Law says Looks aren't Important,
only Safety Counts in Apartments
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 lived in a very well maintained apartment building
for nearly 12 years. In all that time, the landlord has not painted my
apartment. Also, the carpet is extremely worn and needs to be
replaced. What are my rights as a tenant to have this upkeep done? Is
the landlord obligated to paint every so many years and to replace
worn wall-to-wall carpeting?
ANSWER: Griswold: There is no law requiring
landlords to paint the property or replace the carpet based on any set
formula or passage of time. Landlords are required under California
law to properly maintain the premises in a safe and habitable manner.
Your landlord would be required to repaint your rental unit in the
event that the failure to repaint has become a health and safety
For example, if the paint is old it may contain
lead and be a lead-based paint hazard if it is beginning to peel or
come loose from the painted surfaces. If it is just a cosmetic issue
then the landlord is not responsible for repainting and you may want
to propose that the landlord repaint and you will pay some or all of
The carpet is evaluated along the same lines. A
worn carpet only becomes a health- and-safety issue when it is a trip
and fall hazard or is so worn that the tack strip or other elements
poke through and could injure someone. Again, if it is just ugly or
out of date then the landlord is not legally obligated to do anything.
Of course, with the legalities aside, I highly
recommend that prudent landlords should take good care of their
tenants and properly maintain the premises. Repainting the unit and
replacing the carpet after nearly 12 years is a very small price to
pay for having a great long-term tenant.
I suggest that you send him a positive letter
requesting these items. You could even include a copy of my response.
Q: My husband and I rent an apartment in La Jolla
on a month-to- month rental agreement. When my husband first rented
the apartment in 1997, he paid a $625 security deposit that was equal
to his rent at the time. Our rent has increased by $175 to $800 over
the last few years. What is the appropriate amount for our security
deposit? Earlier this year our landlord required all tenants to pay an
additional amount that she claims brings the deposit up to current
We had to pay an additional $400, which is less
than the increased deposit sought from some tenants. Can our landlord
legally increase our deposit to an amount that is greater than our
monthly rental rate?
A: Griswold: Yes. Under California law,
landlords can require a security deposit of up to two times the
monthly rental rate for unfurnished apartments and three times the
rental rate for furnished units.
There is no requirement that the security deposit
have any correlation to the rental rate as long as the total security
deposit does not exceed the maximum allowed by law. They can request
an increase at any time as long as they give you the proper notice,
which would be 30 days written notice for a month-to-month rental
agreement. If you were on a lease, the landlord would just need to
give written notice at the time of lease renewal.
There is no requirement that all tenants have the
same security deposit except that the landlord should use proper
business judgment in setting the amount and must not be arbitrary or
discriminatory when setting the required security deposits for each
Q: If a tenant causes a fire accidentally in a
rental house, can the landlord hold him responsible for repairs to the
building, or would the landlord's insurance have to pay for damage?
A: Griswold: The tenant can definitely be
held financially responsible if he was responsible or negligent. Many
times the landlord's insurance company will step in to quickly make
the necessary repairs and get the rental house back online. Then they
will subrogate their claim against the individual or party that was
the actual cause of the fire.
Thus, if the tenant or tenant's family or guests
cause the fire, then the insurance company will seek full restitution
and recovery of all costs from the tenant or the tenant's insurance
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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All Rights Reserved.