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RENT WATCH

Curfew for kids may be illegal

January 12, 2003|From Project Sentinel

Question: The owner of my apartment complex says all children, regardless of age, cannot be out on the common grounds after 7 p.m. It seems unfair to the children to keep them inside. Can she impose this curfew?

Answer: This curfew for children sounds unreasonable. With the passage of the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988, familial status became a protected category under state and federal fair-housing laws. As a result, children have the same rights as other tenants, and landlords cannot set unreasonable and restrictive rules that keep children from enjoying the property.

If the property owner has a specific concern about the children's outdoor behavior, he or she should talk directly with the parents and children involved. General issues regarding safety and respect for the rights of others living in the complex, including the observance of reasonable "quiet hours," should be a concern to all residents of your complex.

Consider value of tenant's repairs

Question: A former tenant has sent me a bill for work he claims he performed while he was a tenant. I have no record of him requesting that repairs be done, and I never authorized him to do any work or repairs. Do I have to pay him?

Answer: If you didn't authorize the work and the repairs were not needed to maintain the habitability of the unit, you are not obligated to reimburse your former tenant.

The California Civil Code requires a property owner to be responsible for habitability essentials, including plumbing, exterior doors, windows, electrical and heating systems and weatherproofing. But even if the repairs fixed defects in habitability, you were still entitled to advance notice before the tenant made or authorized the repairs.

You may be willing to compensate him, particularly if the work or repairs performed did involve habitability. Even if the repairs were not required, if they benefited you and your property, you may want to talk with the former tenant to resolve this matter.

Ask the tenant to provide documentation of the conditions he repaired, particularly photos and invoices verifying payment to those who performed the work, or for necessary materials.

Depending on the nature of the repairs, it may be possible to seek reimbursement from your insurance carrier if the conditions are covered.

Ending tenancy without penalty

Question: The month-to-month agreement my new landlord wants me to sign says if I don't stay for six months, she will deduct $200 from my security deposit as an "early move-out fee." Is this deduction allowed?

Answer: No. Month-to-month tenants can end their tenancy without penalty as long as they have submitted a 30-day notice to move. Only those tenants who move before the end of a fixed-term lease may be subject to early move-out fees. For example, a tenant who moves before the lease ends may be charged for advertising and continuing rent until the unit is rented again.

Deductions from a security deposit are covered by the Civil Code, which does not allow for a penalty if a month-to-month tenant stays more than 30 days but less than a specific amount of time, such as six months in your case. Discuss this matter with your prospective landlord and contact your local mediation program if more information is needed.

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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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