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APARTMENT LIFE

After 22 years of use, the garage space is part of the package

September 10, 2006|Kevin Postema | Special to The Times

Question: I've lived in a rent-controlled apartment for 24 years. For the last 22 years, I've had the use of a garage space. My building has just been sold, and the new owner wants to charge me $250 for the use of the garage, or I will have to give up my spot. Although I've had use of it for all those years, it isn't written into my rental agreement.

Does the new owner have the right to charge me rent for the parking space or evict me from this garage?

Answer: Under Los Angeles' rent control law, the new owner does have the right to take the garage back from you.

However, the fact that it is not written into your rental agreement does not mean that he can take the garage back without consequence, or that you are not entitled to use it.

Under the circumstances you have described, the owner cannot charge you more rent for the garage because it already is a part of your tenancy.

If you have had use of the garage for 22 years, the rent board would very likely determine that its use has become a part of your tenancy regardless of the fact that it is not written into the rental agreement. As such, the new owner must reduce your rent by the value of the lost service or privilege, in this case the use of the garage. Keep in mind, he or she is reducing the value of your tenancy by taking the garage away.

Sale won't erase tenant's rent debt

Question: I live in a rent-controlled apartment in Los Angeles. The owners are selling, and I owe them past-due rent. The landlord has worked with me on paying off the delinquent rent, but he says if I am not caught up by the time escrow closes he will have to disclose this to the new owners.

He also says the new owners could evict me if I am behind on the rent.

Can the new owner do that on the grounds of rent owed to the previous owner?

Answer: The new owners will be able to evict you for unpaid rent, but not because you owe the rent to the former owner.

Instead, they'll be able to evict you because after escrow closes, you will owe the back rent to the new owners, not the previous owners.

When apartment buildings are sold, the new owners take over all of the property's assets and liabilities, including unpaid rent.

You would be wise to pay the past-due rent before the new owners take over.

Boyfriend is a guest, not a tenant

Question: I'm under rent control in unincorporated Los Angeles County. If my boyfriend spends two to three nights a week at my apartment, is he considered an additional tenant? The law says 30 days is considered a tenancy, but is that consecutive or cumulative days? He doesn't keep any belongings at the apartment.

Answer: There is no rent control in unincorporated L.A. County, so you are mistaken about that.

Also, the law does not define 30 days, or any other particular number of days, as transforming a guest into a tenant.

There is no specific definition in the law of what constitutes an unauthorized tenant.

Rather, an owner must prove in court that a guest is, in fact, a bona fide unauthorized tenant.

He or she does this by a preponderance of the evidence that can include the unauthorized tenant doing the following: placing his name on the mailbox, moving furniture and other belongings into the apartment, coming and going from the apartment on a daily basis, and placing or having utilities placed in his name.

Your boyfriend, who merely visits a few nights a week, is not an unlawful tenant based upon the information you have provided.

Kevin Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, an apartment owners' service group. E-mail questions about apartment living to AptlifeAAGLA@aol.com.

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