Recalcitrant tenants and LA rent control

LA rent control makes it extremely hard to evict tenants as long as they pay rent. We can argue about whether that’s socially useful or not, but what I want to focus on today are the implications for running your buildings.

The first thing you have to understand is that there are only two ways a bad tenant leaves your rent-controlled building: 1. You negotiate an exit for that tenant, or 2. You win an eviction case.

Therefore, from the moment you decide you’re dealing with a difficult tenant you want out of your building you need to immediately adjust your thinking to account for the following: “How will the next thing I do look to a judge?”

Here are some examples:

  1. Don’t harass the tenant. It’s not worth it. The tenant will just tell the judge when you do end up in court and, if there’s evidence of harassment, it’s going to lose you the case automatically. And, harassing the tenant just makes it harder to negotiate an exit, which is really how most of these issues end anyway.
  2. Get evidence. We place video cameras in all of our buildings. They deter crime. But they are most useful when it comes to disputes with tenants, like when one tenant told me she didn’t have a pitbull and I emailed her five clips of her walking said dog in and out of my building. Hard evidence is the only thing that matters in eviction court.
  3. For notices to cure or quit, always post the notice on the tenant’s door AND mail to the tenant return-receipt required. If you’re noticing a tenant telling him to stop misbehaving or leave, you need to be damn sure you have a record of the tenant receiving that notice to use as evidence in the eviction case if the tenant doesn’t stop. The return receipt from the postal service does the trick nicely.
The LA eviction court is heavily prejudiced in favor of tenants. Even if you do everything I recommend above, you’re probably going to lose. But not doing them guarantees it.