Question: I live in an 11-unit apartment complex. Our front-entry door is a hollow-core door just like our bathroom door. These doors are not very secure and are showing serious signs of weathering due to age. I have asked my landlord for a new door and was denied. My neighbor even offered to pay for a new solid-core front door and was told “no.” Are there regulations regarding exterior doors on rental units? If not, what can I do about getting a new door?
Property manager Griswold replies:
There are regulations concerning exterior entry doors. In virtually all municipalities, the Uniform Building Code (UBC) addresses the legal requirements and regulations concerning issues such as the required materials for your dwelling, including the front door to your unit. The problem you have is that your hollow-core, front-entry door met the building code in effect at the time of construction of your rental unit. While the building codes have been dramatically changed over the years, many of the new regulations and building standards allowed existing construction to be “grandfathered in.” In other words, no changes or upgrades are required to meet the new or more stringent building code unless major renovation or reconstruction occurs. Also, while a hollow-core, front-entry door does not meet the current UBC requirements for new construction, the UBC may not have been used in your particular area when your apartment unit was originally built. While the UBC is now incorporated into the regulations of most planning and building departments throughout the country, be sure to verify the code requirements for your specific building.
Assuming that the UBC is the standard for your building, I would strongly suggest that you contact the owner in writing and put him or her on formal notice that your front door is deteriorating and it should be replaced at once with a new solid-core door per the UBC. The failure or deterioration of the front-entry door may trigger the need for compliance to the current UBC code. If this is true for your area and the owner fails to respond, you have two choices. You can either contact your local code enforcement or may want to consider using the “repair and deduct” statutes (available in most jurisdictions for serious issues addressed by the landlord after proper notice), which would allow you to replace the door and deduct the cost from your next rental payment.
Question: I have tenants that are on a lease that has expired. My tenants have refused to sign a new lease for their unit. What are my rights with respect to evicting them with no lease? I am concerned that if they decide to leave I could lose a month or two of rent trying to find a new tenant especially if their notice comes when I am traveling.
James McKinley, an attorney for landlords, replies:
Generally, when a lease expires and tenants remain in possession of the premises with the landlord’s consent, a month-to-month tenancy is created. All other terms and conditions remain in effect. You retain all rights to evict your tenants should that become necessary. You could terminate their tenancy by giving them the appropriate written notice of termination of tenancy. Then if your tenants fail to vacate as required, you could file an unlawful detainer (eviction) action against them. Rather than evicting your tenants, you may want to consider raising the rent. Also, during a month-to-month tenancy, in the event that your tenants fail to pay rent, you have the right to serve them a written legal notice to pay rent or quit, and commence eviction proceedings if rent is not paid in a timely manner.
Steven Kellman, an attorney for tenants, replies:
Why are we talking about losing rent with a vacancy or evicting these tenants simply because they have not signed a renewal lease? Once the lease expires, you are still protected and it is not necessary to sign a new lease at all. As James points out, the expired lease simply converted to a month-to-month tenancy with all the same terms and conditions except the end date has passed and is no longer part of the new agreement. You get all the benefits of your original lease and you now get the right to raise the rent if you feel the market supports that action. No one said these were bad tenants, only that they are a bit shy about signing a new lease. If they decide to move, you can then worry about finding new tenants, but why force them to decide to move? Some month-to-month tenants remain in their unit for many years without the necessity of renewing leases. Keep in mind that over time, you may wish to increase the security deposit, which can be done with a simple, written 30-day notice changing that term in the agreement. To resolve your concerns, perhaps you should simply consider allowing them to remain in possession under the current month-to-month tenancy so you can travel with less stress.
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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