Question: What can be done about neighbors who are living in a one-bedroom apartment with two small children? I have reported it to the management and they will not ask them to move. The regulations state that only two people can live in a one-bedroom apartment. They are also extremely noisy.
Landlord’s attorney Smith replies:
Landlords may not discriminate against families with children. Although the subject of continuing legal debate, it is still believed that landlords can regulate occupancy maximums in rental property. The Housing and Urban Development’s national guidelines call for a “two-per-bedroom-plus-one” standard. In this case, four occupants to the one-bedroom would exceed the usual standard of three. The neighbors do not have to put up with the noisy conduct from children. The rules and regulations of the apartment community regarding quiet conduct apply across the board – to adults and children alike. Unabated noise from the children constitutes a violation of the rules and the lease agreement. The apartment manager should carefully evaluate the conduct and issue warnings and proper legal notices to the offending tenant. If they continue, they could be evicted. Your apartment manager may ask you to help the eviction case by testifying at trial about the problems and noises. This will be especially true if the tenant claims that the eviction notice is based on discrimination against children.
Question: I live in a rental unit managed by a large realty company. The apartment is in a very desirable location and I have lived there for 15 years. I have been an excellent tenant-always pay rent on time, no problems, etc. I am pregnant and was wondering if I can be evicted for having the baby with me in the apartment if it’s a one-tenant lease. Is there any protection for single parents in this circumstance?
Tenant’s attorney Kellman replies:
Yes, you are protected by federal and state fair housing laws. It is illegal to discriminate based on familial status. These fair housing laws are meant to specifically protect families with a child or children. When you are blessed with the new baby, you will be a family with a child and absolutely should be protected. These laws are designed to prevent landlords from evicting, threatening to evict, refusing to rent or make it uncomfortable for families with children so they will choose to live elsewhere. One method of trying to keep children out of a complex is to restrict the unit to one person. Even though you are renting with a “one tenant lease”, you may have more occupants living there beside yourself when they are your children. The federal guidelines generally accepted for valid occupancy limitations are a minimum of two persons per bedroom plus one. Therefore, in a one-bedroom apartment, for example, there can be three persons living there. If your landlord tries to evict you solely based on having a baby, go directly to your local Fair Housing office or, if an eviction action is filed, seek legal assistance right away. Not only could your landlord lose the eviction case, but you may be entitled to monetary damages for such actions.
Question: We rented an apartment for four years before finding another unit nearby that was better suited to our needs. The apartment manager told us we would get our full deposit of $900 back if the kitchen and bathroom were cleaned and the rest of the apartment had sustained only reasonable wear and tear. After we moved out, I went back and talked to the handyman (another long-term employee of the building owner) who was renovating the unit and he indicated that he had recommended the full refund of our deposit. Three weeks after we officially moved out a professional property management company contacted us saying they had assumed responsibility for collecting money we owed the apartment owner for damages and cleaning fees, which was greater than our deposit. Needless to say, the original manager and handyman are no longer employed there any more, and the new management company is ignoring our requests for resolution. What can we do?
Landlord’s attorney Smith replies:
I encourage my property management clients to make management changes as smoothly as possible. It seems to me that you are entitled to return of your security deposit. A change in management company will not alter this. The management company is simply a new agent for the same owner. You left the premises in good condition and repair, which was acknowledged by the handyman. Under these circumstances, there is no reason why you should not have gotten your entire deposit back. If your deposit is not returned, you will have to take the landlord and the property management company to small claims court. The landlord and the old property management company are both responsible to you for the deposit. You should name both of them as co-defendants, then they can sort it out between the two of them as to who should pay the deposit to you.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies” and co-author of “Real Estate Investing 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.
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