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Plumbing should be landlord's territory

May 11, 2003|From Project Sentinel

Question: The owner of the rental property I manage wants to add a rental agreement clause requiring the tenants to be responsible for plumbing repairs regardless of the cause. I thought repairs were the responsibility of the landlord. Am I right?

Answer: State of California Civil Code 1941.1 and the Uniform Housing Code specify the repairs for which a property owner is responsible. Operable plumbing is one of the required standards. A landlord cannot require a tenant to accept responsibility for these repairs.

But tenants and landlords can agree that plumbing, as well as other habitability repairs, be the responsibility of the tenant in exchange for a lower rent. Perhaps small repairs, such as plumbing, doors and windows, could fall into this category, but it is not recommended that major repair responsibility be turned over to a tenant. In such a situation, there is a danger of financial issues as well as potential injury and liability problems.

Tenants can be charged for damage that is a result of their negligence or that of a guest.

Tenant has the right to install dish

Question: My new landlord said I can't install a satellite dish on my back patio. When I pointed out that other tenants in the complex have dishes, she told me that they were long-term tenants but her new practice was not to allow any future satellite dishes. Can she do this?

Answer: FCC Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule, 47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000, states that landlords are prohibited from including any provision in a rental agreement or lease that would restrict a tenant's right to install a satellite dish, as long as the dish is 1 meter (3.3 feet) or less in size and as long as it is installed in an area for which the tenant has exclusive use and control, such as a balcony or patio.

However, if an installation would raise a legitimate safety concern, such as placement on a fire escape or close to a power line, a new location must be selected or the dish cannot be installed.

There is no distinction between current or new tenants. A landlord cannot require any tenant to waive this federal right as part of a rental agreement. A useful fact sheet on this topic can be found at

State law protects same-sex tenants

Question: My same-sex partner and I recently answered a "for rent" ad for a one-bedroom apartment. When we described our relationship, the resident manager immediately said the apartment was for one person only and refused to accept our application. I think she refused us because of our sexual orientation. Is this allowed?

Answer: Based on the facts you presented it appears the manager disapproved of your lifestyle and therefore refused to accept your application.

This discrimination, known as sexual orientation discrimination, is a violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

A housing provider should not base a decision to rent on the sexual orientation of a prospective tenant.

When housing providers deny someone the opportunity to a rental unit based on sexual orientation, they leave themselves vulnerable to fair housing investigations and possible lawsuits.

If you feel you have experienced discrimination, contact your local fair housing agency.

This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, CA. Questions may be sent to 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Suite 3, Sunnyvale, Calif. 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, the Southern California Housing Rights Center at (800) 477-5977 or the Fair Housing Council, Fair Housing Institute or Fair Housing Foundation office in your area:

San Fernando Valley: (818) 373-1185.

South-Central Los Angeles: (213) 295-3302.

West Los Angeles: (310) 474-1667.

Orange County: (714) 569-0828.

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