If You Leave but Roommate Stays, Give Official Notice
Question: I live in Los Angeles and my roommate and I are nearing the end of a three-year lease. At the end of the lease, I intend to move. My roommate wants to remain on a month-to-month basis with his fiancee, who will share the rent.
What do I have to do to remove myself from any future liability with the landlord? Because my roommate paid the entire security deposit, I don’t need anything from the landlord. Would a letter to the landlord declaring my intention to vacate be enough?
Answer: As a precaution, it would be wise to send the landlord a written 30-day notice of your intention to vacate. Get a confirmation of receipt of the notice if possible. Otherwise, keep a copy of your letter.
As you say in your letter, your contract automatically rolls over to a month-to-month agreement under California law if your roommate remains in the apartment at the end of the lease term.
But your roommate should know that the lease he signed probably specifies that he must get the landlord’s written permission before bringing in a new roommate. He would be wise to talk to the landlord before the lease expires to get that straightened out.
Also, you may not be aware that security deposits are not refundable from landlords until tenancies are over. Therefore, even if you had paid half of the security deposit, the landlord would not be required to refund any portion of it to you upon your vacating the unit because the tenancy would not be over at that point.
Finding Out if Unit Is Under Rent Control
Q: I have enclosed a page from the Los Angeles housing law that says landlords are required to pay interest to tenants on security deposits. I have lived in the same Los Angeles apartment for the last 16 years, and the building isn’t under rent control because it is defined as new construction and exempted from the law.
My property management company tells the tenants that they are not covered under the security deposit law either, so the landlord doesn’t have to pay interest on the deposits. Is this true?
A: The page you enclosed says, “A landlord subject to the RSO is required to pay a 5% simple interest per annum on all security deposits held for at least a year.” RSO stands for Rent Stabilization Ordinance, which is the rent-control law.
You wrote that the management says your building is not under rent control. If that is true, it also is not covered by the city’s interest-on-deposits law and your management company is being truthful. To find out if your unit is rent-controlled, call the Housing Department at (213) 367-9136.
If Appliance Is Broken, Who Pays to Fix It?
Q: I live in Los Angeles and I want to know who is responsible for buying a new appliance for the apartment in which I live. I broke the appliance, and it cannot be repaired because it is too old. Who is responsible for replacing the refrigerator?
A: I assume the refrigerator belonged to the landlord and was in the apartment when you moved in. There are no circumstances under which the landlord has to replace the refrigerator unless there is something written into the lease or rental agreement requiring it.
Even if your apartment is under rent-control, the landlord still doesn’t have to replace the refrigerator, although he may have to reduce your rent by the value of the diminished service (that of not having a refrigerator).
Calculating that value would be difficult at best, however, the Rent Stabilization Division of the city’s Housing Department does have some guidelines for such rent reductions. Call (213) 367-9099.
You say in your letter that the refrigerator is very old, but you also say that you broke it. If it was broken through your negligence or misuse, you are responsible for the damage. Although it may not be worth a lot of money, it is worth something.
When asking the landlord to buy a new refrigerator (it can’t hurt to ask), you should approach him tactfully to avoid getting a chilly reception. You might offer to pay him for the value of the refrigerator you broke, maybe $50 to $100.
Where to Turn for Rent Subsidy Answers
Q: We manage a six-unit apartment complex in Los Angeles. None of the tenants is on Section 8, the government rent-subsidy program. If they were, would we still be required to pay a yearly registration fee to the Rent Stabilization Division? Also, whom do we call to receive a Section 8 registration form?
A: Section 8 rentals are exempt from the rent-control law, as are the $14 annual registration fees charged by the city to pay for the rent-control program.
For information about Section 8 rentals, call Patty Snowfox of the Housing Authority of Los Angeles County at (323) 260-2225.
Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater L.A., an apartment owners’ service group, and manager of public affairs for the California Apartment Law Information Foundation, which disseminates information about landlord-tenant law to renters and owners in the California. Mail your questions on any aspect of apartment living to AAGLA, 12012 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025.