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Help Me! I May Be a First-Time Landlord

September 05, 1993|KEVIN POSTEMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of AAGLA, an apartment owners' service group

QUESTION: I am a tentative, soon-to-be landlord, maybe, with a rental condo in Glendale. After my mom got ill last year and had to go into a retirement home, she told me to do what I wanted to with the condo she used to occupy.

I'm afraid that if I sell the condominium, I can't get a fair price in the current buyers' market.

The problem with being a landlord is all of the horror stories I've heard about it. Before I get into this, I want to know more about it.

For instance, do I notify the insurance company and condo association? Also, how do I rent it? What about forms? Procedures? Help!

ANSWER: As you say in your letter, selling in this economy is as bad as renting an apartment to new tenants without running credit and background checks on the prospective renters.

And although it's also a tough market for rentals now, renting is probably the better option at this time. Just make sure that you do everything you can to get stable tenants. Then your problems are greatly diminished.

Finding prospective renters in this economy is difficult. To find them, do everything. That includes asking friends and relatives for recommendations, advertising in various media, posting notices in local supermarkets and laundry rooms, putting up signs and banners (but only if authorized by the condo homeowners' association) and contacting large local employers and schools.

Once you find a good prospect, you must thoroughly screen him or her, which will help assure that you don't get a professional deadbeat.

You can screen prospective tenants at nominal prices through organizations such as the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), which also provides its members with free management and operating forms and free information on running the property.

While AAGLA can check your prospect's credit file, revolving and installment accounts, eviction file, telecredit and bad checks record, there are many things you can check out yourself.

They include a prospect's employment, duration, salary range and potential for continuing work, bank, average balance and whether the deposit check is good, and current and former landlords. Former landlords can provide better information if the tenant is bad and the current landlord is trying to get rid of him.

Before signing a rental agreement with a tenant, be sure to check with the condo association to find out if there are any restrictions or requirements imposed by them for renting the unit out. If so, comply with them up front. Also, you should notify your insurance company of your intentions, as renting the unit out may affect your rates and coverage.

Either way you ultimately decide to go, sell or rent, it's a tough market and only your care and commitment will assure success. Good luck.

Does Bad Neighbor Negate Lease Terms?

Q: We are several months into a one-year lease at a four-plex in a South Bay beach city. We want out now because of a neighbor who we think is selling drugs and who also regularly holds garage sales and has fix-up businesses at his apartment.

We've talked to him, the police and the landlord. Even though there is no definitive proof of drug dealing, the landlord says he is trying to get rid of him.

Unfortunately, that's not good enough. His drug clients race their cars up and down the driveway until 2 a.m., making it impossible for us to sleep.

Shortly after confronting the tenant about the situation (a few hours), my car windshield was broken. You can guess who I think did it, and I'm concerned about future incidents.

The problem is that the landlord won't let me out of the lease. Breaking it is repulsive to me and I don't want to sublet the place either as I would still be responsible. Do I have any other options?

A: Other than a lawsuit, you have few options other than continuing as tenants, subletting or breaking the lease, which the landlord may have already done, enabling you to vacate the unit without penalty.

Since the landlord is apparently aware of this "nuisance" tenant, but is not taking action to abate the nuisance, he is probably breaking the lease with you, in which case you may be able to vacate the unit without owing any additional rent.

You may also have a good cause to file a lawsuit against both the tenant, for nuisance, and landlord, for maintaining a public and private nuisance. Other tenants as plaintiffs would help your case.

Petitions to the city council and letters to the media might also help.

Whatever you decide, consult an attorney, preferably one who specializes in landlord/tenant matters, before doing anything.

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