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RENT WATCH

In giving notice, the rules have changed

May 18, 2003|From Project Sentinel

Question: For the last three years I've had a month-to-month tenancy. When I first moved in, I paid my rent monthly on the first day of each month.

After about a year, my income was reduced and I had a hard time paying the rent in full at the first of the month. My landlord agreed to let me pay the rent every two weeks.

The landlord now wants to move her sister into my apartment and has given me a 14-day notice to move. Aren't I entitled to a 30-day notice to move?

Answer: The answer to your question is affected by a change in the applicable law.

Before Jan. 1, the rule was that a landlord had to give notice at least equivalent to the time period between rent payments. If your landlord had modified your rental agreement to allow you to pay rent every 14 days, then the 14-day notice would have been valid prior to Jan. 1. However, after Jan. 1, tenants who occupy a rental unit for a year or more are entitled to 60 days of advance notice of termination, regardless of the time between rent payments.

If your landlord served the 14-day notice after Jan. 1, she must give you a 60-day notice because you have been a tenant for more than one year.

For tenants who have occupied rental property for less than a year, the rule that the termination notice period equals the time period between rent payments is unchanged. For example, if a tenant of less than one year pays rent every month, a 30-day notice is required.

Lead makes issue of peeling paint

Question: I'm planning to rent a small cottage behind the landlord's house. During the inspection, I noticed several areas where the paint was peeling off the walls. I am worried that the old paint may contain lead. Is my prospective landlord responsible for fixing this problem?

Answer: Certainly it seems reasonable that a landlord would protect investment property by properly maintaining the structure, which would include the painted walls. However, unless the peeling paint is a safety risk for small children or contains lead, there is no requirement that a landlord remedy the problem. Effective Jan. 1, the law that addresses habitability of rental property was updated to include lead hazards such as deteriorated lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, lead-contaminated soil or disturbing lead-based paint without containment, if the amount of lead exceeded the permissible levels established by law and is likely to endanger the health of the public or the tenant. Discuss the matter with the landlord to determine how best to proceed. If the property has been tested for lead by a state-certified lead inspector, you are entitled to a copy of the report or a summary written by the inspector. In general, addressing lead paint issues can be complicated. If you have serious concerns, contact your local health department, the Environmental Protection Agency or the housing program for your area.

After son's crimes, mother must move

Question: My adult son and I are both on the rental agreement for the apartment we share. He was found guilty of criminal charges recently and now we have both received a 30-day notice to move. Can the landlord hold me responsible for the actions of my son?

Answer: Because both of you are listed on the rental agreement, the landlord can serve you with a 30-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy. Except in some "just cause" and rent-controlled cities, a landlord does not need a reason for serving a 30-day notice to tenants in a privately owned complex.

Depending on your relationship with the landlord and how you personally managed yourself over the course of the tenancy, the landlord may be willing to let you stay while requiring your son to move.

If the landlord does not wish to continue your tenancy separate from your son, then you must move to avoid legal action. Contact your local housing mediation program for assistance.

This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service. Questions may be sent to 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Suite 3, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94087. For housing discrimination questions, complaints or help, call the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment at (800) 233-3212 or the Southern California Housing Rights Center at (800) 477-5977.

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