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Displacement Is Cause for Rent Reimbursement

APARTMENT LIFE

January 09, 2000|KEVIN POSTEMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: I am a renter in Huntington Beach. My landlord wants to fumigate the apartments and we will be forced to stay in a hotel for three days. What are my legal rights? Does he have to reimburse me or pro-rate my rent?

Related Question: My landlord tells me I will have to move out of the apartment for two or three weeks for plumbing repairs. Should I be reimbursed for the time I am not in the apartment?

Answer: When you are forced to temporarily vacate rental premises for repairs or fumigation, whether for a few days or a few weeks, the contract you signed with your landlord, either a lease or a month-to-month rental agreement, determines the amount of compensation to which you are entitled.

If you have an oral agreement about compensation, it also is binding. Either way, you are entitled to a pro-rata rent reduction.

Most newer leases and rental agreements say something like, "Rent shall be abated during renter's absence." In other words, if your rent were $900 a month, you would get a $30-per-day rent credit for as long as you are out of the unit (all rental months are based on 30-day months).

It is more difficult to determine how much you are entitled to if there is no written or oral agreement. Then, "reasonable" compensation is subject to negotiation between you and the landlord.

No Such Thing as an 'Implied' Lease

Q: I have been renting a single-family home in Rancho Palos Verdes for the last 2 1/2 years. I was on a one-year lease for the first two years, but the latest one expired six months ago. The landlord meant to give me another one-year lease but he never got around to it.

Now I am in the process of buying a home and would like to give the landlord at least 30 days' notice before the escrow closes. I know that he thinks we have an oral one-year lease. Am I correct in assuming that I am on a month-to-month agreement because I did not sign a lease? Is there such a thing as an implied lease?

A: You are correct. When a residential lease expires in California, the tenant is automatically on a month-to-month agreement under state law. There is no such thing as an implied lease. Any lease in excess of 30 days must be the product of an expressed agreement between you and the owner.

You also are required by state law to give the owner at least a 30-day notice of your intent to vacate. Whether you are an owner or a renter, it is almost always better to give more notice than required if you can.

The more time you give the landlord to find a new renter, the better. Things go much more smoothly if the owner doesn't lose any rent because a new renter has been found to occupy the rental when you vacate.

Proof Needed to Nail Prostitute Neighbor

Q: I live in a 12-unit Sherman Oaks apartment building. It is evident that a prostitute is using one of the apartments as a place of business. When she's there, a constant stream of men come and go between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., she leaves and another woman comes and uses the apartment for the same purpose until the morning.

I brought the matter to the landlord's attention several months ago and he said the woman is a bookkeeper who sees clients sent by her office. However, all of these "clients" are male, behave in an embarrassed fashion, arrive with nothing in their hands and do not make eye contact with any of the tenants.

We are very uncomfortable with this situation and have sent a letter to the landlord asking him to address it. What are our rights and the landlord's obligations?

A: The things that make you suspicious--no eye contact, no paperwork and embarrassed looks--do not amount to a "'nuisance." At this point you have only speculation but no cause of action (right to complain in court if the owner does not take action).

If there is criminal activity in the apartment, it is best handled by the Los Angeles Police Department. According to the vice unit at the LAPD's Van Nuys Division, you need more than lack of eye contact and embarrassed looks for them to do an undercover operation.

Relocation Fees Not Required in Burbank

Q: I live in Burbank, which has no rent control, and I have a couple of questions. I know that in some instances if a landlord wants to move in a family member or do major repairs to an apartment that require tenants to move out, he must pay them relocation fees. Does this apply in Burbank?

Also, if a school district buys the property and the tenants are evicted, do they have to pay relocation fees to the tenants?

A: There is no requirement for owners in Burbank to pay renters relocation fees when evicting to move in family members or do major repairs.

If a school district condemns property that is subject to a lease, you may have a claim for leasehold value, plus some relocation benefits.

Relocation fees are required of the owners of rent-controlled apartments in some cities in Los Angeles County under the circumstances you describe.

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Send your questions to AAGLA, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.

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