No charitable feelings after rent increase is posted

Special to The Times

Question: I have lived in Beverly Hills for three years. My lease expired after the first year, and the landlord has since raised the rent twice -- although not to the full amount to which she is entitled, to her credit. But what irks me is that she posts our rents on the doors of our apartments for all to see.

She has asked me several times to donate to her favorite charity. I have always refused. Now, I pay more rent than any of my neighbors. When she recently asked me to donate, I told her I couldn't afford it due to my most recent rent increase. She said I could leave at any time.

Are there any legal or ethical issues involved when a landlady advertises what tenants pay for rent, or when tenants are pressured to donate to charities?

Answer: The landlady is not, technically, advertising what you pay for rent, but posting a notice of an increase on your door. When she does this, she is also required to mail you a copy. This is known as the "nail and mail" method of service of notices. Under state law, landlords are required to both mail and post copies of rent increases to tenants unless they can personally serve them.

Ask the landlord to serve such notices to you personally in the future or, at the least, to put the notice in an envelope so your neighbors cannot see it.

You don't say how she pressures you to donate to her favorite charity or whether she threatens to increase your rent if you don't. If she did that, it might be a problem. However, that does not appear to be the case.

Try asking nicely for improvements

Question: After tenants move out of apartments, the units get new carpet, tile and paint. I've been a tenant for five years and would like to have these improvements made to my unit. How can I demand the same treatment ?

Answer: The owner is under no obligation to make such improvements. State law does not require landlords to provide periodic improvements to apartments. It does require that they be habitable. Local laws generally do not require such upgrades either. However, at least one city, West Hollywood, does. Check with the housing officials in your city to find out whether they have such an ordinance.

You can always ask for upgrades, just remember that using "please" usually goes a long way toward achieving your goals. If it's financially feasible, offer to pay for half, or some, of the improvements yourself.

Silent treatment

in lieu of a refund

Question: I moved to Los Angeles in July. I left my old apartment, in Carlsbad, Calif., clean and with no damage. Since moving out, I have phoned and text-messaged the owner several times about the refund on my $350 security deposit. He has sent me nothing and does not respond. Other than going to court, what are my options?

Answer: Sorry. The remedy for an owner failing to return your security deposit, up to $7,500, is to sue in Small Claims Court. For amounts of more than $7,500, you must sue in Superior Court. If you do decide to sue the owner in Small Claims Court, you will have to do so in Carlsbad, where the defendant lives and the incident occurred.

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