Being a landlord can prove to be a challenging job, especially when it comes to dealing with unruly tenants and carrying out evictions. Since California has one of the most stringent laws regarding tenancy, as a landlord, you may find yourself tied up in some legal battles with the tenants you have evicted. Although the law protects tenants, there are rights that a landlord is entitled to and the tenants are obliged to respect them. If you have legal issues revolving around evictions in line with your landlord rights, then you should seek the expert services of a Los Angeles Eviction Attorney.
What are Landlord Rights?
The landlord rights are the legal rights and responsibility of an individual who leases or rents a living space to someone else. These rights are derived from the landlord and tenant law as well as the tenancy and lease agreements. Although the code often protects tenants from the actions of landlords, landlords actually own the living space and are paying mortgages for them. Hence, they have rights which the tenants or individuals who lease the buildings are expected to respect.
The rules set by the landlord to live in their property as indicated in the tenants’ landlord agreement should be followed, or otherwise, the landlord has the right to evict and terminate the lease of the property.
Rights You Have as a Landlord
Since you are practically the manager and owner of the property the tenants are living in, you have the rights to:
- Set the amount of rent you deem fit for your property and receive the correct amount on the due date. The tenants are required by the law to adhere to this. Failure to follow these agreements gives you the right as a landlord to charge reasonable additional fees for the late payments as far as they were indicated in the initial tenancy agreement
- Terminate tenancy within the first six months or later with a valid reason. You have a right to expect cooperation from your tenants as per the lease or tenancy terms. If the tenant happens to violate the lease, then you are entitled to issue them with an eviction notice as you deem fit
- Get information on the people living on your property, excluding overnight visitors. You should get to know the number of people residing in a particular house, and if that number exceeds the agreed number in the tenancy agreement, you can choose to demand an adjustment or possibly, evict the tenant
- Be promptly notified of any problem or challenge faced by the tenants including the repairs that need to be made. If the information is not passed on time, the tenant cannot hold you liable for any harm caused by the damaged elements of the building
- Get reasonable access to the building in cases such as assessing damages for repair, if the tenants have abandoned the house, or when ordered by the court. Under these circumstances, the tenant should not deny you entry into their homes
- Decide and give consent for the tenant to sublet the building. You can choose to reject the sublet request for your personal or security reasons. However, this will only apply for private tenancies
What is an Eviction?
An eviction is the unlawful detainer lawsuit filed by a landlord or property owner to regain possession and control over their rental unit. Once the suit is registered with the court, the judge will decide if the eviction is lawful and if they rule in favor of the landlord, they can go ahead to take the tenant out of their property forcefully under the supervision of the sheriff. For the court to allow you to carry out the eviction, you must prove without a reasonable doubt that the tenant has violated the lease agreements or is a threat to the building and people living in it.
To an investor, the process of evicting a tenant could be expensive and complicated, thus, should always be avoided. However, when the circumstances compel you to evict a tenant, a specific legal process should be followed to ensure that the eviction is lawful so that you can avoid legal battles with the tenants. Failure to follow the right procedure as per the state eviction laws can delay the evacuation and you may even lose the case, which may require you to pay the tenant or fix any issues that were brought up in court.
In most cases, trying to solve tenant issues is more time consuming and takes up more energy than just evicting them. Hence, if you find yourself in this situation as a landlord, you will need guidance from a legal representative to ensure you carry out the eviction according to the law. Some of the illegal ways of eviction you need to avoid include throwing out the tenant’s belongings outside the home, threatening the renter with eviction or possibly increasing the fines, changing the locks or even turning off utilities, and making services inaccessible to the tenant.
Circumstances Under which you have a Right to Evict a Tenant
The work of a landlord has numerous struggles, but one of the most challenging situations is to evict a tenant. Although you own the property, you need to have a valid reason to carry out the eviction. These reasons should be clearly stated in the landlord-tenant agreements according to the state laws. However, tenants don’t accept evictions without a legal battle. Hence, if you are caught up in a legal battle, it would be wise to seek representation from an eviction attorney. Here are some reasons under which the law allows you to evict a tenant.
Health and Safety Violation
You will be able to legally evict a tenant if your property poses a health risk to individuals living in it. Some health hazards cannot get remedied while the tenant is still residing; hence, you need to give them a prior notice to vacate the building. The law might also require you to provide relocation assistance to these tenants if you provide a short notice. However, failure of the tenants to comply with the notice lifts off the liability of harm which might befall the tenant.
Illegal Use of Property
It is often agreed in the tenancy agreement on the sole purpose of the space rented. You have a right to file to evict a tenant who violates this agreement and uses the property for illegal businesses dealings such as distributing drugs. Some tenants may attempt to use residential zones for business purposes which is often a violation of the landlord-tenant agreement. In such cases, you can evict the tenant or terminate a lease with the reason for illegal use of your property.
Owner Move In
If you have plans of moving into one of your rental units, you can file to evict the existing tenant. Besides, if you happen to be residing in the property and have an immediate relative who needs to move into that unit, you have the right to evict the current tenant.
However, there are regulations on this act including giving early notice of your intentions to the tenants, paying relocation fees for the eviction, and waiting till the end of school year to evict a family with school-going children.
When Taking the Unit off the Rental Market
If you have plans of taking your property off the rental and lease market, you can file to evict the residing tenants. According to the Ellis Act of California state laws, you should have made a plan to retire to the property for a period not less than ten years. Therefore, you will be required to notify disabled individuals and those over the age of 62 years, a year prior to taking the property off from the rental market.
For other tenants, you should give 120 days’ notice to give them an opportunity to arrange for relocation.
Failure to Pay Rent
Failure to pay rent is one of the most common reasons for eviction and lease terminations. Before a tenant moves into your property, they are required to sign an agreement on the amount of rent they are supposed to pay every month and the dates of payment. Since it is easy to understand that no pay means no stay, the law makes little exceptions to allow non-paying tenants to remain on your property. Therefore, if the tenant does not comply with the rent payment scheme and agreement, you are entitled to file for their eviction.
When a tenant rents a residential or business premise, they sign a lease agreeing to abide by the rules set by the landlord. If the terms of the agreement are reached and the situation is not corrected within 30 days, you can go ahead and evict them.
Some of the most common lease violations include harboring unauthorized pets or having more pets than the allowed number, some tenants tend to move other people to their units without the knowledge of the landlord. If a tenant is a nuisance and the neighbors happen to file a complaint with the police, the landlord is held liable. If one of the tenants is a nuisance, you can choose to evict them from the property.
Although most property damages by tenants are not intentional, it is somewhat due to lack of common sense or mere ignorance of the facts. For example, in the case of hoarding, unless the tenant claims it is a form of mental disability, it can be a valid reason for you to evict them from your property.
Sometimes, good things have to come to an end. However, some people refuse entirely to move out even after their lease expires. This squatter situation can be a bother; hence, if the contract naturally expires or was terminated with prior notice, you have a right to evict the tenant.
How Can a Landlord Terminate a Lease for Any Cause?
Even when you are a responsible landlord who keeps the rental units in good condition, thoroughly screens potential tenants, and strives to establish a good relationship with them, you can still get a tenant who may need to be evicted at one point.
However, it is essential to know that although renting the property for you is a business, to your tenants, it’s a home. According to the landlord-tenant laws, you need to have a valid reason to evict an individual from your rental property.
Even with a valid reason for eviction, you should give the individual a chance to remedy the situation before filing for their eviction. If the person does not attempt to rectify the case, then you can go ahead and begin the eviction proceedings. These proceedings involve filing an eviction lawsuit against your tenant.
After filing the motion, you will get a case hearing date and the court will notify the tenant summoning them to appear in court. Before the hearing date, you are not allowed to evict the tenant from their residence.
During the court hearing, the judge will require that you provide proof of your reason to evict the individual. You also need to show that you gave notice of your intentions to the tenant. It is always a good idea to take the lease agreement to the hearing so you can prove violations. If the judge finds the eviction lawful and rules in your favor, you automatically regain possession and rights to your property. You will be required to contact local authorities who will help escort the tenant out of your property.
Evictions consume lots of time; hence, patience is required. However, seeking legal help could help make the process easier and faster for you.
Legal Mistakes a Landlord Should Avoid
Being a landlord could be a complicated job, and any mistakes made when dealing with the tenants can put you in legal traps which are challenging to navigate. Although you are the owner of the building and have rights to run it as you see fit, you will be required to respect the rights of your tenants. Here are some of the most common legal mistakes you need to avoid.
Failure to Disclose Crucial Information
Although you are obliged to keep tenants information secret and not disclose it to other people, tenants renting your property are entitled to know the existence of a threat in the area. For example, if there is a known felon or criminal offender living around your rental units, you should not keep this information to yourself. Failure to disclose this vital information could deem you liable for harm that may come to the tenant.
Failure to Provide a Secure Environment
As a landlord, you must ensure the tenants are safe from danger and criminal activity on your property. You need to make regular inspections and keep your renters updated of the security situation in the area. However, if one of the tenants is responsible for posing a danger to others or making the environment unsafe, you have the right to file for their eviction from your property.
Ignoring the Eviction Rules
Although the laws give you the right to evict tenants who don’t follow through with the tenancy agreement or fail to pay their rent, it is essential to ensure that you have a reasonable cause to carry out the eviction. Most tenants don’t accept to move out for no reason and could sue you for unlawful eviction. Therefore, you need to make sure the legal process is followed to avoid losing the eviction case.
Withholding the Security Deposits
Most lease agreements allow the landlord to collect a security deposit from the tenants to cover for damages caused as a result of the renter's fault. If the tenant is evicted or their lease expires, the landlord is required to refund the deposit after deducting the damages fee. Unless you can prove that the repairs depleted the security deposit, failure to repay the money can lead a tenant to sue you for the monetary damages
Inappropriately Getting Rid of Abandoned Items
When a tenant vacates or gets evicted from a rental unit, the landlord has a right to treat the property left behind as abandoned. However, you will be required to notify the tenant on the way forward to claim their property and charge appropriate storage fees. If the property is not claimed for an extended period and is crowding your space, you have the right to auction it or throw it away depending on the monetary value of the items.
Even when it is your right to decide the process of the people you allow to live in your property, the Federal Fair Housing Acts require property owners to avoid discrimination during the rental process. Additionally, you will be required to make adjustments to accommodate individuals living with a disability. These adjustments may include making the buildings easily accessible via wheelchair and changing rules and procedures so that these individuals can have equal rights to other tenants.
Inadequate Insurance on your Rental Property
Other than ensuring your property against destruction as a result of natural disasters, you need to protect your rental units against tenant lawsuits. As a landlord, it is inevitable to deal with uncooperative tenants, and they may result in suing you, especially if you try to evict them.
These lawsuits could result in a loss, but if you have a lawsuits insurance, any compensation required by the tenants will get compensated by the insurance company.
Invalidating the tenant's Defenses in an Eviction Case
Most tenants are never willing to accept eviction without putting on a legal fight. However, if the tenant decides to bring on defense to the eviction case you filed, the process of evicting may get delayed. During this period, they don’t pay rent, and you end up suffering the financial loss.
If you happen to get engaged in a rental property dispute with your tenant, it might prove helpful to know the type of defense they are likely to present for the case. With this knowledge and help from a competent eviction attorney, you can ensure that you correct any mistake that could be used against you, hence, invalidate the defense. Some of the most common defenses that a tenant can bring up, and how you can defend yourself, are:
- Lack of proper notification. If you fail to follow the appropriate procedure when giving the tenant timely notice of the eviction, they can use this as a possible defense. To increase your chances of winning the eviction case, you should advise on time
- Acceptance of partial rent. In the case where you accept partial rent from the tenant, you are not entitled to evict them for non-compliance to rental agreements. If you have reasons to evict a tenant, it would be wise to avoid collecting any rent from them
- Inhabitable property. Failure to maintain your property could be a defense used by a renter to prevent eviction. When filing to evict an individual from your property, you should ensure the living conditions of your property are conducive and safe according to the law. This can invalidate their defense
- Retaliation. A tenant can try to defend eviction on the basis that you are trying to evict them for taking an action which was right. If the action took place 90 days before the eviction suit, this could be a strong defense against the allegations of retaliation