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Rent Watch

When Are Renters Entitled to Grace Period?

January 02, 1994|Special to The Times; This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif

QUESTION: I rent a one-bedroom apartment on a month-to-month basis, and my rent is due on the first of the month. When I ran into financial problems last month, my landlord told me that I could have a few more days to come up with the money, and I paid my rent by the sixth of the month. My financial problems continued this month and forced me to pay my rent on the fourth. However, this time my landlord gave me a three-day notice to pay or quit when I was late paying my rent. What is the rule, aren't renters entitled to a grace period?

ANSWER: No, renters are not automatically entitled to a grace period unless such a period is actually written into the rental agreement. If your landlord verbally agreed to bend the rules the first month, it does not mean that he/she has to provide you with extra time every month. It is important to read and understand a rental agreement before you sign it, since a written document will often prevail over an oral agreement should your landlord try to evict you for late payment of rent. Finally, remember to make any changes in your contract, including changes establishing or affecting a grace period, in writing so that you will have adequate proof in the event of a dispute.

Owner Refuses to Rent to AA Participant

Q: I am an alcoholic who is presently in a recovery program. Recently, I tried to rent an apartment, but I was turned down because the owner found out I was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Is it illegal for the owner to refuse to rent to me for this reason?

A: Yes, it is illegal for the owner to discriminate against you because you participate in AA. The Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 provides protection for people like yourself who are in recovery from a disability, although it will not protect you if you are currently using drugs illegally. You may want to contact your local fair housing agency to file a complaint against the owner for discriminating against you because of your disability. If the owner is unaware of the law, he may reconsider after he has been informed by the agency.

Can 30-Day Notice Be Waived Due to Theft?

Q: A tenant called me today to tell me his apartment had been broken into last night and some of his possessions were stolen. He stated that he would need to move out immediately as he no longer feels safe in the neighborhood. He believes that under the circumstances, he is relieved from the 30-day notice requirement. Can I lose my rights to a 30-day notice because of a situation my tenant brought on himself by leaving his window open?

A: Ordinarily, a landlord is not responsible for the unlawful acts of third parties unless the landlord knew or should have known that a criminal act was likely to take place on his property. Even so, there are some situations when a landlord may be responsible for injuries caused by a third party. A landlord is held to a higher standard of care when he advertises the property as a "security building." The landlord is also responsible when he knew or should have known of a condition on his property that would make the commission of a crime easier to perpetrate, i.e., if lights on the property have burned out and should have been replaced but weren't, and as a result, a tenant was raped or mugged.

If you were not aware of other incidents of theft at your complex, the fact that your tenant was robbed does not relieve him of his obligation to give you a 30-day notice. If you tenant does not feel safe there, he has the option to move, but not at your expense. Your only obligation is to try to re-rent the apartment, as quickly as possible to minimize the financial loss of the tenant.

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