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Rent Control Exemption Applies Only to 'New Construction'


Question: I own a rental property in Studio City. In the Oct. 15 Apartment Life column you said that a rental unit for which a certificate of occupancy was issued after Oct. 1, 1978, was exempt from rent control in the city of Los Angeles.

I have an apartment that was vacant for a year and a half after the Northridge earthquake. After repairing the unit, I had to have a new certificate of occupancy issued. Does this qualify for a rent-control exemption or did it start again after I re-rented the place?

Answer: The previous question dealt with the city's definition of rentals classified as new construction under the rent law. Such rentals are exempt from the law. Under the rent law, any rental unit for which a first certificate of occupancy was issued after Oct. 1, 1978, is exempt.

Apparently, your situation is different. You don't say in your letter that your property is new construction. Assuming it isn't, you can't get the new construction exemption. If that's the case, rent control was reestablished at your rental unit after it was re-rented for the first time.

Severance, Relocation Fees Are Not Automatic

Q: I am a 70-year-old retiree living in West Hollywood. Three and a half years ago, I moved into a home with an 89-year-old. She paid me $400 to keep the house and fix the meals.

She promised to leave me something in her will, but she did not do so. Now the house is being sold and I have to move. Am I entitled to anything, relocation fees or severance pay?

A: Single-family homes in West Hollywood are exempt from the city's rent-control law, which requires relocation fees to be paid to tenants evicted for owner move-ins. Therefore, you are not entitled to any relocation fees.

You also are not entitled to any severance pay unless you had an agreement about it with your former employer. There is no local, state or federal law requiring employers to pay their employees severance pay.

Exteriors Are the Owner's Responsibility

Q: I have lived in an apartment in Irvine for 6 1/2 months and I am now vacating it. The landlord's list of cleaning specifications includes cleaning exterior windows, tracks and screens.

I always thought that the exterior of the building was the landlord's responsibility. Why would a tenant be responsible for cleaning these things?

A: Although this question has never come up before, the landlord generally has the obligation to maintain and clean the exterior of an apartment building.

If they were to deduct money from your security deposit for cleaning the exterior windows and screens, I would be surprised if they prevailed in a Small Claims Court action, which you would have to initiate to recover money inappropriately withheld from your deposit.

On the other hand, the window tracks may be considered a part of the unit. I would clean them.

Owner Need Not Replace Carpet

Q: I have lived in my North Hollywood apartment for the last 28 years. My carpets are severely worn out (rotted corners and baseboard and nails showing). No one will even come in and clean them. I have asked the managers several times for replacement carpeting. They claim I am not entitled to them after 28 years of living there.

They also have refused to give me storage space because I don't have a car. What are the legal and/or health issues that I can raise?

A: As far as I can tell, there are no legal or health issues involved here. There may be a safety issue with the carpet, however.

The managers are not required by law to give you parking or storage space with your unit. If they agree to provide you with either of them, they are allowed, even under rent control, to charge added rent for these added services.

As for the carpet, if it is "unsafe" (it sounds like it is), you may be able to require the owners to repair or remove it. They are not required to replace it. If your unit is under rent control, you may be entitled to a small rent reduction for the reduced service of not having carpet if they remove it.

Cabinet Paint Isn't Owner's Duty

Q: I have lived in an apartment in a Santa Ana complex for the last 10 years. I have asked them to paint the kitchen cabinets repeatedly, which are down to bare wood, and they said they would think about it and get back to me. They still haven't.

In fact, the manager recently said they might give me some paint and I could do it myself. I'm 68 years old and still work full-time. Should I do this cabinet painting or is it their responsibility?

A: Just as there is no local, state or federal law in North Hollywood compelling landlords to replace carpeting, there is no requirement for Santa Ana landlords to repaint your kitchen cabinets.

In fact, they don't even have to supply the paint by law. They are doing so, I presume, because you are a good longtime tenant. If you want to get the kitchen cabinets painted on a budget, your best bet is to take the free paint that the landlords are offering and do the job yourself.


Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of AAGLA, an apartment owners' service group. Mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to AAGLA, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.

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