What's a Student to Do?
Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
This installment of Rental Roundtable focuses on issues confronting
student renters and landlords. It 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: My landlord told me I can't have college friends stay
with me overnight at my unit. Is that right?
ANSWER: Kellman: No, it is not. Tenants are afforded the right of
privacy and freedom of association under state and federal law. This
means tenants are allowed to have guests visit them and landlords can
not prohibit these guests, even if they spend the night. As long as
the visitors do not stay so long as to be considered residents, the
visitors remain classified as guests and are allowed to be there. Some
landlords try to discourage visitors by charging a fee for each time a
visitor spends the night. I believe such a fee is improper and void.
Of course, tenants must not abuse this right with excessive
visitors or create a nuisance or other disturbances. Also, in most
mobile home parks, there are specific rules on how long a guest may
stay at a unit. A tenant who has a guest stay too many days risks
eviction for an unauthorized extra resident. If an extended visit is
expected, let the landlord know you will be having a guest and not a
Question: Over a year ago, I co-signed my son's one-year lease for
an apartment and paid the security deposit for him. At the end of the
lease, my son signed a new lease for seven months. I did not sign the
new lease or any other document. Now my son tells me that he has left
the apartment and the landlord has deducted for cleaning and
miscellaneous damages that exceed the security deposit. The landlord
sent him a letter demanding payment of several hundred dollars. Can I
be held responsible for the additional charge even though I didn't
sign the most recent lease?
Griswold: If you signed the original lease document, which was
terminated, then you would only be responsible for the initial lease
term. The new lease would strictly be the obligation of your son. If
you also signed a guaranty or co-signor agreement, review it carefully
as most have a blanket statement that the guaranty applies until
specifically canceled or the underlying tenancy is formally
In this event or if the landlord can prove the damages occurred
during the initial tenancy, the landlord may seek payment from you. Of
course, ultimately your son should be held responsible for any damage
to the apartment. He should take affirmative steps to get the matter
resolved rather than allow the landlord to notify the credit reporting
agencies, particularly if he disputes the charges.
Question: If an apartment is listed at a university housing office,
does that mean the school has checked out the unit, the owner and the
Griswold: The housing referral offices at most universities are
great sources of information for both tenants and landlords and
usually have listings for both university housing and private rentals.
Of course, the university-owned or affiliated housing is maintained
and operated by the university or an affiliated entity and will often
have the advantage of being "approved."
However, I am not aware of any Southern California university that
has the resources to investigate the listed privately owned rental
units. With the severe shortage of affordable rental housing, many
universities have endeavored to acquire their own rental units.
Due to the tight market and dynamic nature of finding the right
rental unit, I would suggest that you keep your cell phone handy and
call immediately if you think you will be interested in a particular
apartment. The best units go quickly as school starts!
Question: I live in a residential neighborhood near SDSU. The home
next door was rented to what must be six students. Can the owner of
the property do that? There have been some problems with parking and
Smith: Fair-housing laws prohibit your neighboring landlord from
discriminating against any protected class, including singles and/or
students. So long as the lease does not violate zoning laws, his
selection of the six students as his tenants is approved. Although you
must accept the students as your neighbors, you don't have to put up
with the noise and parking problems. The landlord's lease should
restrict and prohibit this type of behavior.
You have the right to ask him to enforce the lease to avoid
disturbances in the neighborhood. Put the landlord on notice of the
problems and make sure that you request he take whatever legal steps
are necessary to enforce the parking and quiet enjoyment provisions of
the lease agreement with the students.
Kellman: The owner can rent the home to six students unless, like
Ted says, that violates a local zoning ordinance. The larger question
is what to do about the parking and noise problems. It may be safe to
assume that there is a higher volume of student traffic in and about
the SDSU area. Since you are not sure of the amount of students living
there, you may not be sure that any of them are to blame for any
problems. Unless you can personally verify that the parking and noise
problems are from the neighbors, it would be unfair to blame them.
Before you complain, be sure of the facts and do not simply rely on a
guess or prediction that any such problems must be those particular
Question: I am in a long-term lease at a house. The terms list
myself and my two roommates as one legal entity. Everything was fine
until last week when one of my roommates announced she was moving and
gave a 30- day notice to vacate.
She believes that she can individually break the lease and have no
further responsibility. Although we have sought some basic legal
advice and informed her of her legal responsibilities, she continues
with this notion. What should we do?
Griswold: Your roommate would be well advised to follow the legal
advice you received as each and every tenant on the lease is jointly
and severally responsible for the entire term. Thus, the lease is
fully binding and enforceable against each of you individually as well
as collectively. There is no such concept as one roommate has
"paid their share" and the landlord can only go after the
Such problems must be worked out between the roommates. In a
worst-case scenario, any one of you could be held fully responsible
for all of the rent, any damages, etc., regardless of which individual
roommate failed to live up to their end of the deal.
Typically, it is the most stable, responsible and financially
solvent roommate that becomes the target of the owner seeking money.
Then, that roommate can always pursue legal action against the other
roommates, but . . . good luck!
The only way your roommate can be released from obligation is with
the owner's express written permission.
The owner would then also want a written release from the vacating
roommate indicating that they were forgoing any legal rights to the
Another option would be to seek a mutually acceptable substitute
roommate that you and the roommate who will be staying, the departing
roommate, and the owner all agree to accept.
Your situation illustrates exactly why I stress the importance of
selecting your roommates very carefully!
Question: I was looking for an apartment in the College Area. The
landlord told me he only rented to students. I don't think that's
Kellman: Landlords must follow fair housing laws, which means they
can not discriminate based on such things as race, religion, ancestry,
etc. Under the law, the landlord can not discriminate based on age or
familial status including families with children.
Any applicant who has sufficient income and an acceptable credit
history should be able to rent that unit, whether they are a student
There is a specific exemption in the fair housing laws for
"post secondary educational institutions" (public or
private) wherein they can offer housing to students, provided students
are afforded equal access to those units.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
2001 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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