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RENT WATCH

Does Tenant Have to Reveal Health History?

July 17, 1994|Special to The Times

QUESTION: What questions may an owner or manager ask about a tenant's medical condition? I receive Supplemental Security Income(SSI), have a Section 8 voucher and have lived in this complex for a year without any medical incident. Perhaps because the nature of my disability is not obvious (I use no wheelchair, cane, guide dog or hearing aid), the manager has recently become extremely curious about the exact nature of my disability. He keeps asking for my medical information, which I have politely declined to provide. I have told him that any information necessary for my care in a medical emergency can be found in my wallet, and otherwise I prefer not to discuss my condition. May I continue to refuse to answer his intrusive question?

ANSWER: Yes, you may safely continue to keep your health information private. Under the 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act, the landlord may ask you only the same questions he asks of all other tenants and prospective renters, such as questions related to your capability to pay the rent, to maintain your unit (with or without assistance) and to assume the regular responsibilities of a tenancy. If you occupy, or plan to occupy, housing designated for persons with specific disabilities, you may be asked to prove that you qualify. Otherwise, disclosing the exact nature of your disability is up to you. You may, of course, opt to provide the information for your own safety, but there is no requirement that you do so. If you need support in dealing with this issue, contact your local fair housing agency.

Mobile Home Notices Changed to 90 Days

Q: I received a 60-day notice of a rent increase for the space I rent in a mobile home park. A friend told me that a new law requires a 90-day notice to mobile home owners before the rent increase can become effective. When I asked the park manager about this new law, she said she knew nothing about it, and that my rental agreement states that only a 60-day notice is required. I'm confused; who's correct, my friend or the park manager?

A: Your friend is correct. Civil Code Section 798.30, which governs rent increase notices for mobile home owners, was recently amended. As of Jan. 1, the amount time for the written notice required for a rent increase in a mobile home park was changed from 60 to 90 days. Therefore, regardless of what it states in your rental contract, park management must give you at least 90 days of notice for any rent increase after the first of this year. You might ask your park manager to review this amended section of the Civil Code to avoid future problems, or you can contact a local mediation service for assistance.

Hot Water Temperature Regulated by Code

Q: I don't get enough hot water in my apartment because I think the landlord keeps the water heater at the lowest possible temperature setting. What can I do?

A: You should tell your landlord about the problem. Perhaps he is unaware that the Uniform Housing Code, used by most city governments as a guide for housing standards, requires that hot water be at least 110 degrees F. at the faucet. If this is not happening in your apartment, the landlord may be in violation of this code. Speak with the landlord to determine why the water temperature is low. If the problem continues, you may want to contact the local housing inspector.

New Decor or Not, Kids Must Be Allowed

Q: Can a property owner refuse to rent me and my two sons because she just redecorated the house with pastel wallpaper and off-white carpeting? I love the house, and the location, near my sons' school and day care, is perfect for us, but the owner only reluctantly agreed to take an application from me. She may not seriously be considering us because she told me that she thought children would be too hard on her new decor. Isn't this child discrimination?

A: By failing to give you and your children an equal chance to apply for the house of your choice, the owner may unknowingly be engaging in child or familial status discrimination, which is illegal under state and federal law. Individuals and households vary widely in their housekeeping habits and it is unfair to assume automatically that a household with children will be less careful in this regard. It is the owner's prerogative to decorate that house as she wishes, but not to exclude families because of the color scheme that she chose voluntarily. For further advice and assistance in handling this situation, you should contact a fair housing agency in your area.

Is Work Exchanged for Deposit Refundable?

Q: When I moved into my apartment, I made an arrangement with the owner concerning the $700 security deposit. I would pay $400 up front and provide $300 worth of yard work on the property; the owner said fine. But when I moved out, the owner said he didn't have to return the yard work portion. What can I do?

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