Spring Real Estate 2008

Publication Date: Friday, April 18, 2008

Rent Watch
Must tenants move in and pay rent on the first of the month?

Q- The new resident manager of the apartment building I own says that all new tenants must physically take possession on the first day of the month -- not during the month. I want all rents due on the first day of each month. Is there a new law that says tenants can move in only on the first?

A- There is no law that requires a tenant to move in or out on the first day of a month. For those tenants who do take possession on the first day, the rent becomes due on that day and each month thereafter, unless you both agree to a different due date.

If the lease or month-to-month rental agreement is signed prior to the move-in date of the first, it is a good idea to collect the first full month's rent at that time. If a tenant moves in on any day other than the first, you would collect a partial rent for the days remaining in the "move-in" month. The amount of partial rent due is determined by calculating the daily rental rate.

To figure the daily rental rate, divide the monthly rent amount by 30 regardless of the actual days in the month. Then, multiple this amount by the number of days remaining in the month. This payment will take the tenant through the partial month and the full rent amount would be due on the first of the next month.

For example, for a 31-day month, if a tenant moves in on the 20th day, multiple the daily rental rate by 11 (number of days remaining in month). If you wish to collect a full month's rent at the time the agreement or lease is signed, you can do so and then calculate the rent due for the remainder of the next month's rent by using the above daily rental rate formula.

Q- I need to use the patio area of my apartment for an extra sleeping area. My father is ill and his family has come from another country to be with him for a short time. There is little money for them to stay in a hotel. The apartment manager has told me that the area cannot be used for this purpose. I wonder if I am suffering discrimination as a result of this serious health emergency?

A- Under fair housing law, disabled tenants are entitled to reasonable accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are changes or exceptions to normal business policies or practices that would allow a person with a disability to obtain equal enjoyment of their dwelling. Reasonable accommodations are only appropriate where there is a connection between the disability and the accommodation and where the accommodation poses no undue financial administrative burden on the landlord.

In your situation, you are asking for two accommodations: (1) That your family be allowed to stay with your ill father. (2) That your family be allowed to use the patio as a sleeping area. This request raises two questions: (1) Why is your family necessary for your father's disability? (2) Is it reasonable to have your family stay on the porch?

The landlord can ask for medical verification in answer to question (1), in which case you would have to prove the medical necessity to have your family sleeping there. Unless all members of the family are providing direct medical care to your father, this nexus is unlikely. Even if medical verification could be provided for question (1), the answer to question (2) might still be no.

Local codes prohibiting overcrowding or outdoor sleeping may preclude your accommodation, and the landlord could also argue that such arrangements pose an undue financial burden in the form of potential safety risks.

Lastly, financial accommodations -- like the fact that funds are short in your case -- need not be accepted by the landlord where there is no connection to the disability. If you have further questions or would like assistance in requesting a reasonable accommodation, contact your local fair housing agency for more information.

Martin Eichner edits RentWatch for Project Sentinel, an organization founded in 1974 that provides landlord tenant dispute resolution and fair housing services in Northern California and administers rental-housing mediation programs in Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View. Call 650-856-4062 for dispute resolution or 650-321-6291 for fair housing or e-mail mediate4us@projsen.org.