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Extra rent-control hike may be justified

Special to The Times

Question: I live in a rent-controlled property. I recently got notice of a 5% rent increase. My understanding was that an increase was approved allowing landlords to raise rents 4% instead of 3%. The manager says the extra percent is to cover the cost of gas. Is this legal?

Answer: Maybe. The basic annual increase for rent-controlled apartments in the city of Los Angeles is 4%. However, an additional percent is allowed if the owner pays for all of the gas used in the unit. The extra percent is not allowed if the owner pays for the gas to heat the hot water in the building but you pay for the gas for cooking or heating. The owner must pay for all of the gas to get the extra percent.

An added percent is also allowed if the owner pays for all of the gas and electric used in the unit, for a possible 6% increase.

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Security deposit interest due yearly

Question: I am an apartment owner with a property under rent control in the city of Los Angeles. Can you tell me how much interest I must pay tenants on their security deposits?

Answer: For 2006, the amount of interest to be paid by landlords to their tenants is 1.76%. The interest amount changes every year. It was 1.21% for 2005 and 0.26% for 2004, and it must be paid to renters annually.

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Fingering thieves would be difficult

Question: My landlord recently hired contractors to do some repair work on the building’s wood exterior. Because it was exterior work, I did not get notice of it. When the contractors came, they crawled through a doggy door to get access to my unit. When I got home, my computer was gone. I want to deduct the value of the computer from my rent, but the landlord says he did not grant the contractors access and they acted illegally if they went into the unit. Do I have a claim against the landlord?

Answer: Probably not, unless you can prove that the landlord was negligent. This does not appear to be the case.

If the contractors took the computer, and you can prove it, you could sue them and win. If they illegally entered your apartment and left the door open or unlocked, and you could prove the computer was stolen as a result of their negligence, you probably could sue them and win. That also does not appear to be the case.

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The dog door is a problem. If a contractor can crawl through it, a thief can do the same, making it virtually impossible to prove who the culprit was absent an eyewitness.

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E-mail questions to AptlifeAAGLA@aol.com.


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