QUESTION: I have lived in my Marina del Rey apartment for three years, and now I have a problem. When I moved into the unit, the manager knew about my 5-pound Yorkshire Terrier puppy. Several of my friends and neighbors in the building also have pets.
Although the lease prohibits pets, until recently the manager didn't do anything about them except periodically harass us verbally.
Everything was fine until a couple of months ago, when the tenants got notices that they must either get rid of their pets, move out of the building or be evicted. I was shocked, because I had signed a new one-year lease the month before.
This seems unfair to me. Do they have the right to do this to me?
ANSWER: Although the building's new dog policy may seem rough, it probably is legal. Violating a lease or rental agreement provision for months, or even years, doesn't automatically mean that it is not enforceable, though that can be true.
For example, if you were to fight the eviction in court, even though a judge may find that the building's management waived its right to prohibit pets by allowing you to have one for so long without taking any action to stop it, you still likely would be evicted if they gave you a 30-day notice to move because that is all that is required in Marina del Rey.
There is no requirement under state or county law that an owner give a reason for eviction. Marina del Rey is a part of the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County and, therefore, subject to its laws.
Also, owners usually can change rental policies, as long as the changes are reasonable and evenly enforced, with proper notice, 30 days for month-to-month rental agreements and at the end of terms for leases.
Letter Should Clean Up Questions About Carpet
Q: When I moved into my Studio City apartment a year ago, there were three stains on the carpet. I have since made a worse stain of my own, and it will not come out. It is permanent, like the three previous stains. Also, the carpet is "baggy" in one area. I believe that it needs replacing at this time. It was barely acceptable when I moved in.
I have made other stains on the carpet, but they should be able to be shampooed out. I am planning to move in a few months and wonder what my best course of action would be. Should I have the carpet cleaned before I move out or let the landlord deal with it? I would like to get as much of my security deposit back as possible.
A: Why don't you write your landlord a letter in advance explaining all of this? If you are right about the condition of the carpet and it really needs replacing, he may tell you that and let you know that you will not be penalized for not cleaning it.
He may, on the other hand, tell you that the carpet was clean when you moved in and that's how he expects it to be when you move out. If that's true, he probably will charge you for carpet cleaning if you don't have it shampooed.
If you or the landlord used a form to record the condition of the premises and its furnishings, carpeting included, when you moved into the unit (which I always recommend), it should be no problem to determine the changes in the condition of the carpeting as a result of your tenancy.
Expect Cleaning Deposit Return in Tear-Down
Q: I have lived in the same Duarte apartment for the last 15 years. Now it is being demolished to make way for a city redevelopment project. When I moved in, I paid first and last month's rent, a cleaning deposit and a security deposit.
Shouldn't I expect to get the entire cleaning and security deposits back since the building is being torn down?
Also, the current rent is about $300 more than when I moved into the apartment. Should I have the landlord use the money I paid 15 years ago for the last month's rent? That would save me $300.
A: If the building is being torn down, and no money is spent on cleaning or fixing any damages that exceed "normal wear and tear" (which includes things like lost keys or remotes), you should expect all of your deposit money back, assuming all of the rent is paid.
Does the 15-year-old last month's rent deposit pay all of the current rent? Making that rent argument probably is a hard sell. It is highly unlikely that the owner intended for you to pay 1998 rent, the last month's rent, at low 1983 rental rates.
If your rental agreement specifically says that the last month's rent is completely paid by the last month's rent deposit, though, that may be the case.
It is far more likely that the agreement says the last month's rent payment is a deposit toward the last month's rent, rather than the entire rent payment. Reread your rental agreement carefully for the meaning of the last month's rent payment paragraph.
Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of AAGLA, an apartment owners' service group, and manager of public affairs for the California Apartment Law Information Foundation, which disseminates information about landlord-tenant law to renters and owners in California. Mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to AAGLA, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.