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Ex-Tenant Hit With Fees for Eviction of Former Roommates

November 05, 2000|From Project Sentinel

Question: I have always lived with roommates, but last year I finally was able to move into my own apartment. I just received a bill from an attorney for a share of the cost to evict my former roommates from the apartment where I used to live. It seems that after I moved out, the landlord gave them a 30-day notice to move and they did not move out on time, so the landlord had to evict them through the courts.

Since I had moved and was not a part of the court action, I feel I should not have to pay this bill. I don't want this to ruin my credit. Do you think I owe this money?

Answer: It depends. If you gave your landlord a written 30-day notice stating you were moving, then you are not responsible for rent or any other aspects of the tenancy beyond your 30-day notice. This is true even if the landlord did not remove your name from the rental agreement after you moved.

On the other hand, if you did not notify your landlord that you were moving and you were named in the court action, then you can be held responsible for some portion of the legal fees--especially if the rental agreement allowed the landlord to collect attorney fees if legal action was required to end the tenancy.

If this is the case, you have several options. You can try to convince the attorney to drop your name from the bill, you can work with your former roommates to have them pay the bill sent to you or you can pay the bill to preserve your credit record and then attempt to recover your money through Small Claims Court from either your former landlord or roommates.

This convoluted approach is necessary because Small Claims Court can be used only to recover money that has actually been paid. Contact your local housing program for assistance if necessary.

Report Manager for Bias Against Families

Q: My husband and I were given a 30-day notice to move from our two-bedroom apartment. We just had twin boys and suspect the manager is asking us to move because of the babies (we are the only tenants who have children).

Also, the manager advertises two-bedroom units as one-bedroom/bonus room units, never as a two-bedroom unit, and we once heard him tell prospective tenants that he only rents two-bedroom units to two people. Is he doing something wrong?

A: Federal and state fair housing law prohibits owners and managers from discriminating against families with children. Because your manager may have a history of discriminating against families with children and because of his suspicious practice of advertising two-bedroom units as one-bedroom/bonus room units, you should ask your local fair housing agency to open an investigation on your behalf.

Even if your manager is not misrepresenting two-bedroom units as one-bedroom units, he may be in violation of the occupancy guidelines set forth by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. This department states that owners and managers of rental property should allow two people to occupy each bedroom, plus one additional person. Using this formula, an owner or manager should allow five occupants in a two-bedroom unit such as yours.

Understanding Details of Section-8 Subsidy

Q: I have been looking for an apartment for a long time, but no one will rent to me because I am on Section 8. Even when my voucher is sufficient to cover the rent, many landlords tell me they don't accept Section 8 applicants. Can they do this?

A: The Section 8 program provides affordable housing, through a rent subsidy, to low-income individuals who qualify. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the program to be administered locally by the county housing authority, which pays a portion of the rent directly to landlords. The balance of rent is paid by the tenant.

The subsidy may place restrictions, such as a one-year lease requirement, on the rental agreement in exchange for the rent it guarantees the landlord.

Unlike other categories protected from discrimination, having a Section 8 voucher is not in itself a category protected by federal or state fair housing laws. In general, landlords are not required to accept Section 8 applicants unless there is a local ordinance requiring that a landlord accept Section 8 applicants.

For instance, the San Francisco Police Code prohibits discrimination against any "rental assistance program, homeless assistance program, security deposit assistance program or housing subsidy program."

Although the California Fair Employment and Housing Act does not protect Section 8 recipients from discrimination on the basis of receiving it as a benefit, it does require that landlords set a reasonable minimum-income standard for applicants receiving a government rent subsidy.

In other words, it requires that any minimum-income standard used to qualify applicants be based not on the entire rent, but only on the portion of the rent the applicant pays after the subsidy is applied.

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