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APARTMENT LIFE

When is a houseguest a member of the household?

July 09, 2006|Kevin Postema | Special to The Times

Question: I am a landlord in Los Angeles. One of my tenants wants to have a friend stay with him for a few months. The lease says the rent will increase by $100 for an additional tenant, but it does not say that after 10 days the visitor becomes a tenant who must fill out a rental application and have a credit report like all my tenants. I tell them this verbally. Can tenants contest my 10-day standard? What is the standard amount of time landlords give visitors before making them tenants?

Answer: Your 10-day standard is not enforceable because it is not written into the rental agreement. If you are not under rent control, you can give them a 30-day change of terms of tenancy notice to incorporate it into the agreement. If you are under L.A.'s rent control law, you cannot evict for a change of terms of tenancy unless the tenant had previously agreed to the change in writing. The notable exception is the annual inflation rent increase (currently 4%) that is allowed under the law.

As for your other question, there is no standard amount of time landlords use to determine when visitors become tenants. That's probably because landlords generally don't want visitors becoming tenants unless they give their permission first and do credit checks in advance.

Similarly, there is no standard amount of time that landlords use to determine how long guests can stay. If you are going to allow your tenant's guest to stay for an extended period, have him first sign an agreement specifying that the guest has a revocable license to stay.

Key to when unit becomes vacated

Question: When is an apartment actually vacated? Is it when a renter removes all his possessions on the date he said he would, or is it when he returns the keys to the owner?

Answer: The unit is legally vacated only after the renter returns the keys. Even though a renter may have removed all his belongings from an apartment, it is not officially vacated while he still has the keys. Sometimes renters do not return the keys at all. If that's the case, you must go through the abandonment procedure outlined under state law to recover possession.

Couple must pay

2 application fees

Question: My wife and I applied for an apartment in both our names. We were given two applications to fill out and told we would each be charged an application fee. It seems duplicative to have to fill out separate applications when we are married and our assets are combined.

Can landlords do this?

Answer: Yes, they can. Until a couple of years ago, credit reporting agencies charged only one fee for running checks on prospective renters who were married. That is no longer the case. They now charge separate, equal fees for running checks on each spouse for the same apartment. That came about as the result of one or more lawsuits filed by domestic partners who alleged that they were being discriminated against because they had to get separate credit checks and pay the full price for them.

Kevin Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine. E-mail AptlifeAAGLA@aol.com, or write to: AAGLA, c/o Kevin Postema, 621 S. Westmoreland Ave., Los Angeles CA 90005.

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