The ad promised a microwave, but now it's broken

From Project Sentinel

Question: I answered a room-for-rent ad on my college bulletin board that said the room had a microwave oven. Since I don't have a lot of money, this feature was important and I used it a lot. The microwave broke, and now the landlady says she is not going to fix it because she feels I was using it too much. I need it fixed. What can I do?

Answer: Since a microwave was listed in the ad, a workable one must be provided. This is called an "express" promise. The landlady has an obligation to repair the microwave or reduce your rent accordingly.

After it is repaired, the landlady could remove the oven if she serves you with a 30-day change of terms notice listing that it will no longer be provided. This applies if you are a month-to-month tenant. If you have a lease, the landlady could terminate availability of the oven only when the lease is renewed.


Immigration and a landlord's limits

Question: I try to be careful in selecting tenants. I would like to ask prospective tenants to provide me with evidence of their legal immigration status as part of my application process. Do I have the right to include such a question on my application form?

Answer: Before the beginning of the year, there was confusion about the right to inquire about immigration status, but the question has now been clarified by the California Legislature, at least for purposes of state law.

As of the beginning of this year, Section 1940.3 was added to the California Civil Code and prohibits a landlord from making any inquiry about the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant or prospective tenant or occupant of residential rental property.

The statute also prohibits any local government from enacting any contrary ordinance.

The statute states that landlords continue to have the right to request information to document the financial qualifications of a prospective tenant through any other means.


Rent receipt is due at no charge

Question: The new owner of the apartment complex I manage has asked me to collect a fee from tenants who request a receipt when they pay their rent. I do not think this is allowed. Am I right?

Answer: You are correct. According to Civil Code Section 1499, a "debtor," such as a tenant, has a right to request from a "creditor," such as a landlord, manager or agent, a written receipt for any property including rent delivered in performance of an obligation. This receipt is to be provided at no cost to the tenant.


Dispute refund and cash check

Question: In the memo section of the security deposit refund check I received, the landlord has written "payment in full." I disagree with some of the deductions. Can I cash the check and still continue to disagree with the amount?

Answer: Unless you agreed to accept whatever the landlord refunds to you as final payment, the notation in the check memo section is not valid.

Since you did not agree to accept the amount refunded to you, the notation should be crossed out and initialed. You can then safely cash the check. To make your position totally clear, you can add a notation such as "balance in dispute."


This column is prepared by Project Sentinel, a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif. Questions may be sent to 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Suite 3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, but cannot be answered individually. For housing discrimination questions, complaints or help, call the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment at (800) 233-3212 or the Southern California Housing Rights Center at (800) 477-5977.

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