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New Tenant Claims to Be Allergic to the Carpet

October 23, 1994|KEVIN POSTEMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, an apartment owners' service group

QUESTION: I rent out an apartment and I am having a problem with a new tenant there. She has a note from her doctor indicating that she may be allergic to the carpet in the living room.

As a result, she removed the carpet to the laundry room. She says, in a letter to me, that the floor has been shined and "the apartment looks better than ever."

Before she moved in, I had the carpet shampooed. It's not that old or worn and it looked lovely after the cleaning. Since the apartment is located on the second floor, it requires carpeting to keep the noise down.

Since the carpet is nylon instead of wool, I believe that she merely may be allergic to the cleaning agent. I've shopped prices on having the existing carpet cleaned with a different cleaning agent ($100-$300) and on new carpet (about $500).

My question is, "Who pays for what?" Since I provided the carpet, should she replace it or have it recleaned? If she bought new carpet, who would own it when she left? What do you think would be fair?

ANSWER: Because she says in her letter to you that the apartment "looks better than ever" without the carpet, it sounds to me like she prefers the apartment without any carpet of any kind. You, on the other hand, seem to be requiring the carpet for noise abatement.

First, I would talk to the renter and find out if she would be happy with any carpet in the apartment, explaining the noise problem to her at the same time.

If she is opposed to having carpet, you may be able to work out some kind of compromise. For instance, you could agree to no carpet in the room if she and her guests would agree not to walk on the floor with hard shoes.

If that is not acceptable to her, you may give her a 3-Day Notice to Perform Covenant--reinstall or replace the rug.

If she agreed to replace the carpet, it would be hers when she left. If she agreed to have it recleaned, given the loose rental market (lots of vacancies), I would, at a minimum, offer to split that cost with her. It is unlikely that you could compel her to have the carpet recleaned anyway.

If she is unwilling to live in the unit with carpet, and you insist that she have it, your only remedy is, unfortunately, eviction.

What Happens to Lease When Owner Sells?

Q: I have been leasing a house in Mission Viejo on a yearly basis for the last three years. The current lease expires on July 1, 1995.

Due to financial hardships, the owner must now sell the house. What are my rights as a renter if the house should sell before my lease is up?

A: The big advantage of a lease over a month-to-month rental agreement is that it guarantees you the right to remain in the premises until it expires, unless you break it, regardless of who the owner is.

If the house sells before the lease is up, the lease carries over to the new owner, with all its provisions intact. Your rights would remain the same with the new owner as they were with the former owner.

Tenant Feels Too Much Deposit Was Withheld

Q: I lived in a Culver City apartment for two years. I posted a $400 security deposit when I moved in, but I only got a $100 refund from it when I moved out and I think I've been cheated.

The owner says he used the money to shampoo the carpet and to plaster and paint the walls. I swept and vacuumed the carpet very well and I plastered all of the nail holes in the wall so I don't think he should have kept anything.

As far as I'm concerned, I did nothing that would constitute anything more than "ordinary wear and tear," which the civil code says I'm entitled to do without penalty. What do you think, and how can I get the rest of my money back?

A: First, about the carpet. You say in your letter that you swept and vacuumed it, but you don't say whether you shampooed it. Assuming it was new or freshly shampooed or new when you moved in, and you didn't shampoo it, the owner has the right to do so and charge you for it.

As far as plastering and painting go, most Small Claims Courts, where you would sue to get any deposit refund owed to you, recognize three years as "ordinary wear and tear" for painting, which includes plastering. Therefore, the owner could logically charge you for one-third of those costs.

If you believe that the $300 the owner deducted from the deposit is excessive, i.e., more than the cost of shampooing the carpet and one-third of the plaster and paint costs, you may sue him in Small Claims Court for the balance.

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