QUESTION: I have two tenants who are constantly complaining to me about each other. The downstairs tenant complains that the upstairs tenant makes too much noise, and the upstairs tenant complains that the downstairs tenant is unreasonable and harasses him about every little noise by banging on her ceiling. What can I do to stop this feuding?
ANSWER: As the property owner, you have a responsibility to ensure that your tenants do not infringe on each other's use and enjoyment of their units. You should make yourself available to go to the property so you can hear the noise for yourself, or ask your downstairs tenant to record the noise. If you feel the noise is excessive, or if you get complaints from other tenants, you should give a written warning to the offending tenant asking him or her to quiet down or prepare to leave.
If there have been no other complaints and you feel the noise is "normal" for an apartment, you should ask the downstairs tenant to stop banging on the ceiling, or to consider moving to another unit. You can also suggest that your tenants sit down together in a mediation to discuss their needs and resolve their differences. Many communities have mediation services that offer free assistance. Eviction should be a last resort, because even if you do evict one or both or your tenants, there is no guarantee that the problem will not resurface with new tenants.
Blinds May Now Be
Q: When we moved into our apartment, our landlord would not replace the crummy blinds in our bedroom, so we bought and installed new ones. We are now in the process of moving out and want to know if we can take the blinds with us to our new home.
A: The State of California Civil Code 1019 does allow you to remove blinds that you installed and to take them with you when you move out. However, you should do this removal without damaging the property to which they are affixed. If there is any damage, you need to make repairs so that the property is restored to its original condition. If the windows had blinds when you moved in, but not when you move out, you may be charged the cost of purchasing and installing new blinds.
In the event there are other installations that have become an "integral part" of the premises--such as bookcases bolted to framing studs--the item should not be removed. We suggest that prior to any fixture installation, tenants and property owners confer and have a clear, written understanding as to whether or not an item must stay within the premises, or if the tenants can remove it at the end of the tenancy.
Q: I would like to rent my apartment in a subsidized complex, but I am troubled by some parts of the application form. It asks for my race, national origin, age, marital status, income and credit rating. I can understand the questions about income and credit rating, but I thought the other questions--race, age and marital status were illegal. What's the scoop?
A: You are correct about this initial application; it goes too far. However, if your application is accepted, you will receive a supplemental form for subsidized housing and the additional information you refer to is required. Subsidized housing complexes are required to report demographic information to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, this demographic information cannot be used to determine eligibility, and tenants do not have to fill out this supplemental form until they have been accepted.
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, CA 94087, but cannot be answered individually.
For housing discrimination questions, complaints or help, contact the Fair Housing Council in your area:
Westside Los Angeles , call (310) 477-9260.
San Fernando Valley, call (818) 373-1185.
Orange County, call (714) 569-0828.
San Bernardino County, call (909) 884-8056.
San Diego County, call (619) 699-5888.