Landlord/Tenant

Requirements When Leasing to Non-English Speakers

The Los Angeles rental market is incredibly diverse and with that diversity come thousands of foreign-language speakers who are not comfortable dealing in English .  So what happens when you try to lease your property to someone who only speaks a foreign language?  The answer is that there are specific requirements you must meet to ensure your lease is valid and enforceable.

The Background

Initially California law was not sympathetic to the plights of non-English speakers in this context, reasoning that one’s duty to read and understand should trump the need for different language versions of the lease. By 1978, though, California decided on a different course to prevent landlords from defrauding tenants by enacting California Civil Code section 1632.5.

California’s legislature built the law with very specific immigrant groups in mind, choosing very specific language speakers -- Spanish, Russian, Armenian, Tagalog, Chinese -- to make up the words of the statute.  As to be understood by the statute’s language, other language speakers are not to be excluded. That means that even when negotiating a lease with a person who speaks a language rooted in the most obscure of the world’s 197 countries (here’s looking at you, East Timor) you will need to follow the legal protocol or the lease will be void.

The Requirements (Choose One)

1.  Provide a Translated Version of the Lease in the Tenant’s Primary Language Before He or She Signs the Lease Agreement

    If the lease is for a period of one month or more, you must provide a translation of the lease agreement prior to having the tenant sign the English version of the lease agreement.  Translation is also required for any subsequent document that makes substantial changes in the parties’ rights and obligations but is not required for items incorporated by reference like rules and regulations.

2.  Have Tenant Bring a Translator

Encourage your prospective tenant to bring a translator with them to go over and sign the lease agreement if option one is not plausible.  The translator can be any person over the age of 18 who is fluent in both languages and cannot be affiliated with the landlord in any way so the court can ensure that there is no deliberate mistranslation of the lease.  

    If you need assistance with this process or if you have already leased your property without following this process, contact The Rad Firm, APC to get explore your options (310) 461-4766.

 

Top 8 Tips for Landlords with Medical Marijuana Dispensary Tenants

I have recently encountered multiple cases within the past few months involving issues specifically arising out of the leasing of Medical Marijuana Dispensary ("MMD") tenants.  As of 2014, Colorado residents over the age of 21 are legally allowed to posses and purchase an ounce of marijuana at a time. The law also allows the cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana in an enclosed, locked space.  However, California law is not so lenient and in fact The Los Angeles City Attorney Office is extremely meticulous when it comes to regulating MMD operations and tenancies.  It is for this reason that landlords should consider the following 8 tips when taking on an MMD tenant.

1.      Prop D Compliance or Bust

City of Los Angeles Proposition D was passed in May 2013 to regulate MMDs operating in the city.  Proposition D limits the number of MMDs permitted to legally operate in the city and imposes strict requirements on how the businesses are run.  It is imperative to ensure that your prospective or current tenant is in compliance with Proposition D to avoid legal liability that can arise out of maintaining an illegal business on your property.  Be sure to stay on top of tenants once compliance is confirmed with periodic check-ins to ensure they are still in compliance. 

2.     Play it Safe

Many MMDs operate on a cash only basis leaving them susceptible to increased crime.  It is important to require them to have a security guard present on-site during business hours to protect both them and neighboring tenants.  Security guards can also prevent on-site usage which is strictly prohibited.

3.     Candid Camera

Install surveillance cameras to keep the MMD and its members accountable.

4.   Odor Control

Require your the MMD to install an industrial grade filtration system to keep odors in check.  Heavy, unpleasant smells are cause for nuisance complaints that can bring landlords negative attention from the City Attorney.

5.     Light It Up

parking-multi-storey-car-park.jpg


Require your MMD tenant to upgrade lighting in the parking lot so it is secure from crime and on-site usage. 

6.     Spread the Word

Ask the MMD to post specific signage restricting use on the premises and in the surrounding neighborhood.  If restrictions are violated, the MMD should take measures to suspend or revoke the offending member's membership rights.  Parking lot signage is also key to ensure high-volume MMDs do not monopolize available parking.

7.     Selling vs. Cultivating

Educate yourself as to the restrictions Proposition D places on cultivating marijuana and selling marijuana at the same address.

8.  Compromise

Business relationships with MMDs can be difficult but when run properly, can also be very lucrative to both parties.  It is important to understand your respective bargaining positions and find a common ground to ensure the best possible outcome.  This is most often achieved by employing a third party, such as an attorney, to bring perspective to negotiations.  

Compromise is also key when dealing with the City Attorney's office whose focus is to find solutions before resorting to litigation. 


The Rad Firm, APC is equipped to help you should you be interested in bringing on an MMD tenant.  We can walk you through the process, draft a strong lease and advise you so that the relationship is a sustainable one.

 

An Employee By Any Other Name, is Still an Employee

Classifying employees properly is imperative to avoid liability.  Ensuring employees are classified and thus paid properly should be of chief importance when starting any business.  American Homes 4 Rent, a company that owns and rents out 37,000 single family homes across the U.S., learned this lesson when it was slammed with having to pay over $400,000 due to misclassification of their employees, the LA Times reports.  The U.S. Labor Department held that American Homes misclassified employees by changing their titles in order to avoid having to pay said employees overtime.  

If you are building your business and are planning to take on employees or if you are already running a business with employees, it is advised that you contact a lawyer to ensure that you are properly classifying and paying those employees.  The attorneys at The Rad Firm, APC can make sure your employment relationships run smoothly, in accordance with both state and federal laws.   Contact us at (310) 461-3766 to determine whether you are properly classifying and paying your employees.

 

Hypo Friday: To Tell or Not to Tell?

  On a sunny Sunday, Chris Brownstone and Brihanna were making their way toward a party when they got into an argument.  They turned back home and carried on the argument in their apartment for all of their neighbors to hear.  They had gotten into it before, but this time, they got violent.

  A neighbor heard Brihanna cry out, "I am friends with the monster that's under my bed" and called the police in fear for Brihanna's safety.  The police arrived at the apartment complex within minutes to break up the fight.  They arrested Brownstone and took him to jail.  Larry Landlord heard about the incident and was alarmed but did not yet move to evict Brownstone.

  One day later, Brihanna called her friend D. Rake to help her gather her items and move.  She was anxious but D. Rake reassured her, "Just hold on, we're going home."  Brihanna finished packing her belongings and moved out.

  Brihanna decided not to press charges against Brownstone and instead recorded a scathing song with rapper, Skittle to get her revenge.  Brownstone was released from jail.

  When Brownstone returned to his apartment, he began the process of finding a roommate to supplement the rent.  He finally found Smiley Skyrus and she submitted her paperwork to Larry Landlord for processing. 

  Larry Landlord processed Skyrus' credit and approved of her moving in with Brownstone.  Just when Larry Landlord called Skyrus to give her the good news, Skyrus asked him, "So, I sort of came in like a wrecking ball and met Brownstone on Craigslist...what do you know about him?"

Q) Does Larry Landlord have an obligation to tell Skyrus about Brownstone's violent altercation?


A) YES.  Larry Landlord has an obligation to tell Skyrus about the existence of a police report related to a roommate altercation.

  A landlord has a duty of care to protect his or her tenants from harm.  More specifically, a landlord is required to disclose "latent defects" or dangerous and defective conditions within the leased premises that would not be obvious to a tenant.  This duty to disclose extends from providing the obvious lead paint disclosure to providing information about a potentially violent person on the premises.

  In Hamida Madhani v. Glenn Cooper (2003) Cal. App. 4th, 412, the court held that a landlord has a duty of care to protect a tenant from foreseeable future assaults of a co-tenant.  Madhani had repeatedly complained to her landlord about being physically assaulted by her neighbor but the landlord failed to evict the neighbor.  As a result, Madhani sustained yet another harmful beating and sued her landlord for negligence.  The court held that it was reasonably foreseeable that the neighbor would assault Madhani again and that the landlord had a duty to protect Madhani. 

  Our hypothetical is a bit different than the Madhani matter because there isn't a string of violent altercations about which Larry Landlord knows.  Larry Landlord only knows that there was some sort of fight and that the police responded to that fight.  However, Skyrus' very general question regarding what Larry knows about Brownstone opens Larry up to liability should he fail to tell her about the existence of a police report.  Larry does not need to get into details, but he should at least tell Skyrus about the police report to insulate himself from liability should another altercation ensue.

  If you have questions about your disclosure requirements, contact the attorneys at The Rad Firm, APC for guidance at (310) 461-3766.

“How Long Does an Eviction Take?” and Other Important Questions

Rhino Neal /Flickr

Rhino Neal/Flickr

The Rad Firm, APC prides itself on staffing capable attorneys who can tackle the most abstract question but there are a few questions that plague just about every caller’s mind: 

1)   How long does an eviction take?

Multiple months without rent payments?  LAHD complaints?  Jury trials?!  Evictions can be a financial nightmare for a landlord.  As a landlord myself, I understand the stress a troublesome tenant can bring and just how important it is to get them out before they severely impact one’s bottom line.  

That said, most evictions take approximately six weeks from start to completion.  Factors to take into consideration include: 

·      Whether the tenant is represented by an attorney

·      Whether the tenant files motions

·      Whether a jury trial is requested

·      Where your case will be heard

2)   Where will my case be heard? 

In mid-2013, eviction cases were consolidated to four courts throughout Los Angeles County: Stanley Mosk Courthouse (Downtown Los Angeles), Santa Monica Courthouse, Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse (Long Beach) and Pasadena Courthouse.  This means that all of the eviction cases in L.A. County are now heard in only four courts.  

You can use the “Filing Court Locator” search tool on www.lacourt.org to see where your case will be heard.  Simply enter in the zip code of your property and the site will direct you to the proper court.

3)   What should be my first move?

Your first move, even before contacting an attorney, should be to shore up any Los Angeles Housing Department or Los Angeles Building and Safety complaints levied on the property.  If you have not yet scheduled repairs, schedule them before talking to an attorney.  Any unmade repairs can be hazardous or even fatal to your eviction case.

4)   What does “uncontested” mean?

Uncontested means that the tenant has not answered the lawsuit within the requisite amount of time provided under the law.  For instance, if the tenant is served with the complaint by personal service, the law allows them five days to answer the lawsuit.  If the tenant does not answer the lawsuit or file a motion within those five days, then the matter is uncontested and you can request a default judgment from the court.

Feel free contact us at The Rad Firm, APC with any of your landlord/tenant related questions or comment on this post to see your question appear in the blog.