“Those Are The Rules That You Signed”

When most people look for a new place to live, they think about what the new place has to offer. Are there enough bedrooms?  Does the apartment complex have a pool? Is there a gym on site? How far away is the local grocery store? Are there good schools nearby? Is there a play area for kids? Is public transportation available? Is the rent fair?

Put simply, most people don’t think much about what an apartment complex’s rules are before they sign the lease. And this is particularly true for families with children. Who has the time to read through a whole bunch of apartment rules and regulations while the manager is sitting across the desk waiting for you to sign the lease?

But then one day the manager shows up at your apartment and says, “I found your child sitting outside without adult supervision. That’s against the rules.” “The rules?” you say, “He’s 15 years old. He’s not doing anything wrong.” “Sorry,” says the manager, “but if he’s going to be outside, then you have to supervise him.  Otherwise, I’m going to have to write you up.”

To be frank, most parents don’t have to time to be babysitting 15-year-olds who simply want to go outside and hang out with their friends after school.

So what is a parent supposed to do if they run into these type of rules? On the one hand, if a parent tells his or her children to simply disobey the rules, then they run the risk of being served a warning notice, or they may even face an eviction.  That’s the last thing a family needs.

On the other hand, often when a parent tries to reason with a manager about such rules, then the manager simply replies, “I’m sorry, but those are the rules that you signed.”

Put simply, families with children are often put between a rock and a hard place. If they disobey the rules and allow their children to be outside without adult supervision, then they run the risk of being evicted for breaking the rules. But if they obey the rules, then they are forced to make their children stay inside all the time.  The apartment complex starts to feel like a prison instead of a home.

Isn’t there a better choice? Yes, there is. While apartment complexes are allowed to enact and enforce reasonable rules, the type of supervision rule mentioned above has been found to be unreasonable (and therefore illegal), even if you signed the rules! Unfortunately, it normally takes the help of a lawyer to get an apartment complex to realize that it needs to change its rules. If you are in that situation, then, please, get in touch with us.

Do Tenants Have Rights?

“I’ve got my rights,” actors say in the movies all the time as the police arrest them. But have you ever stopped to think: what rights do I have? We’ve all heard of the Miranda rights that are read to people as they are being arrested. “You have the right to remain silent (don’t you wish your neighbor would exercise that one!) . . .” The Miranda rights are what are known as criminal rights. But when it comes to tenants’ rights, then we are dealing with what are known as civil rights. Civil rights, essentially, are rights that you have as a member of our society that are separate and distinct from your criminal rights. But what civil rights do tenants have? In the fair housing context, tenants have the civil right to live in a place that is free of discrimination because of race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, etc. So the next time that you hear of a civil rights lawsuit, realize that it may be something as simple as a landlord refusing to rent an upstairs apartment to a family with children. Or in this day and age, it may be a manager refusing to rent to a Muslim couple.  If you feel like your landlord or the management company has violated your civil rights, then do something about it.

I Don’t Have to Give You a Reason!

It happens all the time. Children living at an apartment complex start playing games, or writing on the sidewalk with (heaven forbid!) sidewalk chalk, and all of a sudden the resident manager is ticked off at all the families with children living in the complex. The manager then starts threatening the parents that if they don’t get their children under control, then they are going to be evicted. And, sure enough, one of the tenants with children comes home one night and finds a 30-Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy (commonly known as an eviction notice) on the door. “What’s this?” the tenant asks before figuring out that the manager is evicting them because he or she is tired of the kids. So the tenant heads over to the office and asks the manager why the eviction notice was served on them. “I don’t have to give you a reason!” shouts back the manager. The tenant then accuses the manager: “You’re just giving this notice to me because you don’t like my kids playing outside.” “Legally,” snaps back the manager, “I don’t have to give you a reason, so I’m not going to.” Back and forth it goes until the tenant finally goes home in frustration. But is that true? Can the landlord hide the real reason that they are evicting a tenant, even if it is an illegal one? Yes and no. Yes, a landlord is legally allowed to not put the reason for the eviction on the actual eviction notice. But, no, the landlord cannot evict a tenant for an illegal reason. And if the matter ends up going to court, then the landlord has to tell the real reason for wanting to evict the tenant. So if you feel as though your landlord is trying to cover up the real reason why he or she is attempting to evict you, then give us a call at (858) 220-9601, so that we can help you get to the bottom of it.

Are Mobile Home Parks Covered Under Housing Discrimination Laws?

Are mobile home parks governed by any housing discrimination laws? Absolutely. The federal Fair Housing Act protects all “dwellings,” which is defined to include mobile home parks that are occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one of more families. So if you live in a mobile home park, and your landlord starts telling you things such as, “Hey, can you stop having your black visitors come over; they’re scaring my tenants,” then get in touch with the Law Offices of Stuart E. Fagan at www.sfaganlaw.com.

Get Inside, Now!

All too often it happens. A child is playing in the common areas of an apartment complex and he or she lets out a shout of excitement. The next thing you know, out comes the apartment manager and he or she tells the child to “Get inside, now! There is no screaming out here!” Is this wrong? In most cases, yes, it is wrong. But what can be done about it? Recently I heard from a tenant in Los Angeles whose children were forbidden from riding their bikes in the complex’s driveway, for they were supposedly disturbing one of the tenants who worked nights. As a result, the manager refused to let the children ride their bikes on the property. To make matters worse, the children were under ten years old and lived on a busy street. As such, the tenants had to choose between forbidding their children from riding their bikes on the premises and letting them ride on the sidewalk next to a busy street. In that case, the landlord was preventing children from enjoying the use of the premises because of the landlord’s desire to let the adult tenant sleep. In other words, the landlord was giving preference to the adult. In law, we call that discrimination.

Merry Christmas?

Voltaire, the French writer and historian, said it best: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Yes, Christmas and Hanukkah are just around the corner. And, yes, the past few years have shown us that just around the corner are landlord-tenant disputes over the display of signs that say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” or “Season’s Greetings.” But does the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) apply to such claims? Is it wrong for a landlord to forbid tenants from putting up signs in their windows that have a religious message? In October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals answered the first question in the affirmative, stating, “In our view, the FHA does apply to [such] discrimination . . .” Committee Concerning Community v. Modesto, Case No. 07-16715 (9th Cir. Oct. 8, 2009) at *14397. The Ninth Circuit’s decision is encouraging, for some of our nation’s highest courts have held that the Fair Housing Act does not apply to such claims. In time, it appears that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to intervene and determine the issue once and for all.

In the meantime, what happens if a tenant’s landlord says, “Take down the picture of the menorah in your window?” or “You cannot tack to your door a sign that says ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ because it might offend someone?” Do the landlord’s statements violate the Fair Housing Act?

For over 11 years, I have been fighting on behalf of tenants whose rights have been violated under the Fair Housing Act and related California laws, including the Fair Employment & Housing Act. This holiday season, I am gearing up for such battles. So if you need such special attention, then, please, contact me, and I’ll take care of the problem. Until then, if you would like to see a list of FAQs regarding the Fair Housing Act, then please visit my new website athttp://www.sfaganlaw.com./ If I can answer any questions, please, do not hesitate to contact me at (858) 220-9601.

Children's Rights?

Do children have rights? Absolutely. Unfortunately, many landlords think that the old adage is true: children are to be seen and not heard. So the first time a child makes a peep, the landlord starts threatening to evict the family if the children do not quiet down. “There are people who work graveyard shift living here,” landlords frequently complain to families with children. And then there are the landlords who prefer that children neither be seen nor heard. These landlords want your children to stay indoors at all times, even if it is in the middle of summer and your children want to go outside and play. Put simply, when it comes to housing, children are to be treated no differently from adults. So if your landlord has been giving your children a hard time for doing something that is permitted to be done by adults at your apartment complex, then contact us at http://sfaganlaw.com or at (858) 220-9601. Children have rights, and we’re here to make sure that they are able to exercise them.

55+?

We have all seen the signs: “55+ communinty.” What does it mean? Better yet, do you really have to be 55 years of age or older to live in those communities? What if a 55 year old man is married to a 54 year old woman; does that mean that they do not qualify?

Well, it depends. By law, certain communities are exempt from certain portions of the Fair Housing Act if they qualify as Housing for Older Persons. If they do qualify, then they may (within limits) discriminate on the basis of age. So what are the requirements? In short, a housing community must be comprised of at least 80% of households that have at least one person who is 55 years or older. So a 55 year old man, with a 54 year old wife, would be allowed to live in such a 55+ community.

The 80 percent rule does not mean, however, that a development may set aside 20 percent of its units for younger persons. For example, a development could not rent out 80 percent of its units to persons 55+, and then offer the rest to anyone (including families with children).

Next, the community must be “intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older.” A community, moreover, must publish policies or procedures that demonstrated its intent to operate for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older.

And, finally, a communtiy must comply with rules issued by the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) for verification of occupancy. Put simply, there are a number of hurdles that a community must clear before it may lawfully discriminate on the basis of age.

Even if a housing community qualifies as “Housing for Older Persons,” it does not give the community a license to discriminate on other unlawful categories (e.g., race or religion).

In the final analysis, if you are concerned as to whether your housing community actually qualifies as “Housing for Older Persons,” or is operating lawfully, then check out our website at www.sfaganlaw.com.

Are Mobile Home Parks Covered Under Housing Discrimination Laws?

Are mobile home parks governed by any housing discrimination laws? Absolutely. The federal Fair Housing Act protects all “dwellings,” which is defined to include mobile home parks that are occupied as, or designed or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one of more families. So if you live in a mobile home park, and your landlord starts telling you things such as, “Hey, can you stop having your black visitors come over; they’re scaring my tenants,” then get in touch with the Law Offices of Stuart E. Fagan at www.sfaganlaw.com.

Do Grandparents Have Rights?

When Andrea was two years old, she went to live with her grandparents on a full-time basis. She had lived with them for eleven years when her grandparents moved to an apartment complex in Los Angeles County. Shortly after living at the complex, her grandparents were told by the manager that Andrea was not allowed to be outside at anytime without adult supervision. Andrea’s grandparents objected to the rule, finding it ridiculous that a teenager couldn’t be outside alone, but they told Andrea, on that occasion to come inside. As the weeks went by, the manager kept harassing Andrea about being outside without adult supervision and eventually threatened her grandparents with eviction if Andrea were caught outside alone again. Have Andrea and her grandparents been discriminated against? Well, the Fair Housing Act protects families with children, but does that include a grandchild living with her grandparents? The short answer is that the discriminatory actions are wrong because they were taken because of the age of a child. The fact that Andrea’s grandparents were injured because of those discriminatory actions enables them to file a claim against the landlord.