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Glass Doors Safe Under Uniform Building Code, if Not by Law

<i> Postema is the editor of Apartment Age Magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA), an apartment owners' service group</i>

QUESTION: As a member of the board of the Southern California Glass Assn., I think it is important to set the record straight on your answer to a question in the March 10 Apartment Life column titled “If You Break It, You Have to Pay to Fix It.”

You said there is no law requiring apartment owners to supply shatter-proof glass in apartment doors and windows.

It is true that the Consumer Safety Commission requirements were changed to delete their mandatory provisions for impact-resistant materials in doors a number of years ago.

However, this was done after the major code authorities all agreed to modify their codes to reflect, among other requirements, mandatory provisions for impact-resistant glazing for all types of doors except wardrobes.

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The Uniform Building Code (UBC) does require shatter-proof glass. UBC Chapter 54, Section 5406 (d) also contains several exceptions to the rule. They include the following:

a. Openings in doors through which a three-inch sphere is unable to pass.

b. Assemblies of leaded, faceted or carved glass.

c. Curved, glazed panels in revolving doors.

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d. Commercial refrigerated cabinet doors.

Besides the safety glazing in doors (this can be laminated or tempered glass, or plastic), generally speaking, all glazing within 12 inches of a door opening must also be safety glazing. These requirements pertain to interior as well as exterior units.

ANSWER: Thank you for the clarification. The general rule for broken door and window glass is still that if you break it, you pay.

Managers Who Work Days Hard to Contact

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Q: I live in an apartment in Torrance. The apartment managers live on the premises and both have full-time, 9-5, Monday-Friday jobs. It is very difficult to communicate with the managers about complaints because they are seldom home. When I can catch them at home, they make me feel like I am irritating them when I discuss problems.

To whom can I complain about these managers? They only seem to care about free rent and free cable television. Also, is there a book you can recommend that outlines tenants’ rights?

A: As you may know, the managers of your apartment building work for the owner. You must complain to him about their lack of service.

A good booklet outlining tenants’ basic rights has been written by the legal office of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The booklet, “California Tenants--Your Rights And Responsibilities,” is available free. To get the book, send a stamped (98 cents), self-addressed, 7x10 envelope to California Tenants, P.O. Box 310, Sacramento, Calif. 95802.

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Tenants Who ‘Fixed’ Stuck Doors Must Pay

Q: Last September I rented out a single-family home I own in Fountain Valley. It was repainted and recarpeted for the new tenants before they moved in. In November they told me that some of the doors were sticking due to their recent repainting.

When I went to check out the doors, I found out that the tenants had pulled three of them off their hinges. They actually broke the doorjambs when removing the doors from them. We had our carpenter perform the needed repairs. Now that his bill is in, I’m wondering: Can we deduct the charges for the repairs from the security deposit?

A: Yes. You can deduct money from security deposits for any of three reasons under California law. They include the following: to repair tenant-caused damages (such as those you have described) over and above “normal wear and tear”; to clean the premises to get them back to the state of cleanliness they were in when the tenants moved in, and to compensate for unpaid rent.

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Your other option for collecting the money is to sue the tenants in small claims court, thus preserving the deposit money for future indiscretions.

Three-Day Notice to Renter Boomerangs

Q: My Rolling Hills Estates tenant, in the first month of a rent increase, made only a partial rent payment. After many attempts to collect, I served him with a three-day notice to pay the rent or quit on the 23rd of the month. A few days later, the tenant made an additional rent payment, but not the full amount demanded in the office.

I accepted the reduced amount, the old rent, because the tenant said that a one-month delay would enable him to continue to afford the apartment.

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To my surprise he moved out at the end of the month. He also demanded that I return his security deposit. I decided to keep his deposit because it equaled one month’s rent and I knew I was entitled to a 30-day notice of the renter’s intent to move.

He sued me in small claims court and won. The judge said the three-day notice was valid because the full amount demanded was not paid. I am stunned. How can I keep from being cheated out of my 30-day notice in the future?

A: First, you cannot arbitrarily keep deposit money as you did. You are entitled to keep deposit money for unpaid rent for up to 30 days with a month-to-month agreement, or until you rerent the apartment. Since all deposits in California must be refunded within 14 days of a tenant’s move, you would have had to have sued the tenant in small claims court for the difference, 16 days, assuming you were entitled to the money and didn’t rerent the apartment for at least one month.

Even though the judge was wrong (acceptance of the rent, without more, canceled the eviction notice), there is no way to protect yourself from this kind of a situation in the future if you wait until the 23rd of the month to serve the three-day notice.

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When you give a tenant a three-day notice to pay or quit, he has the option of doing just that, paying the rent or moving out of the apartment. Your tenant chose the latter. From now on, don’t wait so long to serve the three-day notice.


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