In 1997, landlord Jim Lin leased his property for 10 years to Amir Pour. The lease was amended in 2000 to reduce the monthly rent by $500 with the tenant agreeing to pay the costs of bringing the building up to city code requirements. Amir spent at least $30,000 on those building code upgrades.

In 2003 Lin sold the property to ASP Properties Group. The new owner hired Dennis Parra, a building consultant, to inspect the property. Parra discovered the roof was leaking very badly and needed to be replaced.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Parra’s report to ASP Properties said a new roof was installed in 1978 and its useful life expired in 1993. The new owner sent Amir Pour a letter demanding roof maintenance or replacement, as required by the 2000 lease amendment.

Because the roof was in very bad unrepairable condition, and he obtained estimates that a new roof would cost $60,000, Pour did nothing since his lease only had a few years remaining.

The landlord sued the tenant, demanding the roof be replaced. The tenant responded it was unreasonable to expect a tenant, obligated to maintain the building, to install an entire new $60,000 roof with just a few years remaining on the lease.

If you were the judge would you order tenant Amir Pour to replace the roof under his lease obligation to maintain the property?

The judge said no!

A lease can obligate a tenant to maintain a property, the judge began. As occurred in this situation, the landlord reduced the tenant’s rent $500 per month in return for the tenant’s upgrading the building to comply with the city building code requirements.

However, the lease specified the tenant would “maintain” the building, he continued. That clause does not obligate the tenant to replace the entire roof, he explained.

“Case law supports a conclusion that, absent an express provision showing a tenant has an obligation to maintain or repair the premises (including a roof) does not include an obligation to replace an old, dilapidated roof with a new roof at the tenant’s expense,” the judge emphasized.

“To maintain means to repair or keep in good condition things that exist, and not the creation of something new,” he noted.

The lease obligated tenant Amir Pour to maintain the premises but not to replace worn out components, such as the roof, the judge ruled. Therefore, the tenant has no duty to replace the entire roof, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2005 California Court of Appeal decision in ASP Properties Group L.P. v. Fard Inc., 35 Cal.Rptr.3d 343.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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