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Ask A Landlord: Raising The Security Deposit And Arguing Over Going Month To Month

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Throughout Renters Week, a real live Los Angeles property manager (not technically a landlord, but with plenty of landlordy experience) will be answering reader-submitted, rental-related questions of all natures. Got a question? Send it to the tipline. Can a landlord raise your security deposit after your lease is up? Mine not only raised my rent (max amount under rent control), but also the security deposit.

On a month to month lease agreement, yes, they can raise the security deposit provided they give 30 days notice and you haven't already paid the equivalent of twice the monthly rent as a deposit (details here). The City of LA's Rent Stabilization Ordinance also allows for this increase, but only at the same time and by the same percentage as the annual rent increase (details here). The regulations regarding increased security deposits are different for tenants who have an existing lease agreement (not month to month).

A Note from the Landlord: Check out the California Department of Consumer Affairs' Tenant Handbook (pdf) for advice on this and many other topics. It is an invaluable resource for renters and owners and makes every step of the renting process easier to navigate.

I have lived in a rental property for four years now. My lease will soon be up for renewal again. I understand that it is up to the land lord's discretion whether to allow a tenant to continue renting after being in a property for a year or more on a "month to month" basis and there is no legal requirement for them to do so. Is this correct? I would like the flexibility of not signing another 12 month lease, but my land lord is insistent upon that. Ideally I would like to continue renting "month by month."

Your ideal "month to month" tenancy is obviously not ideal for the owner, who retains the right to terminate your tenancy, given they provide a 30 or 60 days notice of termination. Since you have lived there longer than one year, they should provide 60 days notice unless any other tenant in the unit has lived there less than one year (then the required time frame is only 30 days). Do they really want you to leave or do they just want you to sign another lease? Price may have something to do with it. So much of the state tenant/landlord code relies on good faith and fair dealing. If you like where you live and you haven't had issues in the past, I would try to negotiate a six month renewal, and if that doesn't work you should re-sign for a year as requested or cut your losses and move. It's not his job to stay flexible for you, and it's obviously easier for everyone involved if this never reaches the point where of legal proceedings.

Let's say it does, though, and your landlord opts to serve the notice for you to vacate--without knowing more details, there are a lot of directions that could go. If you are living in a rent controlled property, the city of LA's Rent Stabilization Ordinance has special provisions regarding the time of termination:

A periodic tenancy cannot be ended by the landlord without a good faith "just cause" or "good cause" reason to evict. In these communities, the landlord must state the reason for the termination, and the reason may be reviewed by local housing authorities. If you are under LA's RSO, and your landlord gives the notice for you to vacate but doesn't provide that cause, you could file a complaint with the Housing department here. Regardless of whether your unit is under rent control, if you opt not to leave at the end of the notice period, the landlord can begin eviction proceedings. They can also begin proceedings at any time with three days notice if you have violated any of the terms of your lease. Tread carefully.
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