OBLIGATIONS TO TENANTS – SECTION 8 SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION
QUESTION: The city where my apartment complex is located has approached me about purchasing the property for a large retail development. At this time I’m not sure I’ll sell, but would like to know what obligation I have to my tenants if I decide to sell. Are there any rules I should know about?
ANSWER: There is a difference between selling your property to a new landlord and selling the property for demolition. When rental property is sold, the current owner should notify existing tenants at close of escrow that their tenancies and security deposits have been transferred to the new owner and should give the date the new owner will be accepting rent. If the tenants have leases, the new owner must assume those leases, unless the lease document contains a clause that cancels the lease upon sale of the property.
If you know the property is going to be demolished for this new development, the requirements of California Civil Code Section 1940.6 apply. Under this statute, existing tenants (or tenants who have signed but not moved in) must be informed before you or the new owner, apply for a demolition permit. This disclosure must be made to applicants and new tenants before entering into a rental agreement, accepting a credit check fee, or accepting a holding deposit. The notice must include the earliest approximate date the demolition is expected to occur and the earliest possible date the tenancy will end. The property cannot be demolished prior to the estimated termination date. If an owner applying for demolition fails to provide this written notification, a tenant or prospective tenant can sue for damages and legal fees. There also is a possibility the owner could be ordered to pay the tenant’s actual damages, such as relocation or alternative living expenses, as well as a civil penalty of up to $2,500. We suggest you seek legal counsel to examine the full scope of your liabilities and responsibilities.
QUESTION: For the past ten years I have been fortunate to rent my duplex to a great tenant. Unfortunately, she is now moving out of state, so I need to place an ad for a new tenant. A friend told me there was a new law concerning a landlord’s ability to ask about a prospective tenant’s sexual orientation when advertising a rental. Are there any new laws that pertain to published ads? What should I say or, better yet, not say in my ad?
ANSWER: The federal fair housing laws prohibit rental advertising that uses language indicating a “preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Federal law does not cover sexual orientation, but existing state law makes it unlawful to discriminate or advertise a preference based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination is specifically defined to include making inquiries about a prospective tenant’s sexual orientation or “gender identity”. Gender identity encompasses anyone who has changed, or is in the process of changing, his or her gender, or someone who does not follow traditional gender roles, such as a transvestite.
QUESTION: I moved into my apartment with a Section 8 housing subsidy and a one-year lease. After seven months, the landlord told me that he is no longer going to accept Section 8 tenants. I don’t want to move, but can’t afford to pay the full rent on my own. Can he do this??
ANSWER: Section 8 is a federally sponsored program for affordable housing that allows low income tenants to pay up to 30 percent of their income towards the rent, with the balance being paid by the program. This program is administered locally in each county, generally by the Housing Authority. Landlords who agree to participate must follow a few rules, such as honoring a rent ceiling determined for each geographical area (for example, a San Francisco landlord can charge a higher rent for a one-bedroom apartment than a Dayton, Ohio, landlord), allowing annual inspections by the housing authority staff, and offering a one-year lease for the first year of the tenancy. Most state laws govern tenancies for Section 8 tenants and landlords. The program gives renters with low income a chance to find a place of their choice, and guarantees property owners that they will receive a check for the balance of the rent on time from the government..Your landlord has no obligation to participate in Section 8, and may decide to opt out of this program, provided that he honors the terms of all current leases. Unless you commit a serious breach of the lease, or do not pay your portion of the rent, you can stay in your apartment until the end of your lease.You can discuss your desire to stay with your landlord, particularly if you have been a good tenant. You can ask the Housing Authority that administers the Section 8 program in your area to discuss the program benefits with your landlord, or request the services of your local housing mediation program. A mediator may also be able to assist you and your landlord explore the reasons why he does not want to continue renting through Section 8, and hopefully find a solution that would allow you to stay. If your landlord does not change his mind, you should focus your energy on finding a new Section 8 unit, either from an individual property owner or a non-profit housing provider?.
Rent Watch is provided by Project Sentinel. Questions may be sent to Rent Watch, 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road #3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087. Copyright © 2002, Project Sentinel. All rights reserved.