Laws Protect Blind Man and Guide Dog

From Project Sentinel

Question: I own a three-story apartment complex and have a vacancy on the third floor. One of the applicants meets all the financial requirements and has an excellent rental history.

The problem I have is that he is blind. I believe the stairs leading to the third floor would be dangerous for him to maneuver. Also, he has a seeing-eye dog and I don't allow pets. Because I do not want him to be injured, I think I should deny his application. What do you think?

Answer: If, as you say, this applicant meets all your requirements, you cannot deny this applicant solely because of his disability.

He has applied for a unit and is capable of making mature decisions about his capabilities and the living arrangements that best suit his needs. To refuse him based on his disability is a violation of state and federal fair-housing laws.

As for your no-pets policy, you should understand that his seeing-eye dog is not a pet but a support animal. These animals are trained to support people who have mental and/or physical disabilities.

You cannot deny any applicant based on the presence of a support animal even though you have a no-pets policy. For additional information, contact your local fair housing agency.

Written Agreement Is Key to 'Rent Back' Situations

Q: I am a real estate agent, and one of my buyer clients agreed to let the seller occupy the sale property for two months after close of escrow. Three months have gone by and the new owner wants to move into the property, but the seller refuses to move. Do you have any suggestions?

A: The situation your client created is sometimes called a "rent back," in which the seller becomes a month-to-month tenant and is allowed to stay in the property and pay rent to the new owner for a period of time following close of escrow.

Since your client wants to move into the property, he needs to personally serve the tenant a 30-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy. You, also, acting as the new owner's agent, can serve this notice.

If the tenant still refuses to move at the end of the 30-day period, your client will need to pursue legal action to gain possession of the property.

To avoid possible delays and to assist future clients who agree to rent back to a seller, you could suggest that a written agreement be signed by both parties as part of the closing or escrow process. This agreement would specify the seller's move-out date.

Additionally, a 30-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy can be served to the seller the day the buyer takes title of the property. Be sure the 30-day notice expiration date and the date on the move-out agreement are the same. If the rent-back time agreed to during the sale is greater than 30 days, be sure to document the exact rent-back time in the signed agreement.

Serving a 30-day termination notice on the day escrow closes will reduce the time before legal action can be started if the former owner, now the tenant, refuses to move as agreed.

Contact your local housing program for more assistance if necessary.

Lease Determines Terms of Advance Payments

Q: I am applying for a new apartment and the manager says the property owner is requesting that I pay six months' rent in advance. Is this allowed?

A: It depends. If you are signing a six-month or longer lease, California Civil Code allows a property owner to collect an advance payment of not more than six months of rent. This code also allows a tenant who is signing a six-month or longer lease to offer an advance payment of six months' rent.

However, if you are signing a month-to-month agreement, the property owner can only collect the first month's rent in addition to a deposit. A deposit cannot exceed twice the monthly rent for an unfurnished unit or three times the monthly rent for a furnished unit.

As an example for a month-to-month tenancy, if the rent is $1,000 a month, the property owner can request as a maximum advance payment of $1,000 for the first month's rent and $2,000 for the deposit. Contact your local housing agency for more information.

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, Calif. 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:

Bellflower: (562) 901-0808.

Carson: (888) 777-4087.

El Monte: (626) 579-6868.

Hawthorne: (310) 474-1667.

Lancaster: (888) 777-4087

Long Beach: (562) 901-0808

Pasadena: (626) 791-0211.

Redondo Beach: (888) 777-4087

San Fernando Valley: (818) 373-1185.

South-Central Los Angeles: (213) 295-3302.

Westside Los Angeles: (310) 474-1667.

Orange County: (714) 569-0828.

San Bernardino County: (909) 884-8056.

San Diego County: (619) 699-5888.

Ventura County: (805) 385-7288

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