Renter Wants to Keep Manager Out, Kitty In
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.
QUESTION: I have been looking for a new apartment, but I don't want the apartment manager to enter my current apartment to show it to others unless I give her specific permission or to make emergency repairs. I am concerned that my cat will get spooked from repeated showings and escape from the apartment.
What rights do I have, and what specific laws govern those rights? Can I deny access? All the one bedrooms are the same, so can't she show another vacant one?
If she is allowed to enter under law, I want to be present for all showings, but I can't take time off work because I could lose my job. Also, what if my cat escapes during a showing?
ANSWER: Griswold: Sorry, but per California Civil Code section 1954 your landlord has the legal right to show your apartment to prospective renters. They could be responsible if anything happened to your cat as a result of their negligence.
The landlord or their manager must give you at least 24 hours advance notice and the showing must be during "normal business hours." Even though all the one-bedroom rental units may be the same, the landlord is legally entitled to show your specific unit.
You can request that they show another one-bedroom apartment, but you can't use that fact in any legal way to prevent the showing of your apartment. Also, there is no legal requirement that you be present.
However, you could say that certain times are better than others
and ask that the manager cooperate with you. The landlord would not be
responsible for any lost wages or the loss of your job. Talk to the
landlord/manager and try to work out something reasonable.
My telephone has not been working. The phone company checked the line and said the problem most likely is in the condominium complex where I rent a unit. I called the landlord, and she said she's not responsible for telephone maintenance, and that I should call the homeowner association to have it fixed.
The phone company said they would charge me a stiff fee for a service call if the problem wasn't on their turf. Doesn't the landlord have responsibility to make sure the phone line works?
Kellman: Your landlord is responsible to install and maintain at least one working telephone jack. This also includes maintaining the inside wiring leading to that jack. The fact that the condominium complex may be to blame or bad wiring does not alter the landlord's responsibility to provide the working phone jack in your unit.
If the telephone company charges a fee for the repair of the inside line or the jack, then she must pay it. If she can prove that it is the homeowner association's responsibility, then she can seek reimbursement from them. If you are forced to pay the bill to get your phone working, submit the bill to your landlord along with a copy of the law (Civil Code section 1941.4) and ask her for reimbursement.
If she refuses, you may elect to deduct that fee from next month's rent. While this is technically an option, it is a risky one since you may be forced into defending an eviction action for the rent deduction. You could lose that case if the judge does not agree that the lack of a phone jack is a significant habitability defect.
Another option is to seek redress in the Small Claims Court where the odds in this case are in your favor for the landlord's violation of the law.
Smith: Most of Steve's comments are well taken and good advice. The law on repair and deduct makes no reference whatsoever to telephone jack repairs. California tenants can use repair and deduct in very limited circumstances involving basic habitability, such as heat and hot water.
In this case, I would encourage this landlord to handle and pay for the repair to the jack if the homeowner association refuses to. The internal wiring problem seems well within the association's responsibilities, and not the individual condominium owner's.
The landlord can take his case for reimbursement of these expenses to the association at the next board meeting. If it can't be resolved, then court may be your next stop. Have the repairman back you up when you take the association to Small Claims Court.
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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