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Landlord can choose whose rent to bump up

August 08, 2004|Kevin Postema | Special to The Times

Question: I have lived in a rent-controlled Los Angeles apartment for the last 30 years. Every year, I get a notice of a 3% rent increase. I have no complaint about that. However, I know of one tenant who moved in about five years ago, and his rent has never been increased. Is this legal? Is it discriminatory?

Answer: It is legal for an apartment owner to raise the rents on any, all or none of his rent-controlled apartments in Los Angeles. He is limited to annual 3% rent increases for existing renters under the Los Angeles rent control law.

It is discriminatory, but it is not illegal discrimination, for an apartment owner to raise the rent on one tenant and not on another. Since you have lived in the apartment for 30 years, it is possible that your rate is below the market rate, which also makes it logical for the owner to raise your rent while not raising the newer tenant's rent.

Notice depends on amount of increase

Question: What is the California statute regarding how many days a landlord has to give a notice of a rent increase? I have heard it is 60 days. Is that true?

Answer: It depends on the amount of the rent increase. California Civil Code Section 827 deals with residential rent increases. It requires apartment owners to give renters 30-day notices of rent increases unless the proposed hikes -- either in and of themselves or when combined with all other rent increases in the 12 months before the effective date of the increases -- are more than 10% of the rent charged to renters at any time during the prior 12 months.

If a rent increase, or combined rent increases, exceeds 10% within a year, the statute requires the owner to give you a 60-day notice of the increase.

Talk to tenant about noisy kids

Question: I own an apartment building in Pacific Palisades, and I have a new tenant who recently separated from his wife. He chose this building because it is close to where his wife and two kids live. At the present time, there are no children living in the building. Some of the tenants seem to have an expectation of a no-kids building, which is not the case. We would never discriminate against new tenants with children.

Nevertheless, the new tenant's kids are here quite a bit and they love the pool. A few of the tenants have made comments about the kids being noisy. There are tenants who think the kids are here too much, which causes them to use the pool less as a result of the kids' noise. Are we in a position to reduce the kids' presence as guests in the common area or pool?

Answer: While you can limit the use of the common area or pool by the guests of your tenants, you cannot single out kids and only limit their use. That would be illegal discrimination. If you want to limit the use of the common area or pool, you must limit it for all guests.

A better approach might be to talk to the new renter and, in a nice way, express to him the other tenants' concerns about the noise generated by the children. Perhaps he can persuade them to pipe down a little.

No obligation to renovate unit

Question: I live in Calabasas, and I have heard that a landlord must renovate an apartment after a tenant has lived there for eight years. Is this true? If so, what is the code number covering this, and what does it cover? Does he have to repaint and replace carpets?

Answer: This is not true. California Civil Code Section 1941.1 requires a landlord to maintain a residential rental in a habitable condition. It does not require him to renovate (or remodel) an apartment for an existing tenant.

Generally, painting and carpeting are aesthetic issues that are not covered by the code. If you want new carpets and a paint job, you should try to negotiate something with the landlord in terms of splitting the cost, which he may do at his option.

In either case, do not make the improvements without the landlord's consent, since most rental agreements and leases prohibit you from altering the premises without the owner's consent.

Kevin 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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