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Month-to-month renter must give 30-day notice

August 03, 2003|From Project Sentinel

Question: When I moved into my apartment six years ago I had a one-year lease. After the first year, the lease was not renewed, and I stayed on as a month-to-month tenant. The original lease did not require either party to give a 30-day notice to end the tenancy.

I have been transferred and need to move in two weeks. The property owner said I need to give a 30-day notice. Aren't the conditions of my original lease still in effect?

Answer: Once a lease expires and a tenant keeps paying rent without renewing the lease, the tenancy becomes month-to-month. Under this condition, California Civil Code Section 1946 states that the amount of notice required is determined by the number of days between rent payments. A rental month is defined as 30 days regardless of the number of days in the month.

Since you pay rent monthly, your landlord is entitled to a 30-day notice in writing. You must pay rent during this 30-day period, even if you vacate earlier.

You can only avoid this notice obligation, and ongoing rent obligation, if the landlord voluntarily waives it or if the unit is re-rented earlier. If the landlord does agree to waive any of the advance notice period, make sure that waiver is in writing.

California Civil Code requires 60 days' notice from a landlord to terminate the tenancy of a renter who has resided in a unit for one year or more. But as a tenant you remain subject to the 30-day rule even though you have resided there more than a year.

Disability calls for flexible response

Question: One of my tenants has become disabled and now must use a wheelchair. He lives on the second floor of the complex, which does not have an elevator. I want to do the right thing. What is my legal obligation to accommodate this tenant? The tenant's lease has four more months to go.

Answer: Disabled tenants have the right to have changes made in the physical structure of a dwelling to give them equal access to the complex. This is called a reasonable modification.

In a relatively small building, however, the construction of an elevator is not reasonable due to space restrictions and prohibitive costs. An alternative could be to offer the disabled tenant a transfer to a first-floor unit as soon as there is a vacancy. This would be considered a reasonable accommodation.

If there are no vacancies and the tenant wishes to move out, allowing him to break his lease would be appropriate.

Safety gate is not required by law

Question: I just rented a single-family house for my 3-year-old son and myself. There is no gate separating the backyard from the frontyard and street. I'm concerned about my son's safety when he is playing in the backyard. Doesn't a landlord have to provide safety gates that can be locked?

Answer: No, there is no legal requirement for a property owner to install gates or fences on or around rental property. This is the case even if the property fronts a busy thoroughfare or dangerous open space.

On the other hand, there are dangerous conditions called "attractive nuisances," which may obligate your landlord to follow local ordinances and install a fence and gate as a protection.

If the landlord does agree to install a fence and gate, then he or she is expected to maintain it and can be held liable if its deterioration leads to an injury. You can inform your landlord of your concern to see if he or she is willing to install a fence and gate.

If you and the landlord cannot agree, mediation would be an excellent option. Both sides could air their concerns and discuss solutions for issues such as expense and maintenance. Whether you reach agreement directly or through mediation, the terms should be in writing so that both sides are clear on responsibility and cost.

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

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