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Window Coverings Are Strictly Optional for Landlords

APARTMENT LIFE

October 15, 2000|KEVIN POSTEMA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Question: Is it true that landlords must provide tenants with blinds or curtains for their windows? I live in Mar Vista and my landlord says no but many of my friends are telling me yes. Who's right?

Answer: Landlords generally provide window coverings in the form of blinds or drapes for windows in rentals. However, while it is true that landlords must provide tenants with unbroken window panes and intact window screens for their windows, the law does not cover blinds or curtains. They are strictly optional.

Most property owners supply blinds or drapes because it makes apartments easier to market, because they usually can command slightly higher rents with them and because, like you, many tenants have come to expect them.

Displaced Tenant Bills Owner for Hotel Stay

Q: I live in La Canada-Flintridge and I rent out a condo in Palm Springs. The one-year lease I have with the tenant is up so it has converted to a month-to-month rental agreement.

During the last heat wave the air conditioner broke down. The temperature was about 120 degrees. The tenant moved into a hotel while the air conditioner was being repaired. Now, I'm being told that I have to pay the tenant's hotel bill because the condo was not in habitable condition.

It cost more than $3,000 to replace the air conditioner, and I was really mad when I saw the hotel bill of $472 for 11 days. The condo only rents for $425 a month. There are many ways a tenant can keep cooler, like fans or air misters.

Can the tenant stay in a luxury hotel and bill the owner? It seems to me that deducting the daily rental value is reasonable compensation. What do you think?

A: All of the terms and conditions contained in your lease, except for the one-year term and possibly the amount of rent, which you can now raise since the lease is expired, carry over to your month-to-month rental agreement.

If you have a good lease, it provides that you are liable only for the daily rental value of the condo while the tenant is unable to live there due to "habitability" repairs or pest or vermin control efforts. Check your lease carefully because its provisions prevail.

Although California's habitability law requires minimum heating standards, it does not oblige apartment owners to maintain minimum cooling standards. Nevertheless, common sense tells you that in 120 degree heat, it is fair to rebate the daily rental value of the condo while the air conditioner is repaired.

With rent of $425, the daily rental value is $14.16, or $155.76 for 11 days. I would at least rebate that amount to the tenant, even though you are not strictly required to do so by law.

If your lease, or rental agreement, is silent about what happens when the tenant must vacate due to habitability problems, resolving the affair is less clear-cut. State law requires you to negotiate something with the tenant, which can be reasonable reimbursement for a hotel stay.

You ask in your letter if a tenant can stay in a luxury hotel and bill the owner. Even though $472 for 11 days is a lot more than $425 for 30 days (a month's rent), it is only $42.90 per day, which is considerably less than the average luxury hotel rate.

Ask City for Copy of Rental Ordinance

Q: I own a rental unit in a condo in Los Angeles, and I have been told verbally several times by the Los Angeles Housing Department that any rental unit built after Oct. 1, 1978, is considered new construction and, therefore, is exempt from rent control and the 3% rent increase. My rental was built and completed in 1982.

The department has mailed me a copy of their bulletin explaining the ordinance but it does not say anything about new construction. Where can I get a copy of the ordinance that says my property is exempt? Also, can I raise the rent more than 3%?

A: You should be able to get a copy of the rent-control ordinance from the city's housing department. Since it is lengthy, they may want to charge you for copying and mailing.

The law says, as they have told you, that any rental premises for which a certificate of occupancy has been issued after Oct. 1, 1978, is exempt from the law. That means that you can raise the rent to the market level with a 30-day notice.

Manager Must Give Notice Before Entering

Q: I live in Long Beach and I want to know about my rights regarding a manager entering my apartment, including an enclosed garage that I rent. It is not attached to my apartment. What are my rights in this situation?

A: State law provides that an owner or manager may enter upon reasonable notice. Twenty-four hours is presumed to be reasonable notice.

There are exceptions. For instance, fumigation of an apartment, for which a good deal of prep work is required, requires more than 24 hours notice. Also, in the case of an emergency one may enter immediately.

Although a garage is not specified in the law, it likely would be deemed part of the premises by a court since it is specified in your rental agreement.

*

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

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