Question: I rented a room, paying first and last months’ rent plus a security deposit. There was no written agreement. I moved out after one week. The owner says that under California law I am responsible for a minimum of two months’ rent, first and last. Is she right?
Answer: She is wrong. Under an oral month-to-month rental agreement, which is what you have, you are required to give the owner a 30-day notice of your intention to move.
You are liable for the rent for 30 days, the term of the notice, after you serve it. If you don’t serve any notice and simply move out, as you have done, you are still liable for the rent for 30 days, one month’s rent, from the day you move out.
The exception is that if the owner re-rents the apartment before the 30 days is up, she cannot collect double rent. Since you lived there for one week, you are liable for that week’s rent plus the added 30 days’ rent from your “constructive notice,” moving out, as required by the law, and that is all. You are not responsible for two months’ rent.
In spite of the fact that when an owner collects a last month’s rent it must be used for that purpose if it is used at all, all money collected as deposits, whether called security deposit, last month’s rent, key deposit or any other kind of deposit, are considered security deposits under state law and are refundable.
Landlord can bar tenant’s daughter
Question: I am writing to find out if the owner of where I am planning to move can keep me from allowing my 24-year-old daughter to live with me. I plan to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Her credit is awful, but she is my dependent, as she does not work. Can the landlord prevent her from moving in?
Answer: A two-bedroom apartment is easily big enough for two; however, the owner can prevent you from moving in a second tenant with awful credit. Apartment owners are allowed to discriminate against prospective renters on two bases: income and credit-worthiness.
Although you might consider your daughter a dependent, they are generally defined as those who are younger than 18, elderly or disabled. Under the law, she would be defined as a tenant, just as you are.
If you and your daughter are allowed to move into the apartment, and if you move out later, she can remain in the unit as a tenant. Since she doesn’t have a job, paying the rent might be difficult for her, and that would be the owner’s concern.
Rent-controlled increases vary
Question: I live in a rent-controlled apartment in West L.A. and received a rent increase of more than 3%. Is it legal for a landlord to increase rent more than 3% in a rent-controlled area? If it is legal, when is it legal?
Answer: All rent-controlled areas are not created equal. The allowable rent-increase percentages are different in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, all of which have rent-control laws. Only in the city of Los Angeles is the amount 3%.
In Beverly Hills, the increase is tied to the monthly consumer price index. Contact the city for monthly rent-increase amounts. In West Hollywood, the current increase is 2.75%. It is 1.3% in Santa Monica.
Although 3% is allowed for the general annual increase in L.A., it can be as high as 5% if the owner pays for all of the gas and electric utilities in the apartment. One additional percentage point increase is allowed in L.A. for each utility -- gas and electric. No increase is allowed for water at this time.
Kevin Postema is the editor of Apartment Age magazine, a publication of AAGLA, an apartment owners’ service group. E-mail your questions on any aspect of 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.