Parking rules may violate tenant rights

Can I make a deal with my neighbor for an extra parking spot?

Question: I am living in a large apartment complex and they recently changed the parking rules to state that no more than two cars per apartment are allowed on the complex. Also, all guests are no longer allowed to park onsite, as they must park out on the street even though unmarked spots are open. They are now issuing two stickers per apartment and will manage it that way. Would it be OK to ask a neighbor for one of their stickers and use it? I’m worried they would consider it a sublease and get my neighbor in trouble. Don’t they have to allow onsite visitor parking? Parking on the street is far away and not safe.

Tenants’ attorney Kellman replies:

Most parking rules are governed by the lease contract because it covers your use of private property. Some complexes provide ample parking room, while others provide none. The landlord is generally not legally required to provide additional guest parking. The situation may change, however, if there is clearly ample parking room for visitors, but permission to use that space is being arbitrarily denied. Such overly restrictive regulations can also be seen as a deterrent to having visitors, which may then be a violation of your constitutional right to freedom of association. As to the neighbor, the contract probably allows for each unit to be allowed up to two spaces. Using your neighbor’s parking stickers may be beyond the permission granted in the rental agreement and could be seen as an improper sublease of that space as you feared. Check the rental agreement as to the specific permission for parking spaces and see how the rules are being applied. Also, check the local zoning regulations for that complex because there may be some specific ordinance or other rule or regulation that may force the landlord to loosen up that parking policy.

Property manager Griswold replies:

Now that Steve has covered the legal aspects of your parking situation, let’s address the practical considerations. In the last 20-plus years I have managed well over 600 rental properties and could probably count the ones with sufficient onsite parking for both residents and guests on my two hands! Parking is always a challenge and ironically it is the worst at properties that have garages since no one seems to actually use the garage for their vehicles but rather to store anything and everything but their vehicle. Of course, this means all of those cars are competing for the few remaining open parking spaces! I would suggest that you contact the management office and obtain written permission to use your neighbor’s parking permit. While they have the legal right to deny your request you would avoid the unpleasant surprise of finding your car towed or your neighbor receiving a nasty legal notice threatening his/her continued tenancy. My personal policy at properties with parking limitations is to have a policy similar to the two-car-per-apartment, but allow residents to make their own arrangements for parking stickers that they can’t use. We do require that management is notified and grants written permission since it is extremely important to accurately track the usage of each sticker to ensure that creative people don’t steal or even produce and sell counterfeit parking stickers (yes, it does happen!). When properties have a shortage of parking the issue of guest parking may require management to establish a policy that enhances the onsite parking opportunities for residents. This may include the strict policy of very limited or even no onsite parking for guests. I believe it is much more important to offer sufficient well-located parking for paying residents than some residents that may have guests. If this is a significant problem for you, then you may be well advised to relocate to another apartment community where parking is more abundant.

Question: As faithful readers of your Rental Forum column, we are hoping you might be able to help us with this situation. We have a rental property in San Diego that has been rented to the same tenant for 18 years. The tenant is telling us that there is a law in Mexico that when you rent a property to the same tenants for 20 years or more, the rental property becomes this tenant’s property since the property is considered paid for or purchased by the tenant. Is there such law in the United States? Our tenant has been a great renter but at the same time we don’t want to lose our property to our long-term tenant.

Property Manager Griswold replies:

While I have no information about real estate laws in Mexico, I am not aware of any such law here in the United States. That is the benefit of owning real estate here–the tenant essentially pays for the property for you yet you always retain ownership and control. With the majority of real estate in the United States purchased with mortgage financing, the actual purchase of the property is typically with 20 percent and the balance paid over time. Thus, the rent paid by tenants will allow you to pay that mortgage payment until the mortgage is paid off. Of course, I always suggest that good landlords should show their appreciation for their good tenants by promptly addressing any maintenance concerns, regularly updating the property through improvements, and keeping the rent just below market.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies,” and San Diego attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant’s Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords.

E-mail your questions to Rental Q&A at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com.

Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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