who is moving out of the building. When did the requirement to pay interest on security deposits begin in the city?

Answer: The requirement to pay interest on the security deposits of tenants living in rent-controlled apartments in Los Angeles began Nov. 1, 1990. Computing the amount of the interest is a bit of a chore because there are different rates for different years. Interest is paid at the following rates: from Nov. 1, 1990 to Dec. 31, 2000, the rate is 5%; for calendar year 2001, 2%; for year 2002, 1.5%. The rate falls to 1% for 2003.


Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of AAGLA, an apartment owners' service group. E-mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to, c/o Kevin Postema, or mail to AAGLA, c/o Kevin Postema, 621 S. Westmoreland Ave., Los Angeles, California 90005.

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