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Tenant keeps using the grounds' faucets

August 31, 2003|From Project Sentinel

Question: I manage a six-unit complex. One of the tenants has recently been seen filling his hot tub from the outside faucets used to maintain the common grounds. I've asked him several times to stop, but he hasn't. Is there anything more I can do?

Answer: Since your verbal requests have not produced a change in the tenant's behavior, your next step would be to either issue a written warning, serve a Three-Day Perform Covenant or Quit Notice, serve a notice to move or try to work it out with a housing mediation program.

The three-day notice should state exactly what action you want the tenant to take (stop using the outside, common area water faucet) or move.

First, be sure the tenant's lease or rental agreement prohibits the tenant from using the outside water faucet for any purpose such as filling a hot tub or washing a car. If it doesn't and the tenant is on a month-to-month agreement, you can serve a 30-Day Change of Terms Notice prohibiting the use of the water faucet for any purpose.

If the tenant has a lease, you can't make any changes to the tenancy until the lease expires.

If you decide to try mediation, the mediation program would contact the tenant and offer to set up a meeting between the two of you to come to a mutually agreeable solution. As a neutral third party, the mediator also would explain the consequences the tenant might face (such as a 30- or 60-day notice to move) if he continues to use the water or violate this or any other condition of the rental agreement.

Disabled renter needs load zone

Question: A disabled tenant in the complex I manage does not drive. She uses taxis and friends for her transportation needs. There are no "vehicle stopping or loading" areas on the property, so vehicles either park in the fire zones or block the driveway for long periods of time. Am I allowed to tag the vehicles for towing or call the police?

Answer: Under fair housing laws, disabled tenants are entitled to reasonable accommodations. These are changes or exceptions to normal business policies or practices that would allow a person with a disability to obtain equal enjoyment of their dwelling.

Because the ability to enter or exit the property is essential to equal enjoyment, a disabled tenant should have a reasonable pickup and drop-off point.

Tagging the vehicles or calling the police is not a productive beginning. A more fruitful approach would be to meet with the tenant to discuss her specific needs and to also explain management's concerns, since landlords are not required to make accommodations that create unreasonable financial or administrative burdens.

One possible approach you could consider would be to work with the fire department or code enforcement to designate a specific pickup/drop-off point close to her unit. This might minimize inconvenience for other tenants, eliminate establishing a precedent and reduce safety concerns.

Lease-breaking fee in the fine print?

Question: My lease expired two months ago, and I didn't sign a new one. I now want to move. When I gave the landlord my notice to move, she said I would owe a fee for breaking my lease. I reminded her that we hadn't signed a new lease. She said the original lease contained a clause for "automatic renewal" if I didn't move when the original lease expired.

When I checked the copy of my lease, I couldn't believe my eyes. There it was, buried in the middle of the lease in tiny print. I don't want to pay a fee to move. What can I do?

Answer: California Civil Code 1945.5 states very clearly that any "automatic renewal" or extension clause must be visible in two places of a lease and must be in at least 8-point boldface type. This clause must be in the body of the lease and also just before or near the signature line on which a tenant signs.

If the "automatic renewal" clause in your lease does not meet this criteria or format, you may be able to move without further problems.

In general, when a lease is not re-signed and a tenant continues to pay rent, their tenancy converts or rolls over to a month-to-month tenancy, which can be terminated with a written 30-day notice to the landlord.

This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif.

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