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New Adult Would Benefit by Being on Rental Form

Special to The Times

QUESTION: The daughter of one of my tenants has just turned 21. She is a student with a part-time job and contributes to the rent paid by her mother, who is on a month-to-month agreement.

Since she is now considered an adult, I have asked her to fill out a tenant information form and a rental agreement. This is purely a formality but the mother objects to having her daughter put on the agreement. Do I have a right to insist?

ANSWER: Although under these circumstances you may decide not to force the issue, your request is certainly reasonable.

You may wish to point out to both your tenant and her daughter that this arrangement also has advantages for them. The daughter will have established her own status as a tenant in the event that her mother decides to move. She will also begin to build her own rental history, and will be in a position to present good references when she finally moves out on her own.

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The tenants should be reminded that your request conforms to standard rental practice suggesting that all adult tenants be on rental agreements for their own security and peace of mind.

Landlord Who Insists on Cash but Won’t Give Receipt Puts Tenant in Risky Position

Q: A few months ago, I moved into a house where I rent a room. My landlord demands that I pay my rent in cash, but will not give me receipts for my payments. I worry because I cannot show that I have paid my rent regularly, on time and fully. What can I do?

A: The conditions of payment should have been agreed upon before you moved in, and put in writing. By giving cash without a receipt, you are assuming the risk of having to prove your payment without supporting documentation. If your landlord refuses to act in a businesslike manner and provide you with receipts, you may consider giving a 30-day notice and finding yourself another home.

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On the other hand, you may try to protect yourself by bringing a witness with you each time you pay your rent, or by making your own receipt and asking the owner to sign it. You might also call a tenant/landlord dispute resolution service in your area.

Extent of Damage Governs How Repair Will Be Done, What Tenant Should Pay

Q: My former tenant chipped the bathroom counter top in the house that I rented to him. I would like to charge that tenant to repair the damage, as provided in our rental agreement. Can I charge the tenant for replacement of the damaged item, or should I charge only for the cost of repair?

A: Assuming that the damage is beyond normal wear and tear, whether you can charge the tenant for replacement will depend on the extent of the damage. If the damage is reasonably reparable, meaning that the damaged item may not look perfect, but it is functional, then the tenant should only be charged for the repair.

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On the other hand, if the damage is so severe that repair would not allow the item to be used for its normal purpose, or if the cost of repair is unreasonable compared with the cost of replacement, then the tenant may be charged for the replacement cost. If repair is possible, but you choose to replace the item anyway, you should, once again, charge the tenant only the reasonable cost of repair.

Keep in mind that if you do replace the item, you must prorate its cost before passing that cost on to the tenant. To prorate, divide the cost of a comparable replacement by the number of years the item was expected to last under normal use. Next, multiply this figure (which is the approximate yearly cost of the item) by the number of years lost due to the tenant’s neglect. This will give you the amount you should charge the tenant for replacement.

Roommate Pays Share of Rent on Time but Her Lifestyle Turns Out to Be a Disaster

Q: Two months ago, after my work hours were reduced, I decided to save money by finding a roommate to share my apartment. I received the property owner’s permission and, after interviewing several people, I chose the person I thought would best fit into my life.

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She always pays me her share of the rent on time, but she is a disaster as a roommate. She is messy, argumentative and stays up until 1 a.m. lifting weights and riding her exercise bike. During a recent confrontation she became belligerent and yelled at me, so I called the police who came and quelled the disturbance but took no further action. I want to get rid of her fast. What are my options?

A: Try to work out your differences with your roommate, either informally or through mediation, and attempt to establish a set of rules with which you can both live. If unsuccessful, give your roommate a 30-day notice to vacate the premises. It will give her time to search for another place to live.

You may also reach an agreement which allows her to leave as soon as she finds another place to live, effectively waiving the 30-day notice, and refunding any unused rent. Although this could cost you money, it might resolve your problem more quickly.

Beware of quick remedies. Locking out your roommate or putting her things outside could result in substantial penalties to you, up to $100 per day if she decides to take you to court.

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Next time, draw up “house rules” and spend enough time with your potential roommate to find out what she is really like.

Landlord Should Pay Refrigerator Repair Unless Occupant Was Cause of Damage

Q: Who should take responsibility for repairing the broken refrigerator in my apartment? My landlord says I must pay for this expense. He also refuses to pay replacement costs for the food I lost when the refrigerator failed. Can he do this?

A: Your landlord should pay for repairing or replacing the refrigerator if it was originally present in the apartment when you rented it, and its malfunctioning is simply due to wear and tear.

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If, on the other hand, you damaged or misused the refrigerator, for instance by punching a hole in the freezer while defrosting it, you, of course, should pay for repairing it.

The landlord is not responsible for the replacement cost of your food unless he was negligent or failed to respond to your earlier requests to have the refrigerator serviced.

This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale. Questions may be sent to 582-B Dunholme Way, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94305, but cannot be answered individually. For help in the Los Angeles area, call the Metro Harbor Fair Housing Council at (213) 539-6191 or the Westside Fair Housing Council at (213) 475-9671.


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