Rental Roundtable
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Real Estate Today

Roaches, Stinky Carpet are Worrisome

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
18-November-2001 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: Approximately three months ago I had to quickly move into a furnished rental in which the maintenance had not been completed. The owner has yet to correct or address many of the deficiencies.

Some of these items may be health and safety issues, like the roaches coming out of the mattress and box springs; the stinky carpet; and the daylight visible under the sink.

This building is in the new baseball park area and I am afraid the owners do not want to spend any money maintaining the property. I still have not paid my full security deposit. I can't afford to move so do you have any suggestions as to any recourse I might have?

ANSWER: Kellman: You are entitled to a safe and habitable dwelling. This includes the furnishings supplied along with the basic structure. The roach infestation, as long as not tenant caused, is the responsibility of the landlord.

Carpet that becomes excessively worn out from age should be replaced. Older carpet may be saturated with mold, mildew or other contaminants that pose a health hazard and simply cannot be fully cleaned. Also, carpeting may become frayed causing a trip hazard or worn down enough to expose carpet nails. Generally, carpet in rentals has a useful life of five to seven years.

As far as seeing daylight under the sink, any holes in a wall or ceiling need to be promptly repaired. Being in an area close to the proposed ballpark is clearly no excuse for your landlord to violate the law.

Smith: The landlord's side of this is a bit different. You've confessed to a lease violation by failing to pay the agreed security deposit. For this reason alone, you could be evicted, and it has nothing to do with the condition of the premises.

Steve Kellman, let's get realistic regarding California's warranty of habitability. Landlords are required to provide essential services only. The landlord does not have to replace the carpet. An initial cleaning and sanitation will suffice.

The landlord should spray for roaches, but you need to watch your housekeeping to avoid attracting further infestation. With the limited information on the daylight under the sink, I believe there is sufficient weatherproofing.

Based on this, and contrary to opposing counsel's opinions, you will need to pay both your security deposit and rent if you intend to continue living in this rental property.

Griswold: The practical response is to send the balance of your security deposit immediately so that you are in compliance with the lease and cannot be evicted. Since you can't afford to move you need to motivate your landlord. The full payment of the security deposit is a start but you must send the landlord a letter outlining your concerns with a specific emphasis on the health and safety issues.

Remember, landlords do not have to take care of cosmetic issues or any problems caused by your failure to properly maintain and clean the premises or any damage you or your guests cause. If the landlord does not respond promptly after receiving your letter, then I would suggest you contact the local neighborhood code compliance department and file a complaint.

Neighborhood code enforcement will inspect your rental unit and contact the landlord regarding any code violations. The landlord will be given a short but reasonable amount of time to address any problems before re-inspecting to ensure that the work was done properly.

In my experience, code enforcement should be able to assist you, but don't forget that your City Council representative or their staff also can be very effective in getting action.

Baby makes three

My husband and I have a month-to-month lease on an apartment. There is a clause in the lease that says no children. If I were to get pregnant and have a child, would the landlord have legal grounds to evict? What are tenants rights regarding month-to-month leases?

Kellman: It is a violation of both state and federal fair housing laws to discriminate against tenants in regards to their housing situations. It is generally known by most landlords that they cannot discriminate solely based on a tenant's sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability or medical condition.

It is also illegal to discriminate based on age or familial status, which includes families with children. This means that a provision in your lease which bars children is probably illegal unless your housing complex is set up as "housing for older persons" and meets several specific state and/or federal guidelines.

If you became pregnant and the landlord chose to evict you solely due to that pregnancy, absent qualifying for older-person housing exemptions, the eviction would be illegal.

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


2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996 Robert S. Griswold.  All Rights Reserved.