Landlord May Raise Deposit to Reflect a Rent Increase


Question: Our landlord in Los Angeles recently gave us a rent increase. He also is asking for more deposit money on top of the rent increase. Is this right?

Please let me know if I may dispute the security deposit increase.

Answer: Security deposit maximum amounts are limited by law to two times the monthly rent for unfurnished apartments and three times for furnished.

As such, an apartment owner can raise a security deposit to those rent levels with a 30-day notice of change of terms of tenancy in month-to-month tenancies.

With a lease, the owner must wait until the lease renewal time to raise the rents and deposits.

Under the Los Angeles city rent-control law, if owners raise security deposits, they must do so at the same time and by the same amount or less than the rent increase. Also, it doesn't matter how the security deposit is classified in the lease or rental agreement.

Whether it's called last month's rent, a cleaning deposit or a key deposit, every cent taken in excess of the first month's rent is all defined as security deposit under state law unless it's prepaid rent.

Owner Changed Mind About Tenant's Dog

Q: I own a rent-controlled property in Venice.

Three years ago, I rented an apartment to tenants with a pet dog. The tenants filled out a pet agreement at that time.

I would like them to get rid of the dog now.

Can I now serve them with a notice of change of terms of tenancy that tells them that they can no longer have a dog in their apartment?

A: You're probably barking up the wrong tree on this one.

Even if you weren't under rent control, which generally makes it harder for you to change the terms of existing tenancies, you cannot force tenants to get rid of a pet that you previously authorized, without good cause.

You can prevent new tenants from having pets by prohibiting them at the inception of the tenancy.

30-Day Eviction Notice Within Legal Rights

Q: I live in Los Angeles, and I started renting this one-bedroom condominium in 1993.

Last year, the owners asked me if I would be interested in buying it. I looked into buying it but the owners were unwilling to pay the closing costs on the deal, so I declined their offer.

Now, I have received a 30-day notice to move out.

Do I have any recourse in this situation?

A: If the condo was rent-controlled under the L.A. city rent-control law when you moved into it, it is still protected by the provisions of the rent-control law, which include eviction protections and the requirement to pay relocation fees in no-fault evictions.

No-fault evictions are those in which the tenant is not at fault, when he doesn't do anything wrong.

They include eviction for owner move-in and for going out of business, which includes converting from a rental condo to an owner-occupied condo.

Relocation fees are $5,000 per unit for those age 62 and older, the disabled and renters with minor dependent children, and $2,000 for others.

The required notice period to move for rented condos has been extended from 30 days to between 120 days and one year under a new law passed by the Los Angeles City Council a couple of months ago.

This new law requires the owner to give a full one-year notice to move to seniors or a 120-day notice to others.

If the condo was exempt from the rent law (all "new" construction for which a first certificate of occupancy was issued after Oct. 1, 1978, is exempt), then the owners need serve you only with a 30-day notice to quit, as they have done.

Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of AAGLA, an apartment owners' service group. Mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to AAGLA, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.

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