Question: Four years ago, my landlord agreed in writing to a $350 rent reduction on my one-bedroom apartment. The landlord is now very ill and there is a good chance the building may be sold. How do I ensure that I will continue to be able to pay my current rent and not have the new owners hold me to the rent agreed to on the original lease or otherwise raise my rent?
Property manager Griswold replies:
It sounds like you have a lease that has expired and rolled over to a month-to-month rental agreement if you are still relying on a 4-year-old letter from your landlord reducing your rent by $350 per month. Clearly, you need to have a new lease signed for the net rent that you have been effectively paying for the last four years. You are probably OK under the current ownership, as your current lease is valid and as long as the current owner doesn’t rescind the rent reduction letter agreement and/or send you a notice of rent increase. However, any new owner will likely be seeking higher income from the property. They may make an argument that the rent-reduction letter is not binding, or they could simply raise your rent by giving you at least a minimum of a 30-day written notice of rent increase. Since it is very likely that the rent increase would be equal to or greater than 10 percent, a 60-day written notice would be required. What you are seeking is a valid lease with as long of a rental term as the current owner is willing to give you, as that lease would be binding on the new owner. I suggest you contact the owner and negotiate the best lease terms possible so that any new owner will have to honor it. Of course, a savvy owner will know that this lease is binding on the new owner and that such a long-term lease, especially if it is at a below-market rental rate, will adversely impact the value of the property.
Question: My neighbor and I both rent single-family homes from the same landlord in a residential neighborhood. We share a fence. The neighbor traps squirrels and feeds them live to their dogs. They also shoot birds and squirrels with a pellet gun, with the shots often hitting or ricocheting into my yard, nearly hitting my family and pets. Our enjoyment and use of the yard is affected by their shooting of birds and animals, and having to listen to their dogs tear apart live animals that are fed to the dogs. What is the landlord’s responsibility in causing them to cease this behavior?
James McKinley, an attorney for landlords, replies:
You must immediately notify your landlord of the situation. Your neighbor is interfering with your quiet use and enjoyment of the premises, and your landlord should put a stop to it, and, if necessary, terminate your neighbor’s tenancy. In addition, your neighbor is likely breaking several laws, including hunting in a residential neighborhood, most likely hunting without a license, and cruelty to animals. You should also notify your local law enforcement agency.
Steven Kellman, an attorney for tenants, replies:
Besides calling the landlord, call the local animal control agency and the Humane Society. When you call the landlord, be sure to give specific details of what is going on. If your neighbor is violating any rules of their lease, you may ask the landlord to enforce those rules. Clearly your neighbor is way out of line with that behavior. Your common landlord is limited in controlling your neighbor’s actions by demanding such actions cease under threat of eviction, or in this case, he or she may choose to evict without giving any chance to stop the behavior under the law of nuisance or illegal activities. Since it appears that your neighbor may be violating several laws and eviction procedures may take some time, perhaps the appropriate law enforcement agency may prove more effective.
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 James McKinley, principal in a law firm representing landlords.
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