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RENT WATCH

Lease stays intact despite sale

April 13, 2003|From Project Sentinel

Question: I've decided to sell the rental house I own. The tenants have a lease that will not expire for nine months. In exchange for a rent reduction, they have agreed to be flexible and allow the real estate agent to show the property with little or no advance notice. Can the tenants be required to move after the property is sold?

Answer: Unless you and your tenants mutually agree to cancel the lease before its expiration date, the tenants are not obligated or required to move after the rental property is sold and acquired by the new owners. All conditions of the lease remain unchanged and intact until the lease expires.

The only exception is if your lease agreement contains a specific clause terminating the lease upon sale of the property. Absent this clause, the new owners could offer to buy out the remainder of the tenants' lease.

Renter's insurance can be required

Question: My landlord has given me a 30-day written notice requiring me to either obtain renter's insurance or provide proof of a valid, in-force insurance policy. Can he require me to obtain this type of insurance?

Answer: Yes. The landlord has an "insurable interest" in the rental property you occupy. Requiring tenants to have renter's insurance may help a landlord to quickly and easily fix or get paid for damages that are considered the financial responsibility of the tenant.

Having renter's insurance also benefits a tenant who is unable to personally pay for tenant-caused damage or who experiences a personal loss, such as from a burglary.

This type of insurance does not remove the landlord's responsibility for his own duty of care.

For example, if the roof leaks and damages the carpet as well as your furniture, the landlord is financially responsible for all damage and cannot force you to make a claim against your renter's insurance policy for the carpet and furniture damage.

Can't charge more for seeing-eye dog

Question: I am legally blind and have qualified for an apartment that meets my needs. The landlord says I can have my seeing-eye dog but I must pay a higher security deposit. Can he charge me a higher deposit because of my dog?

Answer: Disability is a protected category under both state and federal fair housing law. It is discriminatory for a housing provider to charge a higher deposit or deny you the opportunity to rent a unit because of your guide dog.

A guide dog is a medical necessity, and housing providers have an obligation to grant reasonable accommodations to individuals with a medical necessity. By charging you a higher security deposit, housing providers are not fulfilling their obligation to provide reasonable accommodations.

Whenever a service animal such as your dog is medically required, a housing provider cannot designate any portion of a security deposit as a "pet deposit" since the animal is not considered a pet.

The landlord would be required to charge all incoming tenants a higher deposit to avoid a discrimination charge. Also, the landlord would remain limited to the statutory ceiling of two months rent for an unfurnished apartment.

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, the Southern California Housing Rights Center at (800) 477-5977 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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