Question: Some of the children who live in the apartment complex I just purchased are enrolled in year-round schooling. Every three months, they have a month off from school. Some of the tenants have baby-sitters or caregivers stay at the complex during this time. I don't want the complex to become a day-care center. What do I have to do to notify those specific tenants that there will not be any more baby-sitters allowed at the complex?
Answer: You should be wary of antidiscrimination laws when implementing any rules regarding children. In general, any rule that explicitly mentions or singles out minors is considered discriminatory. In addition, any neutral rule that has an adverse impact on families with children is discriminatory as well.
Not allowing baby-sitters to come to the complex would be a clear infraction of these laws.
Addressing problems relating to the peaceful enjoyment of other tenants at the complex, such as noise or traffic, is a better approach because everyone at the complex should be expected to maintain the same standards of respectful use.
Expired check must be replaced
Question: I moved out of my apartment over a year ago, but I just found the security deposit refund check. Unfortunately the check has expired, and my former landlord says she will not reissue a new one. What should I do to get my money back?
Answer: If you had a written rental agreement, either a lease or month-to-month, you have four years from receipt of a deposit settlement and/or refund to dispute any deductions from a deposit. The rule for an oral rental agreement allows for a two-year dispute time period. Therefore, it would seem you are entitled to a new refund check.
You could return the check directly to the property owner to discard, tear up or shred, so she knows there will not be an attempt to cash or deposit the original check. If the property owner feels more comfortable doing a "stop payment" on the original refund check, you may offer to pay the fee for this action.
You should never return or tear up a check until receiving a replacement or other acceptable payment. If necessary, hand over the check to the landlord when you receive a new payment.
The last resort you have is to pursue legal action in Small Claims Court. The check is a negotiable instrument and remains a legal obligation of the landlord. Even if it is too old for a bank to accept, it is independently enforceable in court.
Trust fund is a source of income
Question: I hope to move out of my parents' home into a place of my own. I started my search about six months ago and have been having a problem getting a property owner to accept me as a tenant. I go to school full time, and my income is from a trust fund set up many years ago by my grandparents. It seems that property owners are not willing to consider this trust fund as a "source of income." Isn't this the same as any other income type?
Answer: Yes, trust fund income is considered a verifiable form of income. A landlord may set income limits and refuse to rent to people whose incomes fall below a certain level, as long as they apply that standard to all applicants. Landlords may not discriminate because of the source of someone's income, as long as it is legal, verifiable income paid directly to the tenant or his/her representative.
Your source of income is from a trust fund. You could offer to provide receipts of the regular payments made from the trust fund to you as verification. If you continue to encounter such refusals, contact your local fair housing agency 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, CA 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.