Landlord Must Respect Tenant's Privacy

From Project Sentinel

Question: When I moved into my rental unit several years ago, I gave the landlord permission to enter my unit at any time without notice. I am now regretting this because, since he and his wife divorced, the frequency of his unannounced visits has increased, and he enters my unit to give me flowers and gifts. One time he waited on my couch while I was in the shower. I am not interested in having a personal relationship with him and want to know if there are privacy laws protecting me from his behavior.

Answer: Housing providers are not allowed to sexually harass tenants. Federal and state fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on sex. Furthermore, the California Civil Code defines specific conditions by which a landlord or the landlord's agent, can enter a rental unit without prior notice or permission. These conditions are if an emergency occurs, to do agreed-upon repairs or when given possession of the property by courts.

If the landlord is entering your unit outside of these situations, he is violating your right to privacy and may be sexually harassing you. You should notify the landlord, preferably in writing, that you are reestablishing your full right to privacy and that you want him to follow privacy laws. He will have to give you 24-hour notice before entering (except in an emergency) and can enter only during reasonable hours. If this does not solve the matter, contact your local fair housing agency for assistance in filing a fair housing complaint.

Law Bans Adults-Only

Mobile Home Parks

Q: I live in an adults-only mobile home park where no one younger than under 18 is allowed to live and children are expressly prohibited. I need to have my 10-year-old granddaughter stay with me for a few months while her parents work out their marital problems.

When I told the manager, he said that if my granddaughter stayed for more than 10 days, I would be served a three-day notice to move. He said this was part of the "child visitation policy" at the park, which could not be amended to accommodate my granddaughter. Can he legally prevent my granddaughter from moving in with me?

A: You ask a good question, one that is asked often about mobile home parks. First, there is no such thing as adults-only housing. Housing can be seniors-only but, to qualify, 80% of the units must be occupied by at least one person 55 or older or 100% of its units occupied by persons 62 or older.

Since your park requires only that residents be at least 18 years old, not older than 55 or 62, it probably does not qualify for seniors-only status. If the park does truly qualify as a seniors-only park, the management's exclusion of your granddaughter and other children may be legal.

To find out exactly what the park's status is, contact the local fair housing agency. If it is not a seniors-only park, the fair housing agency can notify the manager that discrimination against families with children is illegal. In this case, your granddaughter may be allowed to stay with you.

Disabled Tenant Needs

Ramp Over Staircase

Q: To enter my apartment, I have to walk up three steps to the front door. Over the last year I have developed health problems that have affected my ability to walk up and down steps.

I have been told by a local advocacy group that I can ask the owner to have a ramp built over my front door steps. Is this true?

A: Yes. According to state and federal fair housing laws, reasonable modifications can be requested by tenants who are disabled and need structural modifications to a unit or portion of the property to give them equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.

Refusal to make reasonable modifications is illegal and could be considered discriminatory.

Tenants are responsible for the full cost of such reasonable modification. If you are unable to pay for the modifications, contact your local disability advocacy group or an agency that serves people with disabilities. Ask about funding for the needed modifications. There are cities and agencies that pay for modifications. For more information, 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 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Suite 3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, but cannot be answered individually.

For housing discrimination questions, complaints or help, call the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment at (800) 233-3212 or the Fair Housing Council, Fair Housing Institute or Fair Housing Foundation office in your area:

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