The Berkeley Rent Board Mailbag
Q: I am the sole tenant in a 2-bedroom apartment. My sister and her 3 kids come over almost every day to visit. Recently, my landlord told me I am having too many people over. Can he limit the number of visitors I have? They're not living here!
You have a right to privacy in your own home. A landlord cannot generally limit the number of daytime guests you have unless they are disturbing the peace and quiet of other occupants. If that is the complaint, then he must be more specific and request that you reduce the noise.
Q: I have a tenant who has not lived in his apartment for at least 3 years. He moved in about 8 years ago, and lived there when he went to school, but since then he took a job out East and basically leaves the unit sitting empty. He does store some stuff there, and continues to pay rent, but he does not live there. It seems a shame that this unit cannot be rented to someone who really needs a place to live, especially since it's near campus and ideal for students. Is there anything I can do about this?
A landlord who has a unit being held by a tenant who does not occupy the unit as his or her primary residence, can file a petition requesting deregulation of that unit (Regulations 524-525). The landlord would have to provide some evidence that the tenant does not live there, and no subtenants live there. Once a petition is filed and a hearing is scheduled, the burden of proof is on the tenant to show that that unit is his/her primary residence. If the hearing examiner determines that neither the tenant nor any subtenant occupies the unit as his/her primary residence, the rent for that unit will no longer be controlled. The landlord can then increase the rent as often and as much as s/he likes with proper notice. If the tenant vacates, the unit will be controlled again, though the landlord can set a new initial rent for a new tenant.
Q: My lease says two people may occupy my apartment, but I've always lived alone. Now I want to get a roommate, but my landlord is refusing. Can she do this?
No. If two people are permitted by the lease, then you should be allowed a roommate. However, the landlord does have the right to ask for the proposed roommate's financial and rental history and deny a particular roommate if she has a reasonable objection.
Q: For the past year, I have paid the full rent for a two-bedroom apartment that I occupy alone. I had a roommate previously, and when he left, I signed a new lease for the same amount of rent that still allowed two people to live in the unit. I thought I read that I was obligated to pay only half the rent since I was missing a roommate. Is that correct, and does that mean I am entitled to a refund for the past year?
Assuming that your lease was signed on or after January 1, 1999, you would not be entitled to a rent reduction unless your landlord prevented you from replacing your roommate. If, for example, your landlord unreasonably rejected every replacement you suggested, then you may be eligible for a retroactive reduction and refund. If, however, you were unable to replace your roommate or simply chose to live alone, you would not entitled to a rent reduction.
Q: In June of 1999, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment with three roommates. We signed a one-year lease. Now one of my roommates is moving out, but the rest of us want to stay in the unit. Is the landlord required to reduce the rent for the three of us?
No, the landlord is not required to lower your rent if you decide to reduce the number of tenants. You would be entitled to a rent reduction only if the landlord refused to allow you to replace a departing tenant.
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