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Landlord should have tenants’ keys and phone numbers

Special to The Times

Question: Does California law require that a tenant provide a key to his apartment and his phone number to the landlord?

Answer: No. California law does not specifically require tenants to give landlords either a key to the apartment or a phone number, but not doing so may be a bad idea.

For instance, if there is an emergency when the renter is not at home, such as water running out from under the front door from a leak, the landlord will have to break into the apartment to take care of the problem because he has no key. The tenant will be responsible for the repairs to the door and lock.

Also, leases and rental agreements universally prohibit tenants from making alterations to a unit, such as changing the locks, without advance written permission from the owner. When a landlord allows a tenant to put a new lock on a door, he generally requires the tenant to give him a key to the new lock as a condition of the approval.

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If you change locks without the landlord’s permission and don’t give him a new key, or change the lock back to the original one, you may be evicted for altering the premises in violation of the rental agreement. Either way, it’s a good idea to give the owner a key.

Similarly, it’s always a good idea to give the landlord your phone number in case he needs to get in touch with you about maintenance or repair issues or, more important, in the case of a natural disaster.

Some West L.A. evictions are legal

Question: I have been living in a West Los Angeles apartment on a month-to-month rental agreement for the last seven years. My owner recently informed me that he wants me and my neighbor to move out so that he can knock down the walls between our two apartments and live there himself. Can he do this legally?

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Answer: If the units are not covered by the city of Los Angeles’ rent control law, and if the owner can get all of the required permits for the remodel from the city, he can do it. If the walls the owner wants to knock down are load-bearing walls, or for any one of a number of other reasons, getting those permits from the Building and Safety Department may be difficult.

If the units are under rent control, the owner’s job becomes even more complicated. He then must deal with the city’s rent control department in addition to trying to get the required permits. Although the rent law allows the owner to evict renters from a unit for an owner move-in, it does not allow him to evict renters from two units for owner move in.

However, he may be able to evict renters from one unit for an owner move-in and from another unit, under a different law, if he is permanently removing that unit from the rental market. Both of these types of evictions must be done in “good faith,” and the penalties for abusing these laws can be severe.

Hard drive noise is easily muffled

Several readers offered suggestions for the computer hard drive noise problem detailed in the Dec. 21 column:

* A better solution to the hard-drive noise problem would be to buy some rubber grommets that can be placed inside the computer case where the hard drive mounts to the computer case. Most hard drive noise is amplified by the case. The rubber grommets work amazingly well.

* Since the problem is only in the tenant’s bedroom, my suggestion is for the tenant to mask the sound with a sound machine or anything else that produces a steady stream of “white noise.” There are many types of machines for this purpose that produce an array of sounds (ocean waves, waterfalls). I myself have an air-cleaning machine in my bedroom that makes enough noise to cover up any outside noises.

Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, an apartment owners’ service group. E-mail questions about apartment living to AptlifeAAGLA@aol.com, c/o Kevin Postema, or mail to AAGLA, c/o Kevin Postema, 621 S. Westmoreland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90005.

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