When to refuse rent from a tenant

You might think that your job, as a Los Angeles landlord, is always to get your tenants to pay rent. And you’d be wrong.

There is one situation where you absolutely do not want to accept rent from your tenant under any circumstances: When you have a tenant you want to get rid of and the tenant has done something which may give you the ability to get rid of him.

For example: Say your tenant doesn’t pay rent on the 1st of the month. You post a “3 day notice” (which basically says, “pay rent within three days or move out). Three days elapse without the tenant paying rent. On the fourth day, you should not, under any circumstances, accept rent from the tenant.

Why? Because accepting rent from a tenant in that situation could be viewed by a judge as you implicitly ratifying a new lease with the tenant. By accepting the rent, you are saying “I understand you failed to do what you were supposed to do (in this case, pay rent within three days of receiving the notice) but I am accepting your continued tenancy in my building.” Obviously, that’s not what you want to say.

How do you refuse to accept the rent? You photocopy the check for your records, then send it back via registered mail (return-receipt requested) along with a letter telling the tenant you are refusing to accept the rent. Then, you proceed with whatever action you are going to take (in this case, presumably initiate an unlawful detainer / eviction action).

One more thing to keep in mind: It’s not enough for you to personally understand and internalize the above. You also need to ensure that your entire organization (bookkeeper, property manager, etc.) is clued in. Because it’s super easy for an oversight by someone who works for you to cost you the ability to get rid of a bad tenant.

[Note: I am not a lawyer and the above is not legal advice. If you need help evicting a problem tenant, I recommend you get in touch with Dennis Block.]