QUESTION: I live in a senior complex along with several of my friends. Frequently we go back and forth to each other's apartments to visit, so most of the time when there is a knock at my door it is a familiar face. Last month however, when I opened the door I was surprised by a man trying to force his way inside. After I let out a big scream, he ran away. That day I reported the incident to the manager and requested him to install a peephole and chain lock in my door. The manager said that they would do so only if I agreed to buy the peephole and the chain myself. Isn't it their responsibility to provide me with extra safety devices especially after what happened?
ANSWER: Probably not. In most communities, the owner is not required to provide tenants with doors that have peepholes and chain locks. As long as the door is secure and has a working lock on it, the owner has met his legal obligations. However, many communities have adopted the Uniform Building Security Code, which does require a peephole for doors in newly constructed buildings. You should check with your local housing inspector to determine if this code applies in your case.
If not, you may consider taking your manager's offer. You would at least save the cost of having to hire some outside person to do the installation.
Should Owner Disclose Pending Foreclosure?
Q: I rent a house on a month-to-month basis. Three months after I moved in, I received a notice to vacate because the property had been foreclosed and the new owners wanted to take possession. I know foreclosure takes quite a while, so the owner must have known about it before he rented the place to me. If he had told me about the possibility of imminent foreclosure, I would never have moved there. Because he didn't disclose this information, shouldn't he compensate me for the expense and inconvenience of moving?
A: Unless the landlord made some representation that you could live in the property as long as you like, month-to-month agreements in non-rent controlled areas only provide for the continuation of the tenancy for 30 days at a time. Although it would have been considerate for the landlord to give you an accurate assessment of the situation, he was under no legal obligation to disclose this information to you; at the time he rented to you, he may not have known that the foreclosure would be finalized, and may have been working to avoid it from happening.
Who Should Pay for Repairs Tenant OKd?
Q: Last month, while I was away on business, the house I rent out required some emergency repairs. However, while the repairman was taking care of the emergency, he convinced my tenant that there were some other minor problems that, although not emergencies, should also be fixed. My tenant approved the work and paid the total bill for $1,250. Needless to say, I was shocked at the size of the bill. I realize that I am responsible to pay for the emergency repairs, but I refuse to pay the additional costs. The extra repairs cost $700, and after calling around for estimates, I was told that the cost for the extra repairs would be $350. Because my tenant should never have OKd the extra repairs, I think that she should pay. Shouldn't she?
A: Your tenant should have gotten your permission before approving the non-emergency repairs, and if you can prove through other reasonable estimates that the bill should have only been half, then you are probably only responsible for that amount. However, just because she was overcharged, doesn't mean you should deny her any reimbursement. You should offer to pay the reasonable costs of repair. It would also be wise to add a provision in her rental agreement stating that she is not allowed to make alterations without your written permission.
Senior Citizen Rental Discount Is Not Legal
Q: Last weekend, while checking the "apartment for rent" advertisements in the paper, I saw an ad offering a 10% senior citizen discount. Is this discount legal?
A: Under California State Law (the Unruh Act), age discrimination, including the offer of lower rent to a preferred group, is illegal. Although senior discounts are accepted practice in other businesses, from airlines to restaurants, the practice of offering a discount to seniors in rental housing cannot be condoned. Please contact your local fair housing agency. This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif. Questions may be sent to 582-B Dunholme Way, Sunnyvale, Calif. 94087, but cannot be answered individually. For help in the Los Angeles area, call the Westside Fair Housing Council at (310) 475-9671.