Third Party Rent, Screens, Vacancy

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Q. Just received a letter from one of my longer term residents. Long story short, she says she won’t be able to pay next month’s rent because of an upcoming medical surgery that will keep her from working for six weeks. A charity has offered to pay the rent for her, and is asking that I sign a paper affirming her tenancy and agreeing to accept rent from them. Money is money I guess, any problems with accepting?

A.
Generally that is true, money is money, but a couple of issues to keep in mind. Acceptance of rent from a third party can create certain rights in the third party that you may not want. Additionally, the paper that you are being asked to sign may bind you to terms that may not be acceptable to you. Review the document that they are asking you to sign.

Ensure that the agreement is clear, and says exactly what is being represented to you, namely that the rent payment is being made by a charity on behalf of your existing tenant, that no tenancy rights are being created with the third party, and that you are not waiving any provisions of the lease. Watch out for terms stating that you are agreeing to continue the tenancy for some period of time, typically six months, or that you are agreeing to not serve a notice of termination of tenancy without prior notice to the charity, or some other provision that may alter or restrict your rights.

Q. Seems like I’m replacing screens and clearing drains on a regular basis for one of my residents. At the end of the day, I’m not sure if I have more money going out for repairs than I have coming in as rent! How do I control the repeat repairs and expenses?

A.
It’s very important to create a baseline with your tenants. Upon move in, ensure that you use the move in inspection checklist provided by your apartment association. Itemize any and all defects or items that are in need of repair, and note any nonhabitability items that have pre-existing damage that you are not required to and do not intend to repair. Ensure that all habitability items are promptly corrected and that you document that fact by entering it into your maintenance log, and have your resident sign off that the work was completed satisfactorily. Your rental agreement will identify who is responsible for what repairs and maintenance items. Make sure you review these responsibilities with your tenants so that they are aware of what is expected of them. Often landlords shift the burden of small plumbing stoppages to the tenant, while retaining responsibility for main line blockages. Your rental agreement should state that the apartment is equipped with the requisite screens, and that the resident has inspected them and agrees to maintain them during the tenancy.

Q. I’m accepting applications from prospective residents for an upcoming vacancy. I’m kind of surprised at the response I’m getting from my advertisement. Lots of calls, and lots of interest.

A fellow in a wheelchair applied, and asked if I allowed co-signers. Says that because of his injury, he can’t work full time, and that his parents help him out with the rent. I have always had a strict no co-signer policy, just seems like too much hassle, so I told him that I was sorry, that I did not accept co-signers and wished him good luck. Now I think that maybe I should have handled the situation differently; should I have?

A.
Yes, even though you have a policy of not accepting co-signers, there are exceptions for persons with a verifiable disability. Federal and State law provide that a no co-signer policy may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act as applied to a person with mobility or other verifiable disability. You would be required to “reasonably accommodate” the disabled person by making an exception to your no co-signer policy, as the courts would likely find that the benefit to the resident greatly outweighs the burden to you of allowing a co-signer.

Q. I rented an apartment to four roommates quite a while ago. One of the four is now moving out, but the other three are staying. The one moving out is demanding that I return his portion of the security deposit. Do I have to?

A.
No, the security deposit remains with you as long as any of the roommates remain in possession of the rental unit. Absent a written agreement to the contrary, when all the remaining roommates vacate, the refund check should be made payable to all four of the roommates.


This article is presented in a general nature to address typical landlord tenant legal issues. Specific inquiries regarding a particular situation should be addressed to your attorney. Stephen C. Duringer is the founder of The Duringer Law Group, PLC, one of the largest and most experienced landlord tenant law firms in the country. The firm has successfully handled over 255,000 landlord tenant matters throughout California, and has collected over $155,000,000.00 in debt since 1988. The firm may be reached at 714-279-1100 or 800-829-6994. Please visit www.DuringerLaw.com for more information.

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