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December 2, 2018

Q & A: Residential Rent Increases/Change of Terms

Thinking of raising the rent, or changing your rental agreement? A few questions for you to consider...

Q. Can I give a rent increase anytime during the month or just on the first?

If you have a month-to-month tenancy with the tenant, you can serve a written 30-day notice (or 60 days if increasing the rent more than 10% within last 12 months) to increase the rent at an any time of the month.

Q.  Can I mail the rent increase to the tenant or do I have to give it to him in person?

You can serve the increase by mail only, but you must add five days to the period so the 30- or 60-day notice of increase becomes 35 or 65 days before it is effective.

Q.  What if the tenant claims he or she never received the increase and refused to pay it?

If the notice was mailed in an authorized United States Postal receptacle with proper postage, the laws of evidence allow a presumption that the notice was legally served. The tenant would have to prove the landlord did not mail it properly to prevail. A three-day notice to pay rent or quit can be served. If they fail to comply, we can file an unlawful detainer action on your behalf anywhere in California.

Q.  How much can I raise the rent legally?

Unless you are under rent control or a state or federal subsidy program, there are no limitations on the amount of rent you can charge. You cannot unilaterally increase the rent unless your agreement is month-to-month. In that event, you can serve a written 30-day notice (or a 60-day notice if the increase is greater than 10% within the last 12 months) to increase the rent. Otherwise, you must wait until the lease expires.

QHow often can I legally raise the rent?

Unless you are under rent control or a state or federal subsidy program, there are no restrictions as to the number of times you can increase the rent.

Q. What kinds of changes require the "change of terms" notice?

Any material change to a month-to-month tenancy requires a written 30-day notice of change of terms of tenancy. It must be served personally, by post and mail, or substituted service and mail.

Q. What kinds of changes do not require a "change of terms" notice?

Minor modifications to house rules or rules over the common area of the premises, such as usage of barbecues, trash pick-up dates, or office hours.

Q. What do I do if the tenant doesn't follow the new policy change after receiving notice? Can I evict him/her?

If the notice has been properly served and the breach is material to the lease, you can serve a notice to perform or quit to commence the eviction process. If the tenant fails to comply, we can file an unlawful detainer action on your behalf anywhere in California.

QWe recently purchased a property with below market rents and intended on raising rents. Which is preferable: to send out a 30-day notice to raise the rent first, or to have the residents sign a month-to-month agreement, then send out a 30-day notice?

Legally, when you purchase the rental property you "step into the shoes" of the previous owner, and whatever lease agreement is in place, you are bound by. If it is month-to-month, you can serve a 30-day notice to change the terms, including a rent increase. You may want to serve a 30-day notice, attaching your new agreement with the increased rent, doing it all at once. If the rent is increased more than 10% in a 12-month period, a sixty-day notice must be served.

QHow much can the rent be raised if a new tenant is moving in?

A new tenancy: You can set the rental rate at any amount you want if a new tenancy is created. New roommate situation: If a current tenant wants a new roommate, in a month-to-month agreement, you can increase the rent any amount you want to as a condition of allowing the roommate to move in, but the current tenant must either agree to sign a new agreement with the new rent, or, if the current tenant doesn't agree, you can enforce the change in a month-to-month tenancy by serving a 30- or 60-day notice if you are on a month-to-month to require the new rent be paid. Sixty-days are required if the rent is being increased more than 10% within the last 12 months, and five to 20 extra days must be added to either a 30- or 60-day notice is served by mail.

QWe want to start charging additional rent for tenants with pets. Is this legal?

State law does not prohibit charging an additional amount for tenants who have pets. Animals normally add to the wear and tear of the property, and managers are responsible for regulating the proper maintenance of animals on the property, so they do not unreasonably disturb other residents. You may not charge additional rent for service animals for disabled residents.

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