Terms of early move-out are negotiable

Special to The Times

Question: I live in Los Angeles and am on a one-year lease. If the property is sold to a private party before my lease is up, do I get my deposit back?

Answer: All deposits made for residential rentals in California are refundable. They are refundable at the end of tenancies. Whether the property is sold during your lease term is not relevant to your deposit, unless the new owner wants you to move out before the lease ends, and you agree.

You are fortunate to have a lease, because a new owner cannot require you to move out before it ends. If you live in a single-family home, as I suspect, the owner can request that you move out before the lease is up. Then, however, he must negotiate the terms with you.

There is an expression in real estate that "everything's negotiable," and it applies to this situation.

You can seek some help with moving expenses or, perhaps, a free month's rent credit to move out early. But remember that if you ask for too much, a new owner can simply wait until the lease term is up and then ask you to move out without negotiating anything.

Security deposit can earn interest

Question: My wife and I have lived in our rent-controlled Los Angeles apartment for 28 years. When we moved in to the apartment we paid $350 for the first month's rent and $350 for the last month's rent. Now we are moving out.

Does the last month's rent earn interest? If yes, how much?

Answer: Under California law, last month's rent payments are considered security deposits. Under the Los Angeles city rent control law, security deposits, including last month's rents, earn simple interest.

Interest is earned at the following rates: from Nov. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 2000, 5%; for calendar year 2001, 2%; for calendar year 2002, 0%; and for calendar year 2003, 1%.

Therefore, assuming that you move out at the end of the year, Dec. 31, your $350 deposit has earned a total of $188.42 ($2.92 in 1990, $175 from Jan. 1, 1991-Dec. 31, 2000, $7 in 2001, and $3.50 in 2003).

Rent control limited to L.A.

Question: How can I find out exactly which areas are covered by the Los Angeles city rent control law? Any link that gets me there is greatly appreciated.

Answer: The Los Angeles rent law covers only the city itself. There is a map of the city of Los Angeles available online. It is a map of the City Council districts and seems to be comprehensive. Go to www.lacity.org/council.htm. Then click on "Map of District Boundaries."

While the map may tell you all the areas (Venice, Van Nuys, San Pedro etc.) covered by rent control, it does not tell you about specific buildings or units that may be exempt from the law. The only way to find out if a unit or property is covered is to contact the rent control division of the Los Angeles Housing Department at (866) 557-RENT.

Compensation varies for manager

Question: I live in Santa Monica, and I am wondering how many units an apartment building must have for the law to require an on-site manager. Also, what is fair compensation for managing a building? Is it a free apartment, salary, or a combination of the two? Does it depend on the number of apartments?

Answer: As I said in a previous question, in real estate everything is negotiable.

Compensation for managing an apartment can include a free apartment and/or a salary.

Of course, the level of compensation is tied to the amount of work required, which is directly related to the number of units in the building. More units equal more work and more compensation.

Regardless of the type of compensation package you and the property owner agree upon, you must be paid at least the federal minimum wage, which is $6.75 per hour.

On-site property managers are required under California law for all buildings containing 16 or more rental units.

Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles. E-mail questions to AptlifeAAGLA@aol.com.

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