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Owner Needn't Tell of Crime, but Should

January 27, 1991|KEVIN POSTEMA | Postema is the editor of Apartment Age Magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA)

QUESTION: I live in an apartment in North Hollywood. My question is, if someone has been raped, murdered or been the victim of any other crime in an apartment complex, is the owner or manager legally obligated to disclose this information to the current tenants living in the complex?

Also, must he disclose this information to any new tenants moving in? If not, must he, at a minimum, tell the tenants moving into the unit in which a crime was committed that a crime was committed there?

ANSWER: There is no law or ordinance requiring apartment owners to notify new or existing tenants of any crimes committed in apartment complexes or units.

On the other hand, if there is a security problem at a building or within a unit, the owner is well advised to try to correct it and to inform his tenants about it to diminish the possibility of future negligence claims arising from it.

Hotel Expenses When Exterminator Comes

Q: I live in Monterey Park and I have some questions about tenants' rights when the termite exterminator comes.

Who pays for the cost of replacement quarters during the extermination? What about a refund of rent paid? There's also the question of the labor involved in packing and unpacking boxes of food and the possibility of unpleasant residual effects from the poison. Is that worth anything?

A: Assuming that the issue is not covered in your rental agreement (the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles' rental agreement does not require any tenant compensation), the owner must pay a "reasonable" sum for your replacements quarters during an extermination.

That doesn't mean that you should book yourself into a luxury hotel. It also doesn't mean the owner can require you to stay at Motel Hell. Something in between the two should be negotiated.

Since the owner is paying for your hotel, he is not required to refund you the rental value of the unit for the days you are gone. Similarly, you cannot recover any money for your labor in packing and unpacking boxes, or for possible unpleasant residual effects, short of some type of toxic poisoning caused by fumigator negligence.

Manager Not Getting Paid for On-Call Duty

Q: I am the manager of a 280-unit apartment building in West Los Angeles, which I live within five minutes of. I was hired to work five days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I get a base salary that doesn't include any provision for overtime. Instead, I get compensatory time off.

The owner has made it clear verbally that he wants me on call during the weekends. Any time a problem arises, I end up being called. While I can usually take care of the problems over the phone, I am still required to be available at all times.

I am not getting paid for this and I'm starting to find that "on call" means it is not always possible for me to go away for the weekends. Should I be getting paid for the hours I am on call?

A: According to Trevor A. Grimm, general counsel of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, "Generally, in the absence of a contract to the contrary, you are entitled to compensation for the time worked on your job. The 'on call' time does not fit into the 'actually worked' category. In the 'on call' situation, it is difficult to compute the number of hours for which you would be entitled to pay, unless you took 24 hours per day.

"It sounds like the owner of your building is trying to get something 'extra' from you as a part of your regular job. Your options seem to be to accommodate the owner, make a new deal or quit."

Withhold Last Month's Rent at Your Peril

Q: We have been living in our Los Angeles apartment for almost two years, and we are good tenants. Unfortunately, I don't think our landlord will be a good owner when we move out in a month and a half. He has done a number of things that make us think he will not refund our $3,000 security deposit without taking him to court.

The deposit is about equal to 45 days' rent. Since that's how long we'll be staying, we don't want to pay our last 45 days' rent. We want him to use the deposit to cover the rent.

Since there will be no damage to the apartment, what can he do to us during the last 45 days we live in the apartment without paying the rent? If there is a problem with this, we would prefer him to have to take us to court. Also, what can he do to us after we move out? We are planning to leave his apartment in perfect condition.

A: If none of your deposit is labeled as last month's rent, which seems to be the case, you are required to pay the rent for the last 45 days of your tenancy.

If you don't pay the rent when due, the owner can serve you with a three-day notice to pay the rent or move out. If you don't respond to the notice, pay the rent or move out, the owner can file an unlawful detainer (eviction) action with the court. The eviction action then becomes a matter of public record.

As a public record, some credit reporting agencies report on evictions to their clients. Thus, your name would probably wind up on a credit report that says you were evicted.

In many court jurisdictions you can be physically evicted within 45 days, so that's a possibility too. If you have a written lease or rental agreement, it probably warns you that you may be liable for the costs, including attorney's fees, of any legal actions brought against you to collect unpaid rent.

You might try to negotiate something with the owner, such as "We'll pay 30 of the last 45 days' rent if you deduct the balance from the deposit." If the owner is unwilling to cooperate, you withhold the rent at your peril.

Postema is the editor of Apartment Age Magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), an apartment owners' service group. Mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to Apartment Life, AAGLA, 621 S . Westmoreland Ave . , Los Angeles, Calif . 90005.

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