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Rent Can Differ Among Tenants

January 13, 2002|KEVIN POSTEMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: I live in an apartment that is not under rent control. Can a landlord raise annual rental rates of month-to-month tenancies at different percentages for different tenants in the same building? Am I entitled to know how much the others are getting increased?

Answer: Landlords can raise rents at different levels (percentages) for different tenants in the same building at their discretion.

Unless they are under rent control, landlords are not limited to "annual" rent increases. Although it is customary to increase rents only annually, the law does not require it. The law does require written 30-day notices of rent increases under 10%. Sixty-day notices are required for rent increases of 10% or more.

You are not entitled to know your neighbors' rent levels or increase percentages.

Interest Rate on Security Deposits Has Changed

Q: I live in Los Angeles in a rent-controlled apartment and was confused by your Nov. 4 column. It said, "Rent Control Requires 2% Interest on Deposit." I always understood that interest on deposits was to be paid at the rate of 5%, not 2%. Which is right?

A: Both are correct; however interest on deposits for rent-controlled apartments in Los Angeles is, as of Jan. 1, 2002, 1.5%. It was lowered again by the Los Angeles City Council to more accurately reflect the amount of interest apartment owners receive on deposit money. As of Jan. 1, 2001, interest on deposits was lowered from 5% to 2% for calendar year 2001. Before 2001, the rate was at 5%.

Landlord Wants Tenant to Give Up Garage Space

Q: I recently closed escrow on a five-unit property (one house and two duplexes) in Los Angeles that is under rent control. I live in the house.

One of the tenants has been using the garage to store personal belongings. The rental agreement with the previous owner made no mention of the garage.

I told the tenant that the garage is not covered by the rental agreement, and I want him to move his belongings out of it. He has refused to do so.

Am I legally able to file an unlawful detainer (eviction) action against this tenant? Can I just call the police and have his stuff tossed? Is there anything special that I must do to get the tenant to vacate the garage under the prior ownership?

A: You have no grounds on which to file an eviction action as you have no just cause for an eviction, as required by the Los Angeles rent control law. You also cannot call the police about this civil dispute (at least it wouldn't do you any good). Most importantly, you cannot just toss the tenant's belongings out unless you want a Small Claims Court judge to order you to pay for it, which is very likely to occur if the tenant sues you.

You can get the tenant to vacate the garage, but there are some things you must do to accomplish this. Even though the garage is not referenced in the tenant's rental agreement with the prior owner, if he had the use of it during his tenancy with the owner, he is in legal possession of it. It doesn't matter that the garage is not referenced in the rental agreement.

To regain possession of the garage, you must serve the tenant with a 30-day notice to vacate the garage and, under Los Angeles city rent control, you also must reduce the tenant's rent by the value of the "service" being reduced to him, the service being the loss of the use of the garage.

To find out the value of the garage, call the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization at (213) 367-9099. It has assigned precise dollar values to a number of such reductions of service.

When 30-Day Move-Out Notices Begin and End

Q: I am managing some rental property in Orange County, and I have a question regarding 30-day notices. When a tenant gives you a 30-day notice to vacate, is it strictly counting 30 days from the date of the notice, or is every month considered to have 30 days? For example, I have been told that every month is considered to have 30 days when a landlord is prorating rents. Therefore, by the same logic, if I give a tenant a notice on the third of a month, I expect them to vacate by the second of the following month, whether the month has 28, 30 or 31 days. Is this correct?

A: You are right about prorating of rents. All months are all considered to have 30 days for the purposes of prorating rents.

You are not correct when you assume that the same standard applies to 30-day notices to vacate. With notices to vacate, 30 days is strictly interpreted to mean 30 calendar days.

You are also incorrect when you count the day you are given the notice as Day One of the notice, as you indicate in your letter. The day following the day you are given the notice is counted as the first day of the notice.

*

Kevin Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, an apartment owners' service group, and the manager of public affairs for the California Apartment Law Information Foundation, which disseminates information about landlord/tenant law to renters and owners in California. Mail questions or comments to AAGLA , care of Kevin Postema, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025, or send e-mail to aptlifeaagla@aol.com.

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