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Erring landlord owes ex-tenant interest

October 05, 2003|Kevin Postema | Special to The Times

Question: I read an article you wrote about interest on security deposits and was wondering how it applies to my case. I was living in a rent-controlled apartment in West L.A. After I moved out, my former landlord said that he is required to pay me interest on my security deposit for only one year, even though he had custody of my funds for eight years.

Is this true? Otherwise, it appears to me that I would simply use the rates set forth in your article for each of the eight years that I was a tenant. If the landlord only has to pay me interest for one year, how does he know from which year to choose the rate of interest?

Answer: Your landlord is wrong. Under the Los Angeles city rent control law, he is required to pay you interest on your deposit for each year that he held it with the exception of calendar year 2002. Because the rate of interest had been too high in previous years, the Los Angeles City Council compensated owners by decreasing the amount of the interest rate payments during that calendar year from 1.5% to 0%. In other words, no interest payment on your deposit is owed for 2002.

The interest payments for the other years of your tenancy are paid at the following rates: For all years before Dec. 31, 2000, the rate is 5%; for 2001, it is 2%. The rate will be 1% for 2003. Also, no interest payments are owed to tenants occupying rent-controlled apartments in the city for less than one year.

Tenant refuses to allow access

Question: My tenant gave notice to vacate at the end of the month. I informed a leasing agent of this and asked her to check with the tenant about showing the unit to prospective tenants. The tenant angrily refused to permit entry, saying that there is nothing in the rental agreement about showing the place. The agent will comply with the tenant's request, as it appears the tenant is somewhat mentally unstable, but I am wondering if it is legal for the tenant to bar the agent from showing the place if the agent gives reasonable notice. Also, can I deduct anything from her deposit since there will be a gap before I can receive new security deposit money from new tenants?

Answer: You do not need to write anything into a rental agreement about showing a unit to prospective renters. It is allowed under state law with reasonable notice, usually presumed to be 24 hours' notice. Nevertheless, you are wise not to get into a brawl with an unbalanced tenant about it. It is better to wait until the tenant moves out if she is adamant about denying you or your agent access for this purpose.

As for the second part of your question, on whether you can deduct deposit money from the current tenant's deposit for the new deposit money you have not yet received from a prospective tenant: The answer is no. State law allows security deposit deductions for three things: unpaid rent, damages and cleaning.

No rent control in Orange County

Question: I live in Newport Beach. Where can I find information about the rent-control law in Orange County and prevailing market rent levels under city and state law?

Answer: There is no rent-control law in effect for either Orange County or Newport Beach. The area is governed by comprehensive state laws, which can be found in California Civil Code sections 1940-1954.53.

As for information about "prevailing market rent levels under city and state law," there are no city or state laws regarding this subject.

The best way to ascertain prevailing market rent levels is to research them. They are difficult to determine because they are influenced by so many factors. Beyond size and location, rent rates are influenced by such factors as the view from the apartment and its amenities -- swimming pools, gymnasiums or laundry rooms.

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

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