Q: Past Due Rent Forgiveness In Return for Voluntary Termination of Tenancy
My tenant has not paid rent for 3 months. Rent is $2356 and due on the 1st of each month. Total rent past due is $7068. One of the rent non-payment months is claimed by tenant as being due to COVID-19 related hardship. The property is in Los Angeles County and is subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance.
In an effort to resolve this amicably and to avoid eviction proceedings, I would like to offer the tenant rent forgiveness for COVID-19 related non-payment, and an additional 50% rent forgiveness for another month, if the tenant is willing to voluntarily vacate the premises and end tenancy by December 31, 2023. Is this lawful, or will this be construed as coercion?
Under California law, negotiating with a tenant for voluntary termination of tenancy in exchange for rent forgiveness is typically legal, provided it's done in good faith and without coercion. Your proposal to forgive some of the back rent in exchange for the tenant vacating the property is a form of negotiation that landlords often use to avoid the lengthy and costly eviction process.
However, given that the property is in Los Angeles County and subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, you should be aware of specific rules and regulations regarding tenant evictions and rights. It's important to ensure that any agreement you reach with your tenant does not violate these regulations. For instance, certain COVID-19 related tenant protections might apply, affecting your ability to negotiate terms based on rent non-payment due to COVID-19 hardships.
You should also be cautious to avoid any action that could be construed as coercion or harassment. This means clearly communicating that the offer is voluntary and that the tenant has the option to decline and remain in the property. The agreement should be made in writing, clearly stating the terms, to protect both parties and provide a clear record of the agreement.
Given the complexity of the situation, particularly with the COVID-19 related hardships and rent stabilization laws, it might be prudent to seek legal advice to ensure that your offer complies with all applicable laws and regulations. This step can also help in structuring the agreement in a way that is fair and legally sound.
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