Landlord Ignores Tenant's Request
to Upgrade Apartment
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 (9 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 living in the same apartment
over 12 years and it needs to be repainted -- the walls are dirty, the
paint is peeling off the bathroom walls, the molding is chipped in
many places, and the wooden cabinets in the bathroom have lost strips
of wood due to moisture.
I keep asking the manager about getting my
apartment repainted but receive no response. Does my landlord have any
responsibility to repaint and fix the cabinets? My ceiling leaks, too.
ANSWER: Griswold: Your landlord is required
to properly maintain the rental unit. This includes any deficiencies
in habitability such as water intrusion. The issue of painting is a
little more complicated. If the rental unit needs to be repainted for
habitability reasons (like the chipping and peeling that you describe)
then the landlord is responsible. If the primary reason to repaint is
cosmetic, then the landlord does not have a duty to repaint. Note that
the dirt on the walls would typically not constitute a habitability
problem by itself, however, if you cannot reasonably wipe down the
walls without the paint coming off then you have a habitability
problem caused by poor paint quality.
Of course, if the paint is of high quality and you
have damaged the paint or somehow your lifestyle resulted in a
diminishment of the paint's typical useful life then the landlord has
an argument that you caused damage beyond ordinary wear and tear and
thus you are responsible for the damage yourself.
The same general reasoning applies to cabinets. If
it is cosmetic then the landlord is not required by law to address it.
If the issue becomes health and safety in the use of the cabinets,
then the landlord should take care of them.
Your landlord should properly maintain the property
and charge you a market-level rent. You have been there 12 years and
clearly there should be many items that need attention and should be
handled by the landlord without complaint. Many times landlords do not
raise the rent to market level hoping that the tenant won't complain
about anything and then they get upset when the tenants ask for
necessary repairs. Also, many tenants realize that their rent is below
market so they don't bring up the issue of problems in their rental
The best way for everyone is for the landlord to
offer a well- maintained and properly priced rental unit and tenants
to receive good value for their money and the expectation that any
necessary repairs will be handled promptly and professionally. But
often both tenants and landlords are responsible for deviating from
this preferred practice.
Q: At my apartment building there is a pool in the
center of the courtyard. It is cleaned only on Fridays and the filters
are never on. There is always algae growing in the pool by Tuesday.
What recourse do tenants have to get the pool cleaned on a more
regular basis during summer? Should the health department be notified?
We have already expressed our concerns to the landlord and no
corrections were made.
A: Kellman: A pool can be great for those
hot summer days, but it must be properly maintained or it becomes a
danger exposing you to risks of illness or even death. Landlords
should take pool maintenance very seriously. Improperly cleaned water
may promote dangerous bacteria easily capable of making you ill.
Improperly maintained suction vents can cause drowning if a child gets
stuck against one. Improperly grounded wiring or the use of unapproved
higher voltage lighting can cause dangerous shocks. There are slip-
and-fall hazards for improper surfacing around the pool. These are
only examples of risks facing tenants from improperly maintained
As to your situation, the landlord must keep the
water clean to avoid algae or any other unhealthful contaminant.
Obviously, minimal cleaning and turning the filters off is only done
to save money and is a very unwise practice. This lack of maintenance
will cost much more in the long run in increased risks forced upon the
You should call the county health department to ask
for an inspection. They can take the appropriate action with the
landlord if the pool is not kept up properly.
Q: I am a tenant and I recently gave my 30-day
notice to vacate, but I am not sure when the 30 days begin. Can it
begin any time, or does it begin on the anniversary date of the 30-day
I moved in on the first of the month on a
month-to-month rental agreement and pay my rent on the first of each
month. I decided on the fifth day of the month to give my notice to
vacate and I immediately notified my landlord. The landlord insists
that the present month-to-month lease if effective for the balance of
that month, plus the next month. Is my landlord correct?
A: Smith: California's month-to-month
tenancies may be legally terminated by written 30-day notice. It is
well settled that the notice of termination does not have to coincide
with the rental due date. Your 30-day notice dated on the fifth of the
month is effective 30 days hence. Count the 30 days beginning with the
day after the notice is given. All calendar days are included. Watch
out for months with more or less than 30 days.
Let's assume your rent is due in advance on the
first of the month and that we are dealing with a 30-day month. You
will owe a five-day prorated rent on the first of the following month.
The landlord is wrong when he claims that you will owe the entire
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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