Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions - Discrimination
I have a policy of charging new tenants a security deposit equal to one month's rent. If a tenant has children, I add $50 extra per child to the security deposit since kids usually cause more damage than normal. Is this legal?
No. A landlord cannot require a higher security deposit or damage deposit from people who have minor children than from people without minor children. According to the California Supreme Courty in Wolfson and the Federal Fair Housing Law amended in 1988, it is unlawful to set deposits based on the stereotype that children as a class cause more damage to property than others.
I have a two-story apartment building and I don't rent apartments above the first floor to people with small children. I'm afraid that small children could fall off the balcony and I may get sued. Is this legal?
No. You cannot deny someone the opportunity to rent a unit just because they have children.
The apartment building I own is in an area where most people speak Spanish. Is it legal to place a "For Rent" sign in the front of the building that's only in Spanish?
No. If you advertise your vacancy in Spanish, you must also advertise it in English.
I recently placed an advertisement for a vacant unit that read "A great building for single professionals." Was this legal?
It is illegal to advertise in a manner that states or suggests a preference. The advertisement you placded discourages families with children from applying to rent your vacant unit. It also discourages married couples and partnered couples from applying for your vacant unit.
I recently found out that the on-site manager of the building I own has been harassing the female tenants. Am I legally liable for this?
Yes. As the owner of the building, you are legally responsible for the actions of your management personnel, maintenance staff, and any other agents you employ. Under both federal and state fair housing laws, sexual harassment of tenants is illegal.
A disabled tenant at one of my apartment buildings wants to install a ramp. Do I have to let her do this?
Under the fair housing laws, a disabled tenant can request a reasonable modification, which is a change in the physical structure of a building. If the modification is required to give the disabled tenant full use and enjoyment of her unit, then you must grant the request. However, in most cases the tenant is responsible to cover the cost of the modification.
I recently rented a unit to someone who had some problems with his credit report. I had a second applicant with better credit, but I really liked the first applicant because we had a great conversation about sports. Did I make the right decision?
As a landlord, it is extremely important that you apply your rental policies and standards in an equal manner. If you have a policy of renting to the applicant with the best credit, then you should follow this policy at all times. Avoid making exceptions to the rule. It could come back to haunt you if the exception you make favors one group over another.
I have a "No Pets" policy at all the apartment buldings I own. I recently had a visually impaired tenant who needed a seeing eye dog apply for a unit. I turned her away because we do not allow pets. Was this legal?
No. If a disabled tenant requires the use of a service animal than you must grant her an exemption to the "No Pet" policy. The tenant's use and enjoyment of her home would clearly be adversely affected if she wasn't allowed to have her seeing-eye dog. However, this does not mean that your "No Pet" policy must be suspended for your non-disabled tenant.
Last month, one of my tenants had his girlfriend move into his apartment. I gave them notice that I was going to add $50 to their monthly rent. Is that legal?
Yes. If the total number of occupants increases or exceeds the number originally agreed upon in the rental or lease agreement, a landlord may charge reasonable additional rent (often referred to as a surcharge), depending on the circumstances. This would be dependant on applicable rent control ordinances. Most important is the intent behind the surcharge, and that it be tied in a reasonable way to the additional use of utilities and other services.
I just received a rental application for a two-bedroom unit from a family of four: two adults and two children. One of the children is a boy and the other is a girl. I turned them down because I think the children should each have a separate room since they are different sexes. Was that legal?
No. You cannot require that children of opposite sexes have separate bedrooms. These decisions are within the parents' control and not the landlord's.
Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions - General Housing
How many days do I have to wait to get my security deposit back?
California Civil Code Section 1950.5 requires that within three weeks (21 days) after a tenant has vacated the unit, the ownder must either: 1) return the security deposit to the tenant, 2) furnish a copy of an itemized statement indicating the amount of any part of the security deposit used (e.g. for unpaid rent, repairs, etc.), or 3) a combination of #1 or #2. Effective January 1, 2003, rental property ownders must perform a walk-through with the residents no earlier than two (2) weeks prior to the termination of the tenancy. The intent of this new law is to give residents an opportunity to remedy identified deficiencies in the unit prior to move out. If your building falls under rent control in areas such as the City of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, or West Hollywood, a landlord may be required to pay interest on your security deposit.
Can a landlord increase the rent more than two times per year?
If you have a lease for more than 30 days (e.g. 1-year lease), your rent cannot be increased during the term of the lease, unless the lease allows rent increases. If you have a periodic rental agreement (month-to-month), your landlord can increase your rent, but must give you proper advice notice in writing. (Civil Code Section 8.27) If you live in a building that is under rent control in areas such as the City of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, or West Hollywood, your landlord can only raise your rent a set percentage once every twelve months.
How much can a landlord legally raise the rent?
Under California Law there is currently no maximum limit for rent increases. As of January 1, 2001, a landlord must give the tenant at least 30 days' advance notice if the rent increase is 10 percent (or less) of the rent charged at any time during the 10 months before the rent increase takes effect. A landlord must give 60 days' advance notice if the rent increase is greater than 10 percent. (Civil Code Section 827b.) Buildings under rent control in cities such as Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, fall under different rules. For example, in Los Angeles, owners of buildings that fall under rent control can only raise the rent 5% per year. Landlords can raise the rent one additional percent (1%) for gas and/or one percent (1%) for electricity when the landlord pays all the costs of either of these services for the tenant.
How much advance notice must my landlord give if he wants a tenant to move out of the rental unit?
Landlords are required to provide a 60-day advance notice to a resident if the landlord elects to terminate a tenancy. If the tenant has resided in the unit less than 1 year, the landlord is only required to give a 30-day notice. (Civil Code Secion 1946.1) In rent control areas, a landlord may be limited to certain reasons for request a tenant to vacate the premises. For example, in the City of Los Angeles, there are 12 legal reasons to request that a tenant vacate a unit outlined in the Rent Stabalization Ordinance. Two of tehm are failure to pay rent and using a rental unity for any illegal purpose.
Is a landlord obligated to pay relocation fees?
A landlord is required to pay relocation fees if the building falls under rent control in areas such as the City of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood. There are certain conditions under which a landlord in these areas is required to pay relocation assistance. For example, in the City of Los Angeles, when a landlord requires a tenant to vacate so that he/she, a spouse, parent(s), child(ren), or manager can occupy the unity, the landlord is required to pay relocation assistance. A landlord is also required to pay relocation if the landlord is converting rental units to condominiums.
What is rent control?
Rent control ordinances limit or prohibit rent increases and notices to vacate tenancy. Some California cities have local ordinances but each community's ordinance is different. As stated above, in the City of Los Angeles, rent increases are limited to a certain percentage each year. Also, some rent control ordiances allow landlords to evict tenants for "just cause." This means, the landlord must state and provide a valid reason for terminating a month-to-month tenancy. In California, the cities that have rent control are the City of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Berkeley, Campbell, East Palo Alto, Fremont, Hayward, Los Gatos, Oakland, Palm Springs, San Francisco, San Jose and Thousand Oaks.
When can a landlord enter ad occupied rental unit?
California laws give five (5) reasons that a landlord can legally enter a rental unit.
In an emergency
When the tenant has moved out or has abandoned the rental unit
To make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements
To show the rental unit to prospective tenants, buyers, or lenders, or to provide entry to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit
If a court order permits the landlord to entry
How much notice in advance does a tenant have to give before moving?
To end a periodic rental agreement (month-to-month), a tenant must give the landlord proper written notice before vacating. If you pay rent monthly, you must give at least 30 days advance notice. If you pay rent weekly, you must give at least 7 days advance notice (Civil Code Section 827(a)).
How do I know if I have been a victim of housing discrimination?
Unlawful housing discrimination can take a variety of forms. Under the federal Fair Housing Act and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, it is unlawful for a landlord, managing agent, real estate broker, or salesperson to discriminate against any person because of the person's race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, or physical or mental disability. If you are being denied housing because of your personal characteristics, you may be the victim of housing discrimination!
What makes my unit legally "uninhabitable"?
California Civil Code Section 1941.1 states that a dwelling unit is considered to be uninhabitable (unlivable) if it substantially lacks any of the following:
Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors
Plumbing facilities in good working order, including hot and cold running water, connected to a sewage disposal system