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Is a residential lease null and void if signed before Los Angeles Dept. of Building and Safety issues Certificate of Occupancy?

Los Angeles, CA |

I am a tenant residing in the lower level of a two-story duplex in Silver Lake. The duplex residence is newly converted from one single family home. I signed a 12-month residential lease on 12/7/2012 and just found out today (8/23/13) that LADBS just issued the Certificate of Occupancy for the conversion of single family dwelling to duplex on 8/15/13.

Essentially, the lease was signed 9 months and 1 week in advance of a finalized Certificate of Occupancy from the City of Los Angeles.

As tenant, what is the exhaustive list of my rights? Especially, if I am now intent on moving out of the place during Labor Day weekend? Can I move out now without penalty? Can I demand the return of 100% of deposit, provided no damage to property?

Thank you for your consideration!


The duplex is in a commercial zone in Silver Lake; upstairs unit is classified as commercial space (no kitchen), downstairs unit is a residence. The duplex was previously a single-family dwelling converted into a duplex. I believe the duplex is not subject to Los Angeles RSO. Permit application dates back to 6/19/12 and permit was issued on 7/17/12. Work commenced on 7/26/12 and ended with final inspection on 8/9/13. Certificate of Occupancy was issued on 8/15/13. Can I claim nullification of the lease agreement dated 12/7/12, given the lack of Certificate of Occupancy at the time? Thanks again.

Attorney Answers 2


You may want to have an attorney dig into this a little deeper. It is not clear from your post whether or not the property is exempt from the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

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As an initial matter, your question is factually complex and not all relevant facts are set forth in your post. Further, this site is not intended to provide anyone with an "exhaustive" list of their rights. People hire lawyers to obtain advice specific to their situation.

With that qualification, under the City of Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), if there is internal access between the units, then it may be considered a single family home and thus exempt from the RSO. (There are other exemption which may also apply based upon the date of construction of the property, i.e. after October 1, 1979.)

However, even if the property is otherwise exempt as a single family home, if your landlord fails to annually register the unit with the Los Angeles Department of Housing (LAHD), the landlord is not entitled to collect rent. Having a valid certificate of occupancy is a prerequisite for registration with the LAHD.

Finally, under Civil Code 1950.5, the landlord is supposed to return your security deposit within 21 days of termination of the rental agreement and provide an itemized breakdown of any deductions for unpaid rent, cleaning and repair of damage beyond normal wear and tear, including receipts for any materials or third party services plus the hours and rates for the landlord's employees used. If the landlord retains your security deposit in bad faith, you can recover treble damages.

Further, if the landlord fails to comply with Civil Code 1950.5, the landlord is required to refund your entire deposit. Granberry v. Islay Investments (1995) 9 Cal.4th 738, 745. However, in an action to recover the security deposit, the landlord may cross claim for damages to the property and/or unpaid rent.

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