Kids Will Be Noisy Kids But Tenant Needs Quiet
Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
This column on issues confronting renters and
landlords is written by Counselor of Real Estate and
Certified Property Manager Robert Griswold, host of Real
Estate Today! with Robert Griswold (10 a.m.
Saturdays on AM1130 - KSDO radio, or on the Internet
and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the
Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law
firm representing landlords.
Q: I have a condo in Lakeside and another homeowner is always complaining about the children. They're normal kids, playing, running, laughing throughout the day.
She says she's entitled to her peace and quiet and that the parents should keep their children quiet; otherwise, the parents should be sent a violation and a fine.
The kids are only being kids doing what kids do. Skateboards and bikes are not allowed in the common area, which I agree with. Can the association take her side?
A: Kellman: Banning skateboards and bikes in the common areas makes some sense as a safety issue. It becomes a different matter to levy a fine against a resident for the noise naturally made by their children playing in permitted areas.
The law recognizes that living in a multiunit area means there will be a certain amount of sounds including those made by children, especially before or after the accepted "quiet hours" of the night and early morning.
Further, such a rule banning normal children's noise could easily be an unlawful discrimination against families with children. Although normal noise must be accepted, excessive noise is a different story. Such excessive noise may properly result in the violation and fine that you mentioned.
Besides the use of fines, an aggrieved neighbor can call the police or even initiate a private action (i.e. small claims court) against the noise maker for damages.
The best strategy is to attend your association meetings, communicate with your neighbors and try to reach an understanding that resolves this issue without such legal action.
Smith: Your condominium association is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the rules and regulations for the benefit of all owners and residents. The association is bound by state and federal law that prohibits discrimination against children.
Normal children who run, play, and laugh throughout the day ordinarily would not unreasonably interfere with the quiet enjoyment of adjacent residents. On the other hand, the complaining homeowner has the right to live her life in peace and quiet.
In condominium living, a balance has to be struck between seemingly conflicting lifestyles. All condominium homeowners are urged to attend meetings of the association to air their grievances and come to a resolution before the matter ends up in court.
Terminator wannabeQ: My roommate and I recently moved into an apartment and signed a nine-month lease. Our rent is $1,100 per month plus utilities.
We have several problems. Both of us have school loans to pay back. That payment on top of our new rent payment is more than either of us can handle.
Both of us want to terminate the lease. Further, my boyfriend and I just got engaged and we feel that it is to our financial benefit to live together in his apartment. My roommate wants to terminate the lease and find a new place to live for less rent.
Can we get out of our lease agreement without hurting our credit?
A: Griswold: Unless your lease contains a lease termination clause, your only option (other than staying the full nine months) is to talk with the landlord and see if they will allow you to leave early or sublease the apartment.
The landlord is under no obligation whatsoever to allow you out of the lease -- they would take the position that you and your roommate should have figured out your personal budgets and romance situation before signing a lease. Or you should have opted for a month-to-month rental agreement often available at a slightly higher monthly rent.
If you fail to pay the rent, then it is very likely that your credit will be affected. Of course, the landlord can only charge you for the balance of the lease until they are able to rent the apartment to someone else.
That is one good thing for you -- the rental market is extremely tight. Maybe you could offer the landlord or their property manager a "bonus" if they could rent your unit while you are still there. That way you are actually using the unit that you will be paying for, but also have a chance to leave early.
Big screen problemsQ: My husband and I rented a small home in Pacific Beach for about a year and a half. There was no air conditioner so we decided to purchase a security screen door for the front door to allow air to ventilate.
Upon leaving, we took the door with us. The landlord threatened to sue us for the cost of the door as well as an installer since he had promised the door to the new tenants. He said it had become his property, by California law, once we nailed it to the exterior of the home. Is this correct? I would assume something like a ceiling fan to become his property but I was under the impression that this was not a permanent fixture.
A: Griswold: I do not believe that the security screen door qualifies as a permanently attached fixture since it can easily be installed or removed from the door frame with three hinges.
In retrospect, you should have asked permission in writing to make this modification in advance.
Also, while the lack of air conditioning may explain why you wanted the screen door, it is not relevant from a legal viewpoint since air conditioning is not a habitability item in a coastal area. (If you were in an inland area it may be more relevant.)
At this point, the most you should be responsible for is the repair of the door frame in the event that the owner does not buy a security screen door for the new tenant.
Again, remember that any alteration should be agreed in writing in advance and would include details such as whether the improvement stays or goes and typically that the tenant would be responsible for any damage if the item is taken upon vacating.
Robert Griswold and the Real Estate Today! radio show strongly support the intent and the letter of all federal and state fair housing laws. As a reminder to all owners and managers of real estate, note that all real estate advertised is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise "any preference, limitation, discrimination because of race, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex, physical disability, or familial status, or intention to make any such preference, limitation or discrimination." Additional state and/or local fair housing laws may also apply. Be sure to inform all persons that all dwellings offered or advertised are on an equal opportunity basis.
Revised and Updated - Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Robert S. Griswold, CRE, CPM, CCIM,
PCAM, GRI, ARM
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