Tenant's Apartment a Shade too
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: My windows are shaded by trees. Not only is it expensive
to have the lights on all day, but it also heats up the apartment. Is
there anything I can do to get more light into my unit?
ANSWER: Griswold: I would suggest you write a polite letter
to the owner or property management company informing them that the
trees need to be trimmed and send a couple of photos that clearly
reflect the overgrown trees. Often, this is all that's necessary as
typically the tenant will be the first to notice that the trees are in
need of trimming.
While overgrown trees can constitute a health and safety risk (as
Steve Kellman will cover below), many times there is no significant
health and safety issue and it is merely an aesthetic condition or the
desire to have more sunlight in your rental unit. Under such a
scenario, the owner may not be willing to incur the costs entirely on
his own and you may want to offer to share in the cost of having the
trees professionally trimmed.
I would strongly advise against you attempting to trim the trees
yourself unless it is simply a few small, low-hanging branches that
can be reached from the ground with hand-pruning equipment. I remind
all rental property owners that expecting or requiring tenants to be
responsible for the proper maintenance of landscaping is always risky,
but your large specimen trees are virtually irreplaceable assets that
can be destroyed by a negligent tenant.
Leave the proper care and pruning of your valuable trees to the
professionals by only hiring certified arborists or tree pruning
professionals directly. Letting your tenant select the firm could very
well lead to the loss of the tree or a significant liability risk.
Kellman: Trees need to be maintained in such a manner so as
not to pose a risk of health and safety to the tenants or their
visitors. This may involve trimming branches that stick out or could
fall in a walking area. It could also involve cleaning around the
trees if there is an accumulation of droppings which could pose a
slip-and- fall hazard. Sometimes roots can cause a trip-and-fall
The law, however, does not really handle the issue of not enough or
too much sunlight at your windows. I suppose a bright, sunlit window
may be attractive to the plant-loving tenant but can be an annoyance
to another tenant.
As to the heat and cost of lighting, the bulb of the day is the
fluorescent. It does not generate heat like an incandescent bulb would
and uses only a small amount of electricity, which means that this
bulb pays for itself over time. Contact your local electric utility
distribution company to see about some programs it may have that could
pay for or at least share in the cost of these bulbs.
I own a condo in San Diego and have rented it to a nice middle-
aged professional couple for the last six years. They have a problem
with a neighbor whose bedroom shares a wall with theirs. She is an
ill, elderly woman who makes terrible noises at night, forcing my
tenants to sleep in the living room.
They have spoken to the woman, her live-in caregiver, and the
building manager with no success. What can I do for them?
Smith: All tenants are entitled to quiet enjoyment in their
occupancy of rental property. Still, apartment tenants need to
understand that some noises are inherent in multifamily housing with
common walls. A difficult situation arises when a sensitive resident
is placed next to an abusing resident.
Management has the right and the duty to enforce apartment
regulations by asking the noisy tenant to keep it down. If, after a
reasonable request, the tenant refuses to cooperate, legal proceedings
could be instituted to remove the tenant from possession.
Care must be taken to follow fair housing laws and to make sure
that the complaining tenant is not exaggerating the situation or
making false or frivolous accusations.
Raindrops keep falling
Since we moved into our apartment over a year ago, we have had
problems with our ceiling leaking every time it rained. The landlord
finally fixed it a couple of weeks ago.
There are holes in the ceiling so that the water would run out, and
the water ruined many household items.
We are having problems receiving any type of compensation. We have
documented every time it has rained and who we contacted. We plan to
take them to Small Claims Court soon. The owner seems to think that we
do not deserve rent credit because the entire apartment did not have
We have sent the owner many letters requesting compensation and was
told to wait until it was fixed. We're tired of waiting. How should we
proceed from here and what are our rights?
Kellman: Tenants are entitled to compensation, not merely
rent credits, when the landlord's negligent maintenance causes losses
or injuries. First, you must determine if the landlord is liable. If
the rain caused a surprise leak that was not foreseeable, and the
landlord had no prior knowledge or notice of any possible leak
problem, then the landlord may not be liable.
However, if the landlord knew, or should have known of a leak
problem, but failed to take proper action, he or she will most likely
be held responsible for the damage caused by any such leaks that may
occur. This responsibility will include paying you for the cost of
repair of damaged items, or for the value of any item not repairable.
For destroyed items, the amount of damages owed to you would be at the
depreciated (or used) amount rather than the cost to buy them new.
You can certainly use the Small Claims Court if your damages are
reasonably within that court's jurisdictional limit (currently
$5,000). There are time limits in which a claim must be filed.
Therefore, be sure not to wait too long to file your case or your
rights to file that claim will be lost forever.
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
2002 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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