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Rent Watch

Fruit-Picking Landlord Must Notify Tenant

November 11, 2001| From Project Sentinel and

Question: I rent a house that has many fruit trees in the backyard. During the last fruit-picking season, I had a problem with my landlord, as well as her family, coming into my yard at all hours of the day and night to pick the fruit.

When I moved in, it was agreed that I would care for the trees in exchange for a share of the fruit. I don't mind sharing, but I do mind that they didn't ask permission or notify me before coming onto the property to pick the fruit.

I don't want the same problem next year. Should they be giving me notice before coming onto my property to pick the fruit?

Answer: The California Civil Code requires that property owners give tenants reasonable notice, which is presumed to be a 24-hour notice, of an intent to come onto or enter rental property. However, the code allows for a landlord to enter without notice if there is an emergency, a tenant has given permission to enter and make repairs or the court has given possession of the property to the landlord.

All other situations, including fruit-picking, require that you be given a 24-hour notice to enter and that the owner limit his or her entry to normal business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. This notice also applies to a landlord's agent and family members.

Since you don't mind sharing the fruit, perhaps you and your landlord could set up a schedule for each harvest time that is convenient for all of you. Contact your local mediation program for more help in resolving this matter.

Contact Housing Agency for Bias Complaint

Q: I am involved in a long-term, same-sex relationship. A prospective landlord has just refused to rent to me and my partner. Even though she did not state why we were being rejected, she said the unit would not work for us and our applications were returned.

My partner and I are high-level professionals. We have good credit and tenancy records. There is no reason we should have been rejected. Can the manager reject us based on our living arrangement?

A: The Unruh Civil Rights Act of the state of California prohibits using sexual preference or sexual orientation as a basis to determine whether a rental will be offered to prospective tenants. An applicant can only be rejected for valid business reasons.

To avoid the possibility of a claim of discrimination, property owners, or their agents, should follow a predetermined application process and criteria that treats all applicants fairly and equally. Legitimate business reasons that can be used include references, income and/or rental history. Contact your local fair housing agency for more assistance.

Calculate and Inform Tenants of Rent Increase

Q: I just purchased a small rental duplex and gave each tenant a notice to increase their rent. The problem is I did not serve the notice on the first of the month and the effective date falls in the middle of the next month.

Do I have to wait and reserve the notice on the first day of the next month or can I prorate the increase to become effective in the middle of the month?

A: A January 2001 change to California Civil Code 827 requires that any rent increase of 10% or more requires a 60-day advance notice to month-to-month tenants. The new 60-day law does not apply to leases.

Regardless of whether your increase amount requires a 30-day or 60-day notice, you have two options.

If you don't mind doing the math, you can prorate the rent so the new rent amount becomes effective in the middle of the month. As an example, if the new rent is to begin on the 17th of a month, divide the old and new rent by 30 to determine the daily rate for each. Then multiple the old rent daily rate by 16 and the new rent daily rate by the number of days remaining in the month. The final step is to add these two amounts together to establish a total rent due for that month.

The simplest option for you is to make the increase effective on the first day of the next full month--in either 30 or 60 days, depending on the percentage amount of the increase. If your tenants are on leases, you cannot increase the rent until their leases expire.

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This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif. Questions may be sent to 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Suite 3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, but cannot be answered individually.

For housing discrimination questions, complaints or help, call the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment at (800) 233-3212 or the Fair Housing Council, Fair Housing Institute or Fair Housing Foundation office in your area:

Bellflower: (562) 901-0808.

Carson: (888) 777-4087.

El Monte: (626) 579-6868.

Hawthorne: (310) 474-1667.

Lancaster: (888) 777-4087

Long Beach: (562) 901-0808

Pasadena: (626) 791-0211.

Redondo Beach: (888) 777-4087

San Fernando Valley: (818) 373-1185.

South-Central Los Angeles: (213) 295-3302.

Westside Los Angeles: (310) 474-1667.

Orange County: (714) 569-0828.

San Bernardino County: (909) 884-8056.

San Diego County: (619) 699-5888.

Ventura County: (805) 385-7288

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