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Real Estate Today

Who Should Pay for Wheelchair Ramp, Parking Spot?

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
13-August-2000 Sunday

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 at, and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law firm representing landlords.

QUESTION: I have lived in an Oceanside apartment since 1998. My daughter is in a wheelchair and I asked for a handicap parking space and a sidewalk ramp.

The on-site manager agreed yet I still don't have the space or the ramp after more than nine months. Every month I hear another excuse. Recently, I was told that the owner had to get permission for the ramp from the city of Oceanside. I called them and that's not true since the ramp wouldn't be on city property. What are my rights?

ANSWER: Kellman: Under State and Federal Fair Housing Laws, your landlord must allow reasonable accommodations of the rental to disabled persons. This includes reasonable modifications of the rental unit as may be necessary to afford the disabled person the full enjoyment of the premises.

Your landlord has apparently approved of the ramp but has delayed installing one. Perhaps a reason for that delay is that you are waiting for the landlord to pay for its installation. A ramp installed specifically for your unit may be a reasonable accommodation but the landlord may condition permission for the ramp on your promise to pay its cost.

To eliminate this as a delaying problem, you should consider offering, in writing, to cover that expense. The handicapped parking space should be promptly provided since they already approved of the request and the landlord would have to pay for that particular cost if the space is a benefit to others in the common area parking lot.

If the handicapped space would be purely for your benefit, you should consider offering to pay that cost, also. The landlord should act immediately on your requests since there are significant monetary damages and penalties they may have to pay if they violate these laws.

Smith: Steve correctly points out that the landlord has a duty to make reasonable accommodations based on your daughter's handicap. The physically challenged tenant is allowed to be placed on a par with -- but not better than -- nonhandicapped tenants. Access to the premises and reasonable accommodations are the key.

If in the common area and benefiting all tenants, then the ramp costs must be borne by the landlord. The city does not have jurisdiction in this matter. The law further provides that the tenant may make reasonable modifications to the interior, but not structural changes. The law states that the tenant must pay for these modifications.

This would include a ramp exclusively for your rental unit. The landlord has the right to expect them to be done in a workmanlike fashion in accordance with applicable building codes.

Stained linens

Q: I live downtown in a single room occupancy or SRO unit. (A SRO is a small, one room, very economical unit that typically has common bathroom and kitchen facilities that are shared by several tenants.) The linens are stained and have holes in them.

I thought they would be replaced after the recent rent increase. Since the linens weren't replaced, is there some agency I can call or should I just refuse to pay my rent?

A: Kellman: The linens are apparently supplied as part of your rental unit.
Unless otherwise agreed, the landlord should replace them when they wear out by normal use. It is questionable whether stains on the linen constitute a worn-out condition requiring replacement. Torn linen, however, would present a worn-out condition requiring replacement.

There really is no public agency in San Diego that would step in and force
the landlord to provide you new linen. To resolve this and most other landlord-tenant disputes, you would follow much the same course.

First, document your position to the landlord in a polite letter. If that doesn't work, you will need to take some action that could include buying your own linen and keeping track of the cost. You could bring a case in the small claims court for reimbursement after you move out.

It would not be a good idea to withhold the rent in your case. That should only be done under certain conditions and when the rental has significant habitability problems. Before withholding any rent, seek legal advice since not paying the rent could result in an eviction case being promptly filed against you in court.

Smith: The landlord's point of view would hold you responsible for replacement of the linens. Steve Kellman is going to have a tough time convincing a court that the stained or worn linens are within the California warranty of habitability. Let's face it, this is a rental room -- not a full-service hotel. Try finding bargain linens at Goodwill or Salvation Army.

If you want to continue living there, you must pay the increased rent, erstwhile find yourself on the receiving end of an eviction lawsuit.  No dogs!

Q: My husband and I had to move out of the country so we put our house in the hands of a property management company. We specifically stated in the contract that we wanted our house rented to someone with NO pets.

The property manager however has rented the house to a family with two dogs and three cats. I am back in the country now and have looked at my beautiful back yard and it is ruined by the two dogs. Who is responsible for the damage done by those huge dogs?

A: Griswold: I believe that you have a good claim for the damages to your
yard against your property manager. You had the terms clearly spelled out
in your management contract and unless the management company received your specific permission to deviate from the contract then they would be responsible. I would send them a demand letter that they either repair the damage or pay for the repairs.

IF 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

Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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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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