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Tenant buyouts (aka “Cash for Keys”) are increasingly popular in rent-controlled cities in California, which otherwise limit the landlord’s ability to regain possession of a controlled rental, rehab the unit and increase rents to fair market value.


Landlords are obligated to follow several steps and meet certain guidelines for a buyout to be legally binding. The laws and ordinances are designed to protect tenants, so making sure everything is done correctly and completed on time is critical to a successful buyout.


Tenants have the right to refuse any offer presented to them and many cities allow tenants up to 45 days to cancel an agreement after they sign. The tenant may also assert an affirmative defense to an unlawful detainer action if the landlord does not meet all of their obligations.

Tenant buyouts are an art form. It takes the right balance of understanding perspectives and equal level of empathy for both parties. Deals are not often struck right away. My approach is to be consistently persistent without making a tenant feel intimidated or forced. I handle the buyout process from beginning to end reducing landlord-tenant tension. My services include: 

  • Presenting Initial Offer

  • Calculated & Consistent Follow Ups

  • Preparing Disclosures & Agreements

  • Filing Disclosures & Agreements with RSO boards

As your advocate, I will keep you informed of the progress throughout the process and make myself available to answer any questions you might have. My goal is to make the tenant buyout process as easy and stress-free as possible for you.


Habitability lawsuits in California are increasing. If your tenant is suing you for failing to keep their unit in a habitable condition, I can evaluate the claim against you and protect your rights as a landlord. As a landlord, you are liable for keeping residential units in habitable condition. Common problems and conditions that lead to habitability lawsuits include:

  • Leaky roofs and broken windows

  • Problems with rodents or vermin

  • Plumbing problems

  • Electrical problems

  • Inadequate security

  • Stairs, railings or floors in common areas that are in poor condition

Simultaneously, tenants add additional claims to these lawsuits, such as:

  • Breach of warranty of habitability

  • Breach of quiet enjoyment

  • Breach of contract

  • Nuisance (public and private)

  • Negligence

  • Emotional distress


California and Los Angeles City both have anti-tenant discrimination and harassment laws. The penalties can be exorbitant, and your reputation can suffer. When a client approaches me with a housing discrimination claim, my goal is always to try to resolve the dispute prior to going to court. During that process, I work with clients to develop policies and procedures to avoid future complaints and litigation.


Los Angeles City’s new anti-tenant harassment law gives tenants a private right to file a civil suit against a landlord if the landlord does any of the following:

  • Reducing or eliminating housing services

  • Failing to perform and timely complete necessary repairs

  • Abuse of the right of access

  • Threats of physical harm

  • Misrepresenting to a tenant that the tenant is required to move out

  • Rendering premises unfit for human habitation and occupancy

  • Refusing to acknowledge or accept receipt of lawful rent payments

  • Inquiring as to tenants' immigration or citizenship status

  • Disclosing or threatening to disclose immigration or citizenship status

  • Engaging in an activity prohibited by federal, state, or local housing anti-discrimination laws

  • Retaliating, threatening, or interfering with tenant organizing activities

  • Interfering with a tenant’s right to privacy or requesting information that violates a tenant’s right to privacy

The above is not an exhaustive list of potentially harassing landlord conduct.


Additionally, California has strong anti-discrimination laws codified in the Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA")  to protect tenants and rental applicants. Landlords cannot discrimination against tenants or potential tenants (applicants) based on any of the following:

  • Race

  • Color

  • National Origin

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • Familial Status

  • Disability

  • Source of Income, including Section 8 and other government subsidies

  • Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Expression

  • Sexual Orientation

  • Marital Status

  • Ancestry

  • Genetic Information


Tenants and housing applicants have several ways to file housing discrimination claims. At the federal level, they can file a claim with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). At the State level they can file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) alleging violations of their fair housing rights. They can also file civil lawsuits based on federal, state and local laws.  The costs of defending a claim are often very high even if you win the case. If you lose the case, penalties can be severe. A verdict in favor of the tenant or applicant may result in one or more of the following things:

  • Fines beginning at $16,000 and increasing with subsequent violations

  • Additional compensatory damages for emotional distress

  • Additional financial damages to cover expenses the applicant you illegally rejected incurred as a result of not getting accepted for your rental

  • Renting to the person who filed discrimination charges against you

  • Attorneys’ fees and costs

Disputes between landlords and tenants can escalate quickly and result in lawsuits. Some lawsuits are not covered by insurance or insurance will require the landlord to reimburse the insurance company for tendering a defense.


The most common lawsuits filed against landlords are for habitability, harassment and discrimination. As soon as you are served with a lawsuit or demand letter from an attorney you should act quickly to reach out to your insurance and an attorney in the event the insurance turns down the claim.


There are quick deadlines to lawsuits and you don’t want to have a default filed against you for an untimely filing. If you your tenant starts to hint at a lawsuit or threaten a lawsuit you should be quick to get an attorney to mitigate any further liability and discuss strategy. 

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