YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Families Have Right to Obtain Housing

November 01, 1998|From PROJECT SENTINEL

QUESTION: I made an appointment with an apartment manager to view a two-bedroom unit. The manager seemed rather enthusiastic during our phone conversation, but when I arrived at the complex with my 6-year-old son and infant daughter, her attitude changed. The manager muttered something about our needing a larger unit and then reluctantly gave me an application form.

Should I even take the time to fill it out? I really don't think that she will seriously consider renting to me.

ANSWER: If you like the unit, you should definitely fill out the application. You are the only one who can decide what is best for you and your family.

Guidelines from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing suggest that owners should allow two people per bedroom plus one additional person per unit and you are below the maximum number recommended for a two-bedroom unit.

If the manager decides not to rent to you because of your children or family size, she is discriminating based on your familial status.

Such discrimination is prohibited under the California Unruh Civil Rights Act as well as the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988. Your city may also have ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on familial status.

So go ahead and fill out the application. If you are not offered the unit and feel that it is because you have two children, you may contact your local fair housing office or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Tenant Must Pay When Damage Isn't 'Normal'

Q: Because my tenant is moving out in a few days, I recently inspected the property with him. The place was a mess. It was filthy, windows were broken, walls were marked with crayons and there was mold in the bathrooms.

His deposit is only $400, and, conservatively, it will take several times that to put the house back into rentable condition. When I complained about the damage, he said that everything was normal wear and tear and that he expected his full deposit back.

At this point, before be vacates, what should I do?

A: You might start by having a discussion with your tenant, explaining that not only is his deposit at risk, he may also be charged for more if he doesn't do some cleaning and repair of the damage. "Normal wear and tear" do not apply to damage and neglect.

What are normal wear and tear? For example, if an apartment has a garbage disposal that breaks because of age, the tenant would not be responsible for its repair or replacement. If, however, it breaks because of the tenant's carelessness, the tenant would be responsible.

If the house is not in good condition when your tenant leaves, take still photos of the damage and unkempt areas. If you use outside vendors to do cleaning and repair, save the bills or invoices; do the same for anything you need to buy, such as doors, window glass, etc.

Be sure to get your accounting of expenses to the tenant within the 21 days required by California Civil Code 1950.5 (or a shorter period of time, if so stated in your rental agreement).

If you and your tenant cannot agree on a resolution, you may want to contact your local mediation program for assistance. You also have the option of using Small Claims Court for your area.

30-Day Notice Isn't Necessary With Lease

Q: My tenant's lease expires in a month. I don't want to renew the lease, and I am unsure of what to do. Should I give her a 30-day termination notice?

A: A 30-day notice is used to end a month-to-month tenancy; a lease terminates at the end of its term, so no notice is required.

If you accept rent for a period beyond that date, you would have extended the tenancy on a month-to-month basis. Once the tenancy converts to a month-to-month tenancy, you need only give a 30-day notice of termination of tenancy to your tenant.

It is always a good idea to talk this over with a tenant before the lease ends to avoid any misunderstanding or to send a courtesy letter explaining your intentions not to renew the lease or to extend the tenancy.

Landlords Responsible for Returning Deposits

Q: We are moving from our rental home in a few days, and the landlord has said he has no money to return our security deposit. What can we do?

A: The owner of a rental property is obliged to return your deposit within 21 days (or in a shorter time, if it is so stated in the rental agreement).

Although there is no requirement that landlords keep the deposit in a special account, landlords should not use the money for anything that is not related to the deposit, such as the cost of repairs, cleaning, reimbursing the tenant, etc.

The excuse of not having the money is not legitimate. How he comes up with the money is his problem, not yours.

If you cannot resolve this situation on your own or through mediation, you may decide to file a legal action in Small Claims Court.

Los Angeles Times Articles