Tenant Expects Improvements with
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: My husband and I moved to San Diego
several years ago and found a
three-bedroom apartment in Hillcrest for $725 a month.
We considered the rent appropriate because the apartment's condition was
poor and required work, which we did. Now we have the nicest unit in the
building (there are four units). The rent stayed at $725 until January
when the building was sold and our rent was increased to $825. We have
received additional rent increases since then and now pay $975 per
month. We have a month-to-month rental agreement.
There is practically an identical apartment next door which is being
for $1,025 a month. There have been no landlord-made improvements to our
apartment or the building itself.
When we first moved in we accepted many of the little inconveniences
because of the cheap rent but if the rent keeps going up, I feel we
be receiving something in return.
Is our landlord under any legal
obligation to pump some money back into
Shouldn't the landlord repair the broken
electrical outlets or the
Since I have a month-to-month rental
agreement, could the landlord kick
me out for asking for repairs?
A: Griswold: You present several excellent
questions that I regularly hear from tenants.
No, the landlord is not obligated to
pump any money from your rent
increase back into the rental unit. Likewise, the landlord could not
properly maintaining the rental unit when you first moved in under the
excuse that they could not afford to make the needed repairs.
Yes, the landlord is obligated to make
repairs for all habitability
items -- electrical, plumbing, locks, etc. The habitability standard may
may not apply to the paint in your unit as the landlord is not required
repaint unless the peeling paint can be shown to be a health and safety
issue (i.e. lead-based paint and you have small children). The
or repair of cosmetic items is not required. That doesn't mean you
negotiate these items along with your rent increase and a new lease
No, the landlord cannot legally evict
you for requesting repairs for
habitability items or exercising any of your other rights as a tenant.
landlord does not have to offer you a new lease or anything beyond a
month-to-month (i.e. they can just keep accepting your monthly rent).
You may need to take the initiative and propose something. Since you are
on a month-to-month the landlord does not need any reason to give you a
30-day notice as long as the reason is not illegal (i.e. retaliatory or
discriminatory) and the burden of proof rests with you.
The reality is that the rental market was very soft for many years and
landlords lost a lot of money or even lost their property. Now that the
rental market has become a landlord's market many owners are making up
for lost time. Based on the $1,025 rent next door, it appears that your
landlord is still within the market.
But I hear many complaints about tenants who are afraid to ask for
painting, carpet, appliances, etc., as they are concerned that the
will raise the rent or even evict them. In a free market economy and
the fact that it was a renter's market for many years, I candidly
that both renters and landlords need to be realistic.
Both parties should realize that cosmetic upgrades or improvements to
property in exchange for a reasonable rent increase in conjunction with
new lease (or some other guarantee of no further increase for a
time period) is in everyone's best interest.
Q: I live in an upscale beach community and was
just given a one-week
notice to vacate my apartment for fumigation. Is this legal? The
offered to put tenants up at a less than acceptable hotel in a
section of town, or they will credit us "with two nights lodging
No mention was made for costs of food or time spent preparing our
apartments for this procedure.
With such short notice, many alternate hotels are already booked. What
are our rights?
A: Kellman: Your landlord is obligated to
provide habitable premises and conduct the necessary maintenance required to keep it habitable.
Sometimes it involves minor intrusions to your privacy like a quick
from a plumber or an electrician. It could also involve a major
inconvenience like for a fumigation, especially when tenting the
Of course you, the tenant, should cooperate in such maintenance efforts
which include allowing access by the fumigators and assisting in making
the necessary preparations. This protects your health and safety in
maintaining the building to be free of potentially dangerous insects.
The landlord must also cooperate. That cooperation should include
compensating the tenants for the inconvenience that the landlord's
maintenance is causing. After all, the tenants are paying for a livable
home but will not get it during the fumigation.
Therefore, I believe the landlord should keep the rent received for
affected days but pay for a comfortable hotel.
Also, I believe the landlord should pay for incidental expenses like
increased food costs, etc.
Smith: California landlords have every right to maintain their property
a habitable condition -- which includes fumigating for termites and
dangerous insects. Kudos to Mr. Kellman for acknowledging the landlord's
right. The landlord has the right to ask tenants to vacate temporarily
to accomplish the fumigation. Tenants cannot take this as an opportunity
for luxury housing during the temporary period.
In this case, the landlord has gone far enough by offering the rent
abatement and two nights' lodging expense. In my view, that's more than
While I realize you may be inconvenienced, you will need to cooperate
with your landlord to avoid further legal proceedings.
First things first
Q: We want to convert our primary residence
into our first rental property. Do we need to notify our insurance company that the property will be
nonowner occupied? Will we also need to refinance our owner-occupied financing?
A: Griswold: Yes, you do need to
immediately notify your insurance company and have them issue a landlord policy for your rental home.
As far as the lender, you really need to review your loan documents and
possibly consult with an attorney. Typically, lenders will allow you to
maintain the loan even if the home is no longer owner-occupied as long
you were not deceitful when you received the loan since the terms of
owner-occupied home loans are typically much better than investor loans.
For example, many lenders' loan documents will state that you must live
the home as your primary residence for at least six months while a few
may even require unrealistically that the home must always be owner-occupied
or that the terms (primarily the rate) may be adjusted higher to account
for the higher risk associated with rental property loans vs. owner-occupied
Generally speaking, you should be all right as long as it has been at
six months since you got the loan and there was no intent to deceive.
Lenders know that plans change and people buy new homes without selling their old home and thus the old home often becomes a rental.
This scenario happened a lot in the past few years when the market value
of homes fell below the loan balance. In those cases, it was in the best
interest of both the homeowner and the lender for the homeowner to rent
the property until the market values increased.
YOU'RE A TENANT OR LANDLORD, the authors stand ready to
answer your questions in this column, although letters
cannot be answered individually. Write them at: Rental
Roundtable, Homes Section, San Diego Union-Tribune, P.O.
Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191. Or you may e-mail
them at email@example.com
2000 Rental Roundtable
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
Griswold Corporate Center
Griswold Real Estate Management, Inc.
5703 Oberlin Drive, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92121-1743
Phone: (858) 597-6100
Fax: (858) 597-6161
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All Rights Reserved.