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Rent Watch

Can Ad Fee Be Deducted From Deposit?

August 29, 1993|Special to The Times; This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif

QUESTION: After living in an apartment for one year, I gave my landlord a 30-day notice to terminate my tenancy. I moved within the 30 days, but upon receiving my security deposit refund, I found that my former landlord deducted $125 to advertise for a new tenant. I was on a month-to-month rental agreement and I didn't think that part of my responsibility was to find a new tenant when I left. Can he legitimately pass on this advertising expense to me?

ANSWER: No. Since you were on a month-to-month rental agreement all that was required by you when you terminated the tenancy was to give your landlord a written 30-day notice, which you did. One situation where a landlord has a right to advertising costs is when he has a fixed-term lease agreement with a tenant who breaks the lease before the expiration of the fixed term. Another situation in which a landlord may have a right to advertising costs is when he takes a unit off the market to hold it for a tenant who later changes his mind. A landlord must always make a sincere attempt to minimize his financial damages and may only charge a tenant reasonable fees to cover actual losses.

Manager Must Rent to the Self-Employed Too

Q: Can a manager refuse to rent to self-employed people? Although I have my own messenger service and can prove that I have had a steady income over the past four years, a manager just rejected me in favor of a renter with what she termed "a regular job." Do I have any rights in this situation?

A: California State Law (Unruh Act) protects all renters from arbitrary discrimination, including discrimination based on one's source of income. The type of work you do should not affect your desirability as a renter, if your job is legal and produces a regular, verifiable income that is sufficient to qualify you for the apartment of your choice. The manager may ask you to provide verification of your income, for example, tax returns, to show that you can afford the rent, but once her business-related concerns are satisfied, the exact nature of your occupation should not be her concern. For additional information contact your local fair housing agency or dial 213-HOUSING for assistance or for a referral.

Companion Pet Statute Protects Goldfish Pair

Q: The manager of the government-subsidized senior complex where I live has just told my elderly neighbor to dispose of her two goldfish. The fish live quietly in a small bowl, bothering no one, but, when the manager discovered them, she cited the "no pets" clause in the rental agreement and insisted that my neighbor must now part with her only companions. Can anything be done about this outrage?

A: Under state law (Cal. Health and Safety Code, Sec. 19901), public agencies owning and operating rental housing "must" allow tenants over the age of 60 to keep up to two pets. For these purposes, a pet is defined as a domesticated dog, cat, bird or fish in an aquarium. Of course all pets, including fish, must be well-behaved and must not present a threat or nuisance to other occupants of the complex. Perhaps you can inform the manger of this companion pet statute, so your neighbor and her fish can continue their companionship. Please contact the fair housing agency in your area if you or your neighbor require additional assistance in discussing this issue with the manager. If this is a federally subsidized complex, you may also call the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at (800) 669-9777.

Tenant Can Be Charged for Cleaning, Not Time

Q: After one of my tenants moved out, I had to do some repairs and clean the whole apartment. I wanted to re-rent the unit as soon as possible, and I believe that I shouldn't have had to spend several days cleaning up after the tenant. I decided to keep the deposit money for all my expenses, and also for the rent I could have obtained for the days I spent restoring the apartment to its initial condition. However, the tenant threatens to take me to court. What are my rights?

A: You had every right to charge your former tenant for necessary cleaning and repairs not caused by normal wear and tear. You had no right to charge her rent for the time it took you to prepare the apartment for the next tenant.

According to California Civil Code Section 1950.5, you may charge the tenant for necessary cleaning, for damages beyond normal wear and tear and for any unpaid rent that was due during her tenancy.

The time needed to prepare the apartment for the next tenant is considered a normal part of doing business, and you cannot deduct additional rental fees from the security deposit to compensate you for lost income between two tenancies.

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