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RENT WATCH

Subsidized Tenant Hopes to Stay in Home

July 04, 1999|From Project Sentinel

Question: I moved into my apartment with a Section 8 housing subsidy and a one-year lease. After seven months, the landlord told me that he is no longer going to accept Section 8 tenants. I don't want to move, but I can't afford to pay the full rent on my own. Can he do this?

Answer: Section 8 is a federally sponsored program for affordable housing that allows low-income tenants to pay up to 30% of their income toward the rent, with the balance being paid by the program. This program is administered locally in each county, generally by the housing authority.

Landlords who agree to participate must follow a few rules, such as honoring a rent ceiling determined for each geographical area (for example, a San Francisco landlord can charge a higher rent for a one-bedroom apartment than a Dayton, Ohio, landlord), allowing annual inspections by the housing authority staff and offering a one-year lease for the first year of the tenancy.

Most state laws govern tenancies for Section 8 tenants and landlords. The program gives renters with low incomes the chance to find places of their choice and guarantees property owners that they will receive a check for the balance of the rent on time from the government.

Your landlord has no obligation to participate in Section 8 and may decide to quit the program, provided that he honors the terms of current leases. Unless you commit a serious breach of the lease or do not pay your portion of the rent, you can stay in your apartment until the end of your lease.

You can discuss your desire to stay with your landlord, particularly if you have been a good tenant.

You can ask the housing authority that administers the Section 8 program in your area to discuss the program benefits with your landlord or request the services of your local housing mediation program.

A mediator may also be able to help you and your landlord explore the reasons why he does not want to continue renting through Section 8 and even find a solution that would allow you to stay.

If your landlord does not change his mind, you should focus your energy on finding a new Section 8 unit, from either an individual property owner or a nonprofit housing provider.

Only Tenant Can Lock Out Abusive Boyfriend

Q: I manage an apartment complex and have a difficult situation with one of my tenants. She and her boyfriend have been living here several years, and both are on the rental agreement. Lately, they have been having violent fights, and the police have been called on several occasions. Most recently, the police arrested the boyfriend, who has become abusive.

Now, she is understandably frightened and asked me if she can change the locks before the boyfriend is released. I feel obliged to protect her, but I don't know what the consequences might be if I did indeed allow her to lock him out. Any suggestions?

A: We understand your concerns, but by condoning a lockout, you could face legal repercussions. Under Section 789.3 of the California Civil Code, it is illegal for a landlord to lock a tenant out by changing the locks in the tenant's absence or by using any device that denies access.

No matter how serious a situation may be, management must go through formal legal proceedings to evict a tenant.

Your tenant can obtain a restraining order against the boyfriend, change the locks herself and provide you with a key. You can inform your tenant that there are battered women's assistance programs that can provide her with counseling and shelter information.

This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif. Questions may be sent to 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Suite 3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, but cannot be answered individually.

For housing discrimination questions, complaints or help, call the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment at (800) 233-3212 or the Fair Housing Council, Fair Housing Institute or Fair Housing Foundation office in your area:

Bellflower: (888) 777-4087

Carson: (888) 777-4087

El Monte: (626) 579-6868

Hawthorne: (888) 777-4087

Lancaster: (888) 777-4087

Long Beach: (562) 901-0808

Pasadena: (626) 791-0211

Redondo Beach: (888) 777-4087

San Fernando Valley: (818) 373-1185

Orange County: (714) 569-0828

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