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Tenant Questions Wheelchair Parking Charge

July 26, 1998|From Project Sentinel

QUESTION: Because of a disability, I must use a wheelchair. Although the lobby of my apartment building is wheelchair-accessible, I live on the second floor, and there is no elevator.

I own two wheelchairs; one is manual and one is motorized. With the help of my wife, I am able to maneuver my manual wheelchair up and down the flight of stairs from the lobby to the second level.

However, my motorized wheelchair is too heavy to carry up the stairs, and I asked the landlord's permission to park it in the lobby. He said he would allow it if I paid an additional $30 per month in rent, because that is how much the landlord charges tenants who park bicycles in the same area. May the landlord do this?

ANSWER: Federal and state fair housing laws require landlords to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

A reasonable accommodation is a landlord's change to a rule, policy, practice or service so that a tenant with a disability may use and enjoy the dwelling. An accommodation is considered to be reasonable if it does not impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the landlord.

Here, you would like the landlord to make an exception to his policy of charging higher rent to people who park vehicles in the lobby.

Whether you have a right to this accommodation depends on its reasonableness. If the fire marshal determined that the presence of the wheelchair would make the lobby unsafe to move around in, the wheelchair must be removed.

On the other hand, if the lobby is spacious and the wheelchair's presence has little impact on safety, you should be allowed to park your wheelchair in the lobby free of charge.

Either way, you need to find out if the landlord is willing to make an exception to his present policy. Send him a letter requesting a reasonable accommodation.

The letter should describe the specific accommodation that you are requesting and why the accommodation is necessary for your use and enjoyment of the premises. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. If the landlord is not willing to grant your request, you may contact a fair housing agency for assistance.

Flushed With Anger, Tenant Won't Pay Rent

Q: I have asked all my tenants to let me know of problems as soon as they occur. Recently, a tenant complained that his toilet is very noisy when it is flushed. The toilet is new and was made in Europe, so the local plumbing supply store doesn't stock the replacement part; it has to be ordered. I informed the tenant, and he continued to complain, and then yesterday, the first of the month, he informed me that he is withholding rent until the toilet is fixed.

What can I do to get him to pay the rent?

A: You have at least two options. If the toilet will be repaired soon, you can wait until the repair is completed and then ask for the rent.

Or you may send him a letter stating that you are responding to his complaint and the toilet is still usable, so the unit is not uninhabitable and therefore does not justify rent withholding.

If the tenant still doesn't pay rent, you can give him a 30-day notice to pay rent or quit (move out). If he still doesn't pay within the required time period, you may start the eviction process.

Another alternative is to contact your local tenant-landlord mediation service for assistance.

Manager Can't Evict Child-Care Program

Q: I started to manage a large apartment complex a few months ago and was surprised to find out that one of my tenants runs a day-care program in her unit. Must I allow her to do this?

A: Yes, but your tenant must also meet certain conditions under federal and state law. A tenant is required to notify the landlord about a child-care operation, but the landlord is not allowed to refuse the tenant the child-care home or threaten eviction for its existence.

However, a landlord may require that the tenant obtain a license for his/her child-care home. These licenses are issued by the state and can be obtained through the California Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Division at (650) 266-8800.

Though the landlord can require that the tenant have a license, he cannot require that the tenant obtain liability insurance for the child-care home.

He must allow the tenant to operate the family child-care home, even though it is uninsured, provided that the tenant can supply signed affidavits from each child's parent acknowledging that the program is not insured (California Health and Safety Code 1597.40).

If the family child-care home is insured, and if the landlord makes a written request, he may be added as a co-insured at the expense of the child-care provider (Amendment to the California Health and Safety Code 1597.531).

Termination Notice Doesn't Mean Eviction

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