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RENT WATCH

Arrival of Baby Prompts Apartment Eviction Warning

April 11, 1999|From PROJECT SENTINEL

Question: My husband and I live in a two-bedroom apartment. We have a month-to-month tenancy, and both of us are on the rental agreement. I just had a baby and the management says we can either move voluntarily or be evicted. They say that our rental agreement allows only two occupants and the baby is not allowed. Can they do this?

Answer: A landlord can issue an eviction notice to a tenant who brings in occupants who are not included on the rental agreement. However, in this case, the "additional occupant" is a baby and the reaction of the management seems unreasonable.

There is nothing to prohibit a landlord from renting a two-bedroom apartment to three people. In fact, some local ordinances prohibit an owner from refusing to rent a two-bedroom unit to three people. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has set forth guidelines which allow five occupants in a two-bedroom unit.

If you cannot persuade management to allow the three of you to continue to live in your apartment, you may want to contact your local fair housing program.

City Also Subject to Fair Housing Laws

Q: I heard that a California city recently rehabilitated a single house in a private park and was going to rent the house at an affordable rate as long as the renters did not have children or pets. The city cited safety concerns about a pond and a parking lot.

As a small rental property owner, I have attended a number of training seminars on how to manage rental property and I am confused. I thought that you could not exclude families with children from a rental unless it was a seniors-only facility. Am I right? Doesn't a city have to follow the same laws as any other landlord?

A: You are correct. It is a violation of federal and state fair housing laws to discriminate against families with children.

The safety of very young children around ponds, pools and parking areas is a common concern in many rental communities. Though property owners must ensure a safe environment for their residents, guests and other visitors, it is the parents who must watch and protect their children from danger.

Property owners must be careful not to take the responsibility that parents and guardians alone hold.

In this particular case, a potential fair housing violation has been averted. Fair-housing advocates have been in contact with that city and have explained that the law applies to their single-family dwelling. The city has taken responsible steps to ensure that all qualified applicants, regardless of family status, are given an equal opportunity to apply.

Deposit Owed to Departing Roommate

Q: I have been living in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. I am moving out the end of this month and would like to know the proper procedure for getting my deposit returned.

When I asked my landlord about this, he said I should get it from the new roommate moving in or from the current roommate. He also said the original agreement would be canceled once a new agreement is signed either by my roommate or the new roommate. Does the new agreement affect how I should get my deposit back?

A: Yes. Because your landlord is terminating the tenancy by canceling the original rental agreement, he is creating a new tenancy for the remaining roommate and the new roommate.

It is his obligation to return your deposit minus any legitimate deductions. He needs to do this within 21 days unless a shorter period is spelled out in the rental agreement.

If you had a roommate move in to replace you without terminating the original agreement, the landlord would not be required to return the deposit until the last roommate on the original agreement has left. A landlord is required to return the deposit only when a tenancy is terminated.

In most cases like this, the roommate moving out customarily collects his or her portion of the deposit from the roommate moving in. It is, however, a good idea to terminate your tenancy in writing upon leaving so you cannot be held responsible for whatever might happen after you leave.

It is also in the best interest of the remaining roommate to request a walk-through with the landlord when you leave in order to document the condition of the apartment at that time. It is best to deal with any deductions made by the landlord before a roommate leaves to avoid the possibility of a dispute, should the roommate become unavailable in the future.

Fairness Law Applies to Mental Disabilities

Q: I am a social worker and provide assistance to individuals with mental disabilities. One of my clients moved into a second-floor apartment about a year ago. One evening last week, my client's mental disability caused her to jump up and down on the floor continuously for about 15 minutes.

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