QUESTION: I recently moved into a 3-month-old luxury apartment in Encino. I was assured that the building would be properly maintained and that no children would be allowed on the second or third floors. I did not get any of this in writing. Now, the building is filthy and there are some very noisy children right above me.
Unfortunately, I have a three-year lease. The city's rent control people and the city attorney's office say they can't help me because the building is exempted from the city's rent law. What can I do? My lawyer thinks the only remedies I have are to either move or sue. What do you think?
ANSWER: Your attorney is probably right about moving being a solution. I'm not so sure about a lawsuit. If you decide to move, be sure to cooperate with the owner's efforts to rerent the unit, as you may be responsible for rent until it's rerented.
The city's rent control authorities cannot help since they are only empowered to deal with rent-controlled properties.
If the filthiness of the building represents a health or safety problem, then the county's health/safety department may cite the owner for the condition and require him to remedy it. Likewise, you may be entitled to withhold a portion of your monthly rent equal to the percentage of reduced services caused by the filth.
The owner's oral promise to prohibit children on the second or third floors is also very difficult to enforce since it was only verbal and is easily denied by him. It may also constitute illegal child discrimination. You should always get all important contract provisions in writing, and that goes beyond housing arrangements to all contracts.
What Are Tenant's Rights in Condo Sale?
Q: I have been leasing an Agoura Hills condo for six months and the leases expires in another six months. The owner of the condo has told me by phone that he is putting the place up for sale. I don't really know what my rights are as a tenant, and I'm hoping you can help.
In the lease that I drew up, it says that I get 60 days' notice to move out. Here are my questions. Can I stay in the condo until the lease runs out, even if it's sold? Is the 60-day notice to move provisions in my lease enforceable? And what if the owner can't sell right away and I turn into a month-to-month tenant? Can I still get 60 days' notice to move if that happens?
A: When your tenancy expires, you become a month-to-month tenant unless your lease agreement has a "holdover" provision, making its terms applicable to the post-lease period. Don't count on the owner voluntarily agreeing to a 60-day notice provision in a month-to-month agreement because such a provision delays a new owner's right to possession of the unit by an extra 30 days, which is not a great selling point.
The 60-day notice to vacate written into your lease is enforceable until the lease expires.
Similarly, you may occupy the unit to the end of your lease term, even if it changes hands. That guaranteed right to occupy is why you signed a lease in the first place. Making some tentative moving plans now, for six months down the line, probably would not be premature.
Tenant Gone, but Left All His Possessions
Q: I am a 66-year-old widow. My husband left me a four-unit apartment building in Inglewood that I am now managing for the first time.
My problem is that one of my tenants is an artist so he's gone a lot of the time. He's in Paris now and I've heard that he isn't coming back, which would be all right with me except that he owes me four months' rent at $300 a month and I need the rent from the unit to supplement the $400 a month that I get from Social Security.
I would like to know how I can get his things out of there to rerent the unit to a tenant who will pay me some rent.
What can I do? Even if I can remove his things from the unit, I can't afford to store them. What do I do with them? Any help you can provide me with is greatly appreciated.
A: It's unfortunate that you have waited so long to do anything about this problem. You could have acted much sooner, after the 14th day the rent was past due and the tenant disappeared.
Your best course of action here is probably to serve the tenant with a Notice of Belief of Abandonment. (It's available free to members of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA). In Inglewood phone (213) 674-0463. Ask for Mary Lou.)
To serve such a notice, the rent must be more than 14 days past due and you must have a reasonable belief that the tenant has abandoned the unit, i.e., left with no intent to return. You, clearly, meet those two tests (assuming the tenant has been away for the four months that the rent has gone unpaid).
If nothing happens within 18 days after you serve this notice (15 days if the notice is served in person), both by posting a copy on the door and by mailing a copy to any and all known addresses of the renter, you may then take possession of both the rental unit and the renter's personal property.