My LA eviction story

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So I inherited some tenants on a property I closed on earlier this year and had to go through the eviction process. While I was doing my due diligence on this process, I found some difficulty getting details on what to expect so wanted to share my experience as a data point in hopes of helping others who may be going through this process. Note that I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice by any means.

Some background: The property is a single family residence in the city of Los Angeles. SFR in LA are not subject to rent control. Tenants were on a month to month lease.

Day 0: Day after closing. I called tenant to inform them of change of ownership and that I’d be serving them a 60 day notice to vacate. A minimum of 60 day notice is required if the tenants have lived there for over a year. I offered a few thousand dollars as a courtesy to which she responded “That’s not enough” and suggested something closer to $25k. It became clear she wanted to milk the situation whether she had any legal standing or not.

Day 3: Send written notice of change of ownership and officially serve 60 day notice to vacate. Over the next couple of months, tenants paid rent. They sent a check for rent past the 60 day notice which I immediately returned. I believe if I accepted the money, it would void the 60 day notice.

Day 64: Tenants did not vacate. I file an unlawful detainer through my attorney to which the tenants have 5 days to respond.

Day 69: Tenants hired one of the eviction defense firms in LA and filed a response. The make all sorts of bogus claims which is standard practice according to my attorney. The key thing here though, is they also requested a jury trial. Even though the tenants may not have any legal standing, they’re entitled to a jury trial which can be expensive and risky for property owners. My attorney tells me this is a very common practice to extract a higher settlement. We proceed to schedule a court date for the hearing.

Day 90: After a few weeks, our court date arrives. It’s recommended you get there early for the DTLA courthouse because there’s a line around the block by the time the doors open. I think there are 2 or 3 courtrooms dedicated to eviction cases and I make my way to the one my case has been assigned to. I take a seat and at some point they do a roll call to determine which parties are present. Once this is done, it seems like everyone goes back out into the hallway to negotiate a settlement. How this plays out will depend on your situation. Eventually, we reach a settlement and go back into the courtroom for the judge to make it official.

For the most part, the settlement will involve some combination of money and time (how much more time tenant gets before lockout). In terms of time, expect anywhere between 30-120 days. They will also include other terms like sealing the records so the eviction does not show up on their records. By requesting a jury trial, they increase the amount of risk, time and money involved if the parties do not reach a settlement. Even though I had a strong case, it wasn’t a 100% chance of winning according to my lawyer. So at this point, I had to weigh the costs of settlement vs trial.

I’m not going to disclose the details of my settlement - it’s irrelevant anyway. Again, this is just one recount of my specific case. From what I gather though, this is a pretty typical scenario. My attorney said 95-99% of his cases end with a settlement. Just make sure you’re familiar with landlord/tenant laws as to not get yourself in trouble. Being new to this, it was quite a bit of anxiety for several months so hopefully this helps reduce some anxiety for others :) 

What I felt could end up smoother is be firm to them and tell them to start looking and offer some help getting references. The minute you offer a few K, the tenants start getting greedy wanting more. If you say you will help them to move or sharing moving expense, they see you as a sympathetic new landlord. 

What is not clear why you did not inherit them as tenants? Tenants often come with the property and new owner as their new landlord based on old lease.

I also went through a similar case/situation. Did you purchase the property to live in? Or to remodel re-rent? 

I'm getting angry reading your story. it amazes me that there is a state in our country that is so backwards that it took you 90 days to of no rent to get to court, only to feel like a settlement was the only option.

after looking back, on your lawyer and court costs, along with the settlement you actually gave and any lost rent, do you think you did good by following the process through, or do you wish you originally gave the tenant something closer to $25k?@Minh Nguyen

@Ricardo P. I wanted possession to do some rehab work.

@Andrew B. It probably cost me around $10-12k including expenses, holding costs, etc so still better than $25k. Keep in mind, I was still responsible for urgent repairs/habitability even though the tenants were there illegally. I've definitely seen others pay the $25k in rent control situations though. 

@Minh Nguyen

On Day 5, did you have any large men approach the tenant's relatives, neighbors, and friends and ask them courteously if they could talk to the tenant about the advisability of moving out quickly? Of course, they repeated the following sentence again and again: "Please tell them they really, really don't want to do this."

On Day 10, did you use your keys to break in while they were at work, hide a bag of heroin on their property, and call the cops to anonymously reveal its exact location?

By Day 20, had an overseas hacker stolen their identity and used it to open multiple credit cards in their name?

By Day 40, had anyone called the tenant's place of work supposedly inquiring about collecting on the tenant's outsized gambling debts?

By Day 60, were federal agents at the door accusing the tenant of sending child pornography through US mail because multiple envelopes with their return address had been sent to several government addresses throughout the Los Angeles area?

On Day 70, did anyone steal the tenant's vehicle?

Of course not. Because you're not an organized crime figure. And in every locality that makes up tenant-favorable protective policies like the ones you've laid out, OC always, always benefits.

@Minh Nguyen The majority of the time we find that the occupants don't abide by the agreement reached at the courthouse either, necessitating their removal by the sheriffs after they breach (which of course takes yet more time). Keep us updated!

@Minh Nguyen Thanks for sharing . L.A looks to be going in the direction of stronger rent control and “tenants rights” too . It’s such a waste that you had to go through all that . I feel like if investing in L.A one really needs to consult with a top notch real estate attorney from the beginning just because there are so many lawyers and tenants looking to target landlords for a payday. Just curious what area did you buy in that would actually cash flow as a SFH ? A deal on market or off ?

@Minh Nguyen Thanks for sharing your story.  I'm curious why your attorney stated that your case didn't have a 100% chance of winning.  Seems pretty cut and dry from the details you provided.  

For rent controlled properties in LA, the "relocation" fee for the tenant is $7900-$20450 depending on the circumstances.  I would hope that with non-rent controlled properties, the fee you paid would have been lower. 

@Eric C. I think the risk was jury can be pro-tenant. Also, the extra time and costs associated with a jury trial and potential difficulty of recouping those costs. Basically, I just had to weigh the risks and cut my losses.

Hey @Minh Nguyen , Thanks for sharing your story. I'm currently going through an ellis act eviction in our LA RSO duplex and its a nerve-wrecking process. I hope you get possession of your property very quickly and in decent condition. Good luck on your flip!