QUESTION: I live in a large apartment complex in Burbank and I have some questions. I understand that under state law landlords and managers must provide ample written notification of water and power shut-offs, and of their intent to enter one's apartment unit to perform maintenance.
The manager at this complex only posts this type of information on a cable TV service's information channel. My problem is that I don't subscribe to cable. As a result, I've been caught off-guard by high-decibel, 6:30 a.m. tree trimmings, morning water shut-offs and unannounced entries into the apartment by repairmen.
Does the posting of such information on a cable channel satisfy these state law requirements? The manager seems to think it does.
ANSWER: First, about the noise, according to Sgt. Len Doran of the Burbank Police Department, 6:30 a.m. is too early for construction or similar (tree-trimming) noise.
The tree trimmers should wait until 7 a.m. to start and should quit by 10 p.m. You should make the manager aware of this before taking more drastic action, like complaining to the police.
If the manager is unresponsive, you may make a complaint about the noise, to which the police will respond. To do so you may phone the Burbank Police Dept. at (818) 953-8731.
As far as water and power shut-offs are concerned, state law does not mandate that you be notified of them in advance, but common courtesy does.
I'll assume that the manager puts the water shut-off information on cable, like he puts the "notices" of the maintenance men's intent to enter units. That might be reasonable notice if everyone in the building had cable. Since you don't, you are getting no notice, which is no good.
State Civil Code section 1954 requires "reasonable notice," oral or written, of one's intent to enter, which is usually presumed to be 24 hours' notice. At a minimum, the manager should verbally notify you of someone's intent to enter your unit. Ideally, a written notice is better.
Put Gardening Duties of Renters in Writing
Q: In your Sept. 11 column, your answer to the question "What Happens When Tenant Neglects Yard?" has me rethinking my rental policies on the single-family homes I rent out in Ojai.
I always assumed that it is the tenant's responsibility to take care of the lawn and gardens in single-family rentals. You don't mention that in the answer to the reader's question.
Rather, you say that the owner can alter the written rental agreement or lease with the tenant and he may " . . . withdraw the 'maintenance concession' (taking care of the lawn) and increase the rent."
Am I out of step, or are renters in single-family homes required to take care of the lawns and gardens at these types of rentals regardless of the agreement?
A: Out of step on this one, I'm afraid. Unless you and the tenants specifically agree that they will care for the lawn and gardens, orally or in writing (in writing is always better), it is your responsibility to care for, or provide for the care of, these areas.
If you want to make the renters responsible for the lawns and gardens in your rentals, you should write it into the rental agreement at the inception of the tenancy.
Listing specific duties, such as "watering, trimming, pruning and mowing are required," is better than merely saying something like, "The tenants are responsible for the lawn and gardens."
You may change the terms of the tenancies of existing renters with month-to-month rental agreements by giving them 30-day notice of the changes, such as responsibility for gardening.
You may not, however, change the terms of existing renters with leases unless they concur, or until the leases are up for renewal.
Some Tax Advantages of Rental Repairs
Q: I am a single-family homeowner in Newport Beach who will soon be a landlord. In the very near future I will be moving overseas and renting out my house.
I understand that there are some tax advantages to renting out a house, such as when you make "improvements" (like a new roof, for example) to it. My question is when and how do you get these tax breaks? Also, what qualifies as an allowed "improvement?"
A: As a landlord who owns and rents the house, or apartment building, as a business, you are entitled for tax purposes to amortize (spread out) the costs of certain "capital improvements" (like a new roof) that you make to the home.
The amortization schedules--the number of years over which you may deduct the improvement's cost on your tax return--vary with different improvements.
You should consult your accountant or tax attorney for specific information about which improvements qualify and their write-off schedules.