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APARTMENT LIFE

After 13 years, don't quibble about rent hike

March 09, 2003|Kevin Postema | Special to The Times

Question: I have been renting a single-family house in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County for the last 13 years for $1,400 per month. This month the landlords gave me a $300 per month rent increase, which is fine since they have never raised the rent. However, they didn't give me a full 30 days notice. Is that legal? A friend told me that landlords could only raise rents by a certain percentage in Los Angeles County. Is this true?

Answer: There is no rent control in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. If you lived in Los Angeles city, which does have a rent control law, and the law covered you, the landlord could have raised the rent by 3% per year for the last 13 years. Most landlords under rent control do raise their rents every year, at least in part because they are under rent control.

In your case that would mean that this year's new rent, after 13 years of 3% rent increases, would be $2,055 instead of $1,700. In your situation, you probably are better off not being covered by the rent control law.

You are correct that most rent increases require a minimum notice of 30 days. State law, however, requires that rent increases of more than 10%, $140 in your case, be accompanied by a 60-day notice rather than a 30-day notice.

Because your rent increase average over the last 13 years is very small (less than 2%), you probably don't want to come down too hard on the landlord about this indiscretion. Be tactful if you inform the landlord about the required 60-day notice.

Waiver principle a matter of timing

Question: This regards waivers, in which a landlord waives his right to do or enforce something if he does not act on it in a timely fashion: About a year ago we had an accident resulting from what I consider negligence on the part of the building's maintenance manager.

Forty-five days after the accident, I was billed a significant amount of money for damages. I restated my position that the accident was the result of their negligence.

For about five months I heard nothing, after which management gave me a notice to pay the damages or move out. I discussed it with them and agreed to file a claim with my insurance company to pay for the damages. It was denied. Did management waive its rights to the claim by accepting rent following the first demand without acting right away?

Answer: Probably not. According to Trevor Grimm, general counsel to the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, "A waiver is the voluntary relinquishment of a known right with knowledge of all of the facts. That does not appear to be the case here."

The key here is that they did act to recover their damages in a timely manner after the incident. The fact that they waited for five months for you to pay them before threatening to evict you does not cause a waiver because the demand was made in a prompt manner.

Because management did act promptly to collect damages from you, it is highly unlikely that the principle of waiver applies here.

Senior's age in eye of the agency

Question: I know senior citizens in Los Angeles are entitled to relocation fees if they are forced to move in "no-fault" evictions. But I have found that the definition of the age of seniors varies by up to 10 years.

AARP says 55, others say 62 and the Griffith Park Golf Course says 65. Which is it?

Answer: For purposes of the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, a senior is defined as one who is 62 or older. Seniors, the disabled and renters with minor children living with them (under age 18) are entitled to $5,000 per unit in relocation fees; others receive $2,000.

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Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of AAGLA, an apartment owners' service group. E-mail questions about apartment living to AptlifeAAGLA@aol.com, c/o Kevin Postema, or mail to AAGLA, c/o Kevin Postema, 621 S. Westmoreland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90005.

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