QUESTION: My 82-year-old mother shares an apartment with me. Because she has arthritis and a heart condition and requires several medications throughout the day, my sister and my cousin check in on her periodically while I am at work. They heat her meals, administer her medication and do quite a bit to cheer her up. We cannot afford a full-time attendant, and Mama prefers family anyway, so this seemed like the best possible solution. Unfortunately, last week a nosy neighbor complained to the manager that I have too many guests, and I just got a warning notice. What should I do?
ANSWER: It is extremely important to discuss this situation with the manager as soon as possible. Perhaps she will show more understanding once she knows about your family's situation. If she needs persuasion, point out to her that under the Fair Housing Act of 1988, your mother, as a disabled person, is entitled to the home support services she needs and that family members can be invaluable in providing disabled and elderly persons with assistance and with a comforting and supportive presence. If other tenants have concerns about noise, foot traffic or parking, these can be specifically addressed while your mother's needs are also accommodated. You may wish to contact your local fair housing agency for additional information or support.
Can Manager Refuse to Rent to Deaf Person?
Q: I am deaf and I use a TDD (telecommunication device for the deaf) and American Sign Language to communicate with others. I was unable to rent an apartment recently because the manager would not talk with me through the interpreter that I brought with me. The manager said that he didn't know who would get the apartment, but that he couldn't be bothered with always having to deal with a third party where I was concerned. This is not the first time that I have encountered this situation. Do I have any recourse?
A: The Fair Housing Act was strengthened in 1988 with an amendment that added people with mental and physical disabilities to the list of protected categories. The act requires that housing providers make reasonable accommodations in their rules, practices, policies and/or services to give people with disabilities equal access to use and enjoy the dwelling units of their choice.
In your case, the manager's failure to make a reasonable accommodation to your disability by allowing an interpreter to facilitate communication, constituted a violation of the law. If you need additional help, call your local fair housing agency. Project Sentinel, which answers the state-funded Housing Discrimination Hotline (415-HOUSING), now has a TDD number for the deaf and hard of hearing, which is (800) 321-9484. To reach other fair housing groups in your area, call the Pacific Bell phone relay system, (800) 772-3140.
Is Rent Due If Tenant Never Moved In?
Q: I agreed to rent my apartment to a young couple who signed a month-to-month rental agreement a month before they were supposed to move in. They immediately paid the first month of rent and the security deposit. Eight days before they were to move in, they called me and asked for their money back, saying that they changed their minds. Do I owe them a refund?
A: Because they agreed to become tenants by signing the rental agreement, their month-to-month tenancy can be terminated with a 30-day written notice. Although a written notice is required by law, you may consider their call as a 30-day notice to terminate their tenancy. Since they did not move in, they owe you 30 days of rent beginning with the day after they called. Since the couple did not move in, you cannot charge them for damages or cleaning expenses; therefore, you should return their full security deposit within 21 days after they called you. In the meantime, you must try to re-rent the unit. If a new tenant moves in before the end of the 30-day period, you should refund adjusted rent starting with the day the new tenant moved in.
\o7 This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif. Questions may be sent to 582-B Dunholme Way, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94087, but cannot be answered individually. For help in the Los Angeles area, call the Westside Fair Housing Council at (310) 475-9671.