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APARTMENT LIFE

Manager's Air Conditioner Steams Tenant

May 23, 1999|KEVIN POSTEMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: I live in a 20-unit apartment building in Los Angeles and I have a problem. Last month the manager of the building got a new air conditioner from the management company. No one else in the building has an air conditioner. Most of the tenants are over 50 years old. How can this happen? Can you help?

Answer: I assume you are hot over the fact that the manager got an air conditioner and you didn't.

The management company is not obligated to provide you with this extra amenity just because it bought one for the manager. The tenants' ages are not relevant to the situation either.

If the roof were leaking, which is a habitability problem, and it fixed only the roof over the manager's apartment while yours continued to leak, that would be a problem about which you could do something. Yours is not a habitability problem. It's a comfort problem.

Keep your cool, and if you can afford one, ask for permission to install, or have installed, your own air conditioner.

Compensation Isn't Easy to Determine Q: I'm a renter living in Beverly Hills and will need to vacate my apartment for 2 1/2 days because of termite extermination. I asked my landlord about compensation and he told me he would give me an allowance of $30 a day.

I contacted one agency that told me I am entitled to reasonable compensation for the expenses incurred as a result of such temporary relocation.

My question is, what is reasonable compensation? I don't plan on staying at a luxury hotel, but the cheapest hotel in the neighborhood is about $100 a night, and I believe that I'll need about $30 a day just for meals.

Are you aware of any dollar amount guidelines for this situation? When I casually mentioned to the landlord that I thought he would have to pay for all my food and lodging, his reply was that he couldn't afford it and it was my problem. Can you help?

A: Unfortunately, the definition of reasonable is unreasonably difficult to determine. That's why it is sometimes spelled out in your lease or rental agreement. The first thing to do is to check it to see what, if anything, it says about the situation.

For instance, the rental agreement of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles says, "Upon demand by owner, renter shall temporarily vacate the premises, for a reasonable period required, to allow cited or needed repairs, pest or vermin control work to be done. Rent shall be abated during renter's absence."

If your agreement says something similar to that, that's probably all the compensation you get, the daily rental value of your unit. I'm guessing that your agreement has the above language and your monthly rent is about $900, meaning you would get a $30 daily credit.

You would have a better chance of getting $130 a day, which is what you seem to want, if your rental agreement were silent about compensation. Then any compensation is subject to negotiation between the two of you.

Many Small Claims Court judges, who usually hear these types of disputes, would agree that reimbursement of actual costs of $130 a day, assuming that's what you had, is reasonable.

*

Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, 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.

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