Landlord cracks down on parking space hogs

Aside from fairness, there's a business reason for implementing new policy

Q: We live in a 39-unit apartment complex where there is only one parking space for each unit. When we first moved in several years ago, the parking was basically available on a "first-come, first-served" basis, and that worked for us, as we have two vehicles and there are several tenants who do not have cars.

But there has been a change in the tenant profile with many of the older tenants leaving and a generally younger group of new renters moving in with more vehicles. That has led to a rather contentious situation in which cars now outnumber the total parking spaces.

In response, the landlord has recently implemented a parking sticker system and numbered the parking spaces to enforce its policy of only one parking space per rental unit.

The rental agent is telling me and other tenants that we cannot use another tenant’s space even with that tenant’s permission. When pressed, the rental agent claims it is because the landlord owns the parking lot and the space, and only the person renting the apartment can use the parking space assigned to him or her. There is nothing in the lease about parking. Is this legal?

A: Yes, I believe it is legal for the owner of your apartment complex to restrict parking in each of the 39 assigned spaces to only the tenants of the corresponding apartment.

Parking is a real issue of concern at many apartment communities, and the pros and cons of having assigned versus unassigned parking are numerous.

Some argue that unassigned parking is better because it is first come, first served, and such a policy avoids issues with cars parking in spaces assigned to others. But I also find that the problem you have experienced with too many cars and no information on whom they belong to can happen as well.

I would suggest you check with your local municipality (especially if you are in an urban area) to see if there is an exception, but I am not aware of any state laws that dictate the manner in which tenant parking is allocated. The landlord controls the parking and is fully within his rights and responsibilities to develop and implement a parking plan where each rental unit has one assigned parking space. With 39 spaces, it would seem that one parking space per apartment was the original plan when the property was built.

Therefore, it is up to the landlord if he chooses to have a policy that prohibits a tenant from allowing others to use his or her assigned parking space.

I certainly can see your point that it might make more sense to reallocate unused spaces to other tenants who need them or to guest parking. The landlord would then have the option of either controlling the unused spaces himself or simply allowing tenants without vehicles to directly offer their space to other tenants. The landlord does have to worry that a tenant without a vehicle might move and a new tenant with a vehicle will rent the apartment and thus will need the parking space.

Thus, I believe that your landlord is taking a cautious and prudent approach that may make parking a greater challenge for those tenants with multiple vehicles. But the landlord has the proper perspective in that his primary goal is to be able to rent any vacant apartment, as that is his primary business.

In other words, the landlord provides housing and shelter, and a single parking space is part of the package he offers, as opposed to being in the parking business where he would be looking to maximize the use of each parking space. It is better to have a few unused parking spaces than some empty apartments that the landlord will have trouble renting because he cannot offer a parking space with the apartment.

Or, as you will learn when you contact your local municipality, the landlord may also be required under zoning restrictions or local laws to control the parking in this manner.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."

Email your questions to Rental Q&A at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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