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Tenant Does Not Owe Rent Beyond Notice Date

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

QUESTION: I am planning to vacate my Los Angeles apartment on the 15th of next month. I provided the landlord with a written notice on the first of this month, giving him more than 30 days’ notice.

This month’s rent is paid in full, and I believe that I need to pay rent next month only from the first to the 15th, the period of the actual tenancy, which is a month-to-month tenancy.

The landlord insists that I owe rent for the entire month even though I gave him the required notice and the apartment will be vacant on the 16th. This does not sound right to me.

I would really like this point clarified.

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ANSWER: You are right. Tell your landlord not to be a turkey (it is that time of year, after all) and fight you on this. If you want to give thanks for the answer, you can thank the state Legislature.

Here’s what the state law says about moving out:

It says that you only owe rent for 30 days after delivering your landlord the 30-day notice of your intent to vacate with a month-to-month agreement, assuming you vacate on time.

Tenant Warned Not to Defame Landlord

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Q: I live in Lancaster and I read your Nov. 5 column in which you answered a question titled “Safety, Not Beauty Is Landlord’s Duty.” In the answer to that question you said, “State law requires landlords to maintain rental units in habitable condition.”

Unlike your previous writer who had an aesthetic problem, I have a safety problem at the complex in which I live.

On Feb. 5, nine days after I moved into my new apartment, the garage door broke and fell on me as I was opening it. As a result of the accident, I received serious permanent injuries to my back and shoulders.

My landlord claims he is not responsible for my injuries because the springs were checked five days before the accident occurred. This is not true. I moved in nine days before the accident occurred, which I can prove.

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This landlord does not maintain the garage springs properly. He keeps no records of when they are installed and has a history of automobiles being smashed because of this very problem.

Since the accident, I have taken pictures of three other doors that have broken at four-week intervals. I also have filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex. Given the proof that I have, I have no doubt that I will prevail in court and receive adequate compensation.

My question: When a landlord has made a conscious decision to ignore the safety of his tenants and is not in violation of any safety codes, how can he be forced to correct a problem?

A: I posed your question to Trevor Grimm, general counsel to Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles. He said, “Let’s put aside your conclusions about this owner’s ‘conscious decision to ignore the safety of his tenants’ for the purpose of this answer.

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“If an owner fails to use reasonable care in the maintenance or operation of rental property, short of any code violation, they are subject only to civil liability.

“A civil action of this type would be an action for injunction (a court order to perform an act rather than pay money), which is an expensive lawsuit to file.

“Basically, the owner’s lender or insurer are the entities you may want to talk to. They may be able to influence the owner to properly care for the property.

“Perhaps a complaint directed at them would work, but be sure you have your facts straight. Also, don’t persist in your theory about the ‘conscious decision’ in any complaint to a third party unless you are prepared to defend a possible defamation claim by the owner.”

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What Is Normal Wear and Tear?

Q: We moved into our rental home in Los Angeles about three years ago. The carpets had not been cleaned and the walls were not painted. How does one determine “normal wear and tear” in this situation?

A: Most Small Claims Court judges in L.A. County consider three years the normal useful lives of paint jobs and carpeting.

Therefore, you should have no problems with this when you move, unless you make holes in the walls themselves, other than nail holes for pictures and the like, or rip or permanently stain the carpets.

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Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, an apartment owners’ service group. Mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to AAGLA, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90025 .


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