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Renters would like to be landlords too

June 01, 2003|Kevin Postema | Special to The Times

Question: Our family is renting a four-bedroom house, and we have an extra room. Can we rent out this room to another person? Must we tell the landlord about it?

Answer: It may not be illegal to rent out the extra bedroom in your rental house, and it is not a violation of the rent law. But it undoubtedly is a violation of your lease or rental agreement.

Most, if not all, leases and rental agreements limit the number and list the identities of the tenants.

Some leases and rental agreements allow tenants to add other renters, but usually only if the tenants agree to pay extra rent to offset the additional costs generated by an extra person.

In some rent-control jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, added rent for additional tenants is limited by law -- 10% in this instance.

There can be exceptions to the rule: under L.A.'s rent law, the first newborn baby tenant is free. If twins, they're still free. After that it's 10% per added occupant.

Some rental contracts prohibit extra renters altogether. The penalty for violating the contract is eviction.

Even if your rental contract is silent about extra renters, or if you don't have a rental contract at all, you should consult the landlord.

Large signs draw unwanted eyes

Question: Our apartment is on the ground floor next to the front door. The management company has posted very large signs next to my window. I am worried that the signs draw attention to my windows and that people are looking in.

Is it legal for these signs to be posted only by my exterior walls? I do not consider this a "common area." They are not safety-related, and I fear that they are a security risk for me.

Answer: Unless prohibited by law, property owners can post signs on their property. The walls you refer to are not your "exterior walls." They are the owner's exterior walls.

You rent the interior walls of the apartment and have no claim on or rights to use of the building's exterior walls. The exterior walls are part of the exterior of the apartment building, which is, in fact, a common area. That the signs are not safety-related is irrelevant, and the fact that the management company has posted signs only by your windows is not an issue.

If you believe people are looking in your windows and this makes you nervous, enhance your window coverings with drapes or miniblinds. If you think your apartment doesn't have enough security measures, talk to the management company about possibly adding some new ones.

Is 30-day eviction notice enough?

Question: Recently I sold the home I live in. I gave the tenants 30-day notice to move out of my rental because I want to move into it after escrow closes on my house. As I understand it, the law states that tenants are entitled to 60-day notice to move without cause. Since I have a justifiable cause, is the 30-day notice to move legal or should I have given them 60-day notice?

Answer: You may use a 30-day notice if the tenants have lived in the rental for less than one year. Otherwise, you should have given them a 60-day notice.

When the law refers to giving a residential tenant a 60-day notice to move out for no cause, often referred to as a "no fault" eviction, it is talking about a cause engendered by the tenant, not the landlord.

If there is a good cause for you to ask the tenant to leave, such as nonpayment of rent, the notice period is shorter than 30 days. For example, if the tenant doesn't pay the rent for the month, you may give him a three-day notice to pay or move; this is called a Three-Day Pay or Quit Notice. Similarly, if the tenant violates the rental agreement, you may give him a Three-Day Perform or Quit Notice. If the tenant does not pay or perform within the three days, you may begin an eviction action. Your "cause," the need to move into the house, is a lost one.

Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine. Mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to AAGLA, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.

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