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Janet Portman

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BUSINESS
September 7, 2008 | Janet Portman,, Inman news
Question: I live in a flea-infested apartment. I do not own a pet. The fleas come from rodents inside the walls. The property manager will not fix the problem. What can I do? Answer: In California, the law requires that landlords offer and maintain rental housing that is fit and habitable -- and this means free of vermin such as fleas. When the infestation is traceable to the tenant, the tenant pays for the extermination, but if the tenant is not to blame, the landlord pays. Tenants have various options when landlords won't step up. You can complain to your local or state housing or health department.
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BUSINESS
March 22, 2009 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: I rent to cotenants. One has lived in the house for two-plus years, and the other for one month. They have given their 30 days' notice, although one has already left. She claims she left the property sparkling clean and is not responsible for what the other tenant does in the meantime. How will I handle the damages and cleaning at the end of the contract? Answer: If both tenants were on the rental agreement, both are responsible for leaving the place clean and undamaged. It is not up to you to try to divine who did what when.
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BUSINESS
August 31, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman news
Question: I have been asked by a prospect who uses a wheelchair for a parking space next to the unit she is considering. We can do that, though we have a waiting list for parking, but it will involve reassigning other tenants' parking spaces, buying signs, painting the pavement and creating curb cuts. Who pays for this work? Answer: Requests from tenants and prospects with disabilities fall into two categories. Asking for a structural change is a modification request; asking that you change, make an exception to or adjust a rule, policy, practice or service is an accommodation request.
BUSINESS
December 21, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: We rent a single-family home and recently found out that the landlord doesn't own the house anymore -- the bank does. The bank knows we're here and has no problem with that (we're paying rent to them). Now we've received eviction papers from our former landlord. How do you suggest we deal with this? Answer: Having a former owner try to evict you makes no sense. Eviction lawsuits are expensive and time consuming, so it's hard to imagine why your former landlord would want to go down this road.
BUSINESS
November 2, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: My daughter rented an apartment where the landlord pays the utilities. It has no air conditioning, and she's not allowed to get a portable air conditioner. Is it legal to stipulate this? Answer: It's not illegal for a landlord to prohibit the installation of a portable air conditioner, as long as this policy is stated in the lease or rental agreement. Landlords typically don't like portable units. They are unsightly and add substantially to the cost of utilities, which naturally concerns landlords who pay the bills.
BUSINESS
September 21, 2008 | Janet Portman,, Inman News
Question: Is it ethical for a landlord to sign a one-year lease when he knows the property may be foreclosed? Answer: Whether it's "ethical" for a landlord to act as you describe is a matter for the landlord and his conscience -- and maybe his apartment association -- to figure out. If you want to know whether it's legal, however, the answer is clearer. Let's consider a landlord who signs a lease knowing that the property may be foreclosed upon during the lease term. The more likely it is that foreclosure will happen -- if the landlord has already received notice of foreclosure, for example -- the more likely it is fraud, because the landlord is promising to do something (make the premises available for a year)
BUSINESS
November 23, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: I'm interested in renting out a room with a private bath in the lower level of my home. Does renting out a room in a personal residence come under the same federal laws prohibiting discrimination, or do I have more leeway? I want to rent to a graduate student, preferably female, because I live alone and would feel more comfortable with a renter of the same sex. Answer: If you want to place an ad online or in a newspaper, the publisher will have to abide by the fair-housing rules, in spite of the fact that the housing you're offering is in your home.
BUSINESS
August 24, 2008 | Janet Portman,, Inman news
Question: I rented out a room in my home for eight months. The tenant gave me a $100 deposit, and her rent was due on the first of each month. On the last day of the month she just up and moved out without any notice and left me a note directing me to mail her the deposit back. Do I owe her the deposit since she gave me no notice that she was moving? We had no lease or rental agreement. Answer: Although you have nothing in writing, you had a month-to-month agreement with your roomer.
BUSINESS
December 21, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: We rent a single-family home and recently found out that the landlord doesn't own the house anymore -- the bank does. The bank knows we're here and has no problem with that (we're paying rent to them). Now we've received eviction papers from our former landlord. How do you suggest we deal with this? Answer: Having a former owner try to evict you makes no sense. Eviction lawsuits are expensive and time consuming, so it's hard to imagine why your former landlord would want to go down this road.
BUSINESS
September 14, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman news
Question: Is it legal for an apartment complex to raise the rent almost $100 after I've lived there for only five months? I signed a five-month lease to make sure I could swing the rent, but had they told me they would raise my rent $100 at the end of the five months, I would have looked elsewhere. Answer: Unless you live in a city with rent control, the landlord can raise the rent for any reason that isn't retaliatory or discriminatory. It would have been kind to tell you that the rent would go up in five months when you moved in, but it is not legally required.
BUSINESS
December 7, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: Roaches came into my apartment from the unit downstairs, and the manager has been fumigating. Now my apartment and furniture smell of pesticides. My landlady offered me another, bigger apartment, but I would have to pay more plus pay to transfer my phone and electricity bill, move my stuff and have everything cleaned. I've asked that she not charge me more for the new unit, and that she help with the expenses. She argues that she can't give me the apartment at the same rate because of the Fair Housing Act. Is this true?
BUSINESS
November 30, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: My friend has been renting a home and now the house is in foreclosure. Because her 15-year-old daughter is severely disabled, moving will be difficult. What can she ask potential landlords to supply that will reassure her that she won't face a foreclosure situation again? Answer: Asking about the solvency of the landlord is a legitimate question. The first question to ask of any prospective landlord is, "How long have you owned the property?" Chances are, a long-term mortgage that the owner has paid off regularly will not result in a sudden foreclosure.
BUSINESS
November 23, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: I'm interested in renting out a room with a private bath in the lower level of my home. Does renting out a room in a personal residence come under the same federal laws prohibiting discrimination, or do I have more leeway? I want to rent to a graduate student, preferably female, because I live alone and would feel more comfortable with a renter of the same sex. Answer: If you want to place an ad online or in a newspaper, the publisher will have to abide by the fair-housing rules, in spite of the fact that the housing you're offering is in your home.
BUSINESS
November 2, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: My daughter rented an apartment where the landlord pays the utilities. It has no air conditioning, and she's not allowed to get a portable air conditioner. Is it legal to stipulate this? Answer: It's not illegal for a landlord to prohibit the installation of a portable air conditioner, as long as this policy is stated in the lease or rental agreement. Landlords typically don't like portable units. They are unsightly and add substantially to the cost of utilities, which naturally concerns landlords who pay the bills.
BUSINESS
September 21, 2008 | Janet Portman,, Inman News
Question: Is it ethical for a landlord to sign a one-year lease when he knows the property may be foreclosed? Answer: Whether it's "ethical" for a landlord to act as you describe is a matter for the landlord and his conscience -- and maybe his apartment association -- to figure out. If you want to know whether it's legal, however, the answer is clearer. Let's consider a landlord who signs a lease knowing that the property may be foreclosed upon during the lease term. The more likely it is that foreclosure will happen -- if the landlord has already received notice of foreclosure, for example -- the more likely it is fraud, because the landlord is promising to do something (make the premises available for a year)
BUSINESS
November 30, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: My friend has been renting a home and now the house is in foreclosure. Because her 15-year-old daughter is severely disabled, moving will be difficult. What can she ask potential landlords to supply that will reassure her that she won't face a foreclosure situation again? Answer: Asking about the solvency of the landlord is a legitimate question. The first question to ask of any prospective landlord is, "How long have you owned the property?" Chances are, a long-term mortgage that the owner has paid off regularly will not result in a sudden foreclosure.
BUSINESS
December 7, 2008 | Janet Portman, Inman News
Question: Roaches came into my apartment from the unit downstairs, and the manager has been fumigating. Now my apartment and furniture smell of pesticides. My landlady offered me another, bigger apartment, but I would have to pay more plus pay to transfer my phone and electricity bill, move my stuff and have everything cleaned. I've asked that she not charge me more for the new unit, and that she help with the expenses. She argues that she can't give me the apartment at the same rate because of the Fair Housing Act. Is this true?
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