Landlord’s garage parking policy baffles tenants

What residents can do to reclaim coveted vehicle spaces

Q: I am a renter and we have a rather unique situation in our apartment building. When I first moved in a few years ago, there was nothing about assigned parking in my lease, but it does say that parking is available on a "first-come, first-served" basis behind the building. Although there are six garages, the landlord had been using all of them personally, so we could park in front of them and there was plenty of room for everyone’s cars.

I am now on a month-to-month rental agreement, and the landlord has verbally told me that there is a new parking policy of only one car per apartment.

It is apparent what the landlord had in mind, as now all of the six garages are being rented for $60 per month entirely to people who don’t live here.

Recently, there has become a problem with these garages being inaccessible at times and the people who have rented them have placed large signs stating "No Parking," "Reserved Parking" and even "Will Tow Car At Owner’s Expense."

My question is do the people renting these garages have the right to put these signs up when they come only on the weekends to have their "garage sales"? They are not operating a legal business, in my opinion, so do they have the right to post these signs and be able to tow my car?

But with the inability to park in front of the garages, there is not enough room for all of the cars even if all the tenants had only one car per apartment. I have talked to my landlord about the situation and he said that there is plenty of parking out in front of the complex on the street. So I am wondering if I do park on the street, because there is no room for everyone to park now on the property, can I give the parking tickets I receive to my landlord to pay?

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A: Your landlord has not handled this properly. He has not only created a tense situation and run the risk of his apartment tenants getting upset and vacating due to the now impossible parking restrictions, but he may also be violating local ordinances about garages being used for vehicles and not storage.

I suggest you start by contacting your local building department and finding out what the property is required to have in the way of parking.

While the easiest answer for you might just be to give your notice and find a more rational landlord, I will assume that you really like this property and want to try to educate your landlord and stay. Hopefully, the landlord will be receptive, as his plan seems to be to maximize income by charging $60 per month per garage for an extra $360 in his pocket.

I am amazed that some landlords think that they can simply decide to rent out the garages and tell the tenants that they now have to find street parking. It was bad enough that your landlord was using the garages for his own personal use, but at least he was allowing the tenants to park in front of the garages, and apparently that was adequate to accommodate the current tenants’ vehicles.

I doubt that the signs are enforceable, as local jurisdictions and towing companies require very specific signage and conditions before allowing the towing of vehicles. But I would suggest that you limit your communication to your landlord and avoid confronting the "nontenants" who are renting the garages. However, I would check with your local code enforcement to see what the requirements or limitations are about having weekly garage sales.

Likewise, I don’t think you will be successful in demanding your landlord reimburse you should you get a parking ticket while parked illegally on the street. I understand your logic that if your landlord had not changed the parking arrangements by renting out the garages, you wouldn’t have to park on the street. But I would think your landlord will not voluntarily pay your parking ticket. It is certainly not a good idea to deduct it from your rent, or you will find yourself facing an eviction. Then, you have only a limited chance of success if you go to small claims court, and it’s not worth all of the time and aggravation.

I think your best strategy will be to speak with the other tenants and have everyone sign a letter to the landlord expressing their concerns over the change of terms of their use of the property and ask the landlord to give notice to the garage renters. You may find that some of the current tenants will actually be willing to pay the landlord the $60 per month for the garage, and that will make the landlord happy. Also, a tenant will be assured a parking space for his or her vehicle. That will stop other tenants from parking in front of the garage, but at least tenants will not be competing for parking spaces behind the building or even out on the street.

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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