Renter's 2-for-1 deal in jeopardy

New owner may not accept previous arrangement

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 5, 2010

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New owner may not accept previous arrangement

Robert Griswold
Inman News

Q: I've been a tenant at my apartment complex for 15 years. For 10 years I had a one-bedroom apartment and naturally I paid one-bedroom rent. My apartment unit was damaged as a result of negligent work by a roofing contractor that led to severe water damage to my unit. As a result, the landlord moved me to another apartment unit, but the only vacant unit at the time was a two-bedroom unit.

My original unit was repaired, but my landlord felt sorry for me because I had some personal items damaged and didn't have renters insurance. So he continued to charge me for a one-bedroom unit for the last five years. The complex was sold last month to a new landlord and I'm worried because I am on a month-to-month lease.

My concern is that the new owner will start charging me the current two-bedroom rent, which is more than I can afford. Or the new owner may require me to move back to a one-bedroom unit. I have become very comfortable with my two-bedroom unit and the reasonable rent. What agreements must the new owner abide by?

A: Your fears are legitimate. If you had a lease, the new owner will be required to honor that lease for the remaining duration. So it sounds like the sale has already occurred and it is too late, but what you should have done was asked your original landlord to give you a long-term lease at the current rental rate. Of course, the new landlord may have lowered the price he was willing to pay for the apartment building if he knew about your below-market lease.

Often, income properties like apartment buildings are purchased based on the new landlord's ability to increase the rents to the current market levels. You can either remain silent and hope the new landlord is content with the current situation, or you can contact him and try to discuss the matter.

But I think that it is very likely the new landlord already is aware that you are in a two-bedroom unit at a one-bedroom price. So you should begin to process the pros and cons of paying the higher two-bedroom rent and staying in your current rental unit or moving back to a one-bedroom unit. Either way, be sure to ask for a lease if it is your intention to stay in the building for awhile.

Of course, you should also look at the overall rental market in your area if there are some better deals out there where you can get a lease and have some security in knowing your rental rate will not be raised in the near future.

Q: Two years ago I purchased a condo that already had a renter in it. At that time we had a full inspection and the seller fixed everything that needed to be fixed. We then entered into a new rental agreement with the tenant.

Since that time, the tenant calls me every two months to fix something, typically on things that I was told were in working order at the time of the inspection -- such as an inoperative stove burner, a jammed garbage disposal and a dripping faucet.

In any event, I have fixed everything the tenant has complained about. A few months ago, she called me to say the sliding, mirrored closet door in her bedroom broke and glass was all over the floor. She had pulled on it too hard and broke it somehow.

She then blamed it on the door, saying that it never worked quite right and got jammed all the time. Of course, this was the first time I ever learned from her or anyone else that there was a problem with the door.

Should I expect the tenant to replace the door because she broke it? Or is this something I must replace for her because the door "never worked properly," according to her?

A: As veteran landlords know, "to own is to maintain." So the fact that you had everything in perfect working order at the time of your purchase of the rental condo but now months later are getting calls for minor repairs is not unusual. The examples you gave of the stove burner, the garbage disposal and a dripping faucet all seem likely to be normal wear and tear unless there is some obvious indication of misuse.

However, I think your instincts are correct that the sliding, mirrored closet door breaking is not as clear cut. While closet doors of all types can become "sticky" or no longer glide quite as smoothly over time, in my experience it would take quite a bit of force to break the standard mirrored glass doors found in many condos and apartments.

I suggest that you go to the property and investigate your tenant's claim that the door jammed versus another cause. You should specifically look for a point of impact, as that is the most common cause of the mirrored glass doors breaking.

If your investigation supports the tenant's version, then you will be the one paying for the new mirrored closet door. If it is obvious that the tenant or her guests or pets caused the damage, then they should pay for the replacement cost. However, there are many situations where the real answer to what happened is somewhere in the middle.

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