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Landlord can't terminate tenancy because of new babies

March 27, 2011|By Martin Eichner

Question: My husband and I were given a 30-day notice to vacate our two-bedroom apartment. We have lived here for two years without any problems, but we had twin boys two months ago. The manager just told us we need to move. We suspect the manager is asking us to move because of our babies, since the community caters to singles, fostering a "young professional" culture. Until we had our children, there were no tenants with children. We know our young boys are noisy like any newborns and our neighbors have complained, but does the owner have a right to terminate our tenancy?

Answer: A landlord generally has the right to terminate a month-to-month tenancy — with or without "cause" — that has existed for more than a year by serving a 60-day written notice. This means that the notice your landlord gave you is invalid, because it was for 30 instead of 60 days.

Even if your landlord gave you a 60-day notice, there is an important exception to a landlord's general right to terminate a month-to-month tenancy. A termination of tenancy cannot violate federal or state fair-housing laws.

Discrimination against tenants because they have children is a violation of these laws. You have described strong circumstantial evidence supporting the conclusion that your family status was the motivation for terminating your tenancy — for example, the absence of other families with children, your uneventful tenancy for many months before having children and the landlord's effort to attract singles.

The fact that your newborns are noisy should be tolerated by the landlord regardless of complaints, since a normal level of noise from newborns is inherent in housing inhabited by families. Of course, if there is some unusually disruptive type of noise coming from your unit, that noise might be considered a nuisance, which a landlord can take action to stop.

Contact your local fair-housing agency. It can make sure the manager understands the applicable notice and fair-housing principles and, if necessary, it can open an investigation.

Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a mediation service based in Sunnyvale, Calif. To submit a question, go to http://www.housing.org.

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