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Rent Penalty
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Old 09-19-2016, 02:42 PM
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Default Rent Penalty

To preface our home is clean and kept that way. Public areas of the home living room, dining room, kitchen are clean and free of clutter. My bedroom is clean and neat dresser used shelves used laundry hamper for dirty things.

My folks bedroom is also clean. Now all that being said we have a third bedroom. We didn't particularly want it but the Property Mgmt company refused to rent us anything smaller. "3 adults three bedrooms" they said even though two were a married couple and clearly going to be sharing a bedroom. Not sure what else to do with the spare bedroom and looking to save money we used it for storage.

It's been filled with boxes. We checked and this is neither a fire hazard nor considered one by the local fire chief. Travel through the bedroom to get anywhere else is unnecessary both other bedrooms have windows that are easy to get out of in case of a fire. The floor plan of the house is very well done.

Now the place we live receives an annual inspection. They come through make sure there aren't giant gaping holes in the walls, detectors have their batteries and no blockage etc.

This year they came through like last year and like last year refused to tell my mom their thoughts, opinions, or anything on the spot. We never heard anything bad so presumed. Cool all good.

But this year they sent us a notice that unless we fixed the "clutter, junk, garbage" they will be raising our rent and not lowering it again until the issue addressed. The letter didn't specifically state any problem areas and was just a cut/paste of sections of our rental agreement. We are working to get everything moved into a storage shed having found one that's impressively sized for the price. (Only 100 for something the size of a large single car garage)

I thought of this issue while I was talking about the tree thing and realized that some of you might know. I have been searching for information haven't had much luck are any of you aware if it's legal for them to effectively assess a monthly penalty for not being up to their housing standards especially when everytime we call to say "Could you please tell us exactly what is the issue" and are just told to read the letter.

We are guessing it's the stuff in the third bedroom they forced us to have (the bedroom not the stuff) but they won't tell us anyway. Is this legal?
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Old 09-19-2016, 03:56 PM
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It depends on the jurisdiction, but I'd say no. Unless it's subsidized housing...at least here they have their own rules that tenants must abide by.

How is raising the rent and not lowering it until a problem is fixed (taking money that could otherwise be used to, yannow, actually fix the problem) accomplishing anything useful? If the 'clutter' is in a spare bedroom and not impacting anything in the way of health or safety IMO it shouldn't be a concern.
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Old 09-19-2016, 05:45 PM
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If it's truly a legal health/safety concern, the remedy is not raising the rent until it's fixed. The remedy is to issue a stern warning that the clutter is against fire/health code and could, in fact, result in some legal issues which could even cause termination of the lease and eviction if not fixed. Such violations can put the landlord's liability in jeopardy, especially if it's found that he/she knew about them beforehand but let it pass, so it's in his/her best interest to do whatever to fix it.

It sounds like this is most definitely not the case, though. It sounds like you just have a common "junk room" that shouldn't be of a concern at all. As I mentioned before, I've got experience as a landlord and the terms of my lease merely require that the tenant follow fire codes (nothing blocking any exits) and any storage must be safe (no propane tanks inside, rotting food, etc.) but other than that, if you want to store a bunch of boxes in a room, that's your prerogative.

From a legal perspective, how landlords conduct their business is a very local thing. One state might have heavy restrictions on what a landlord can do regarding this, while others not so much. I believe in my state, what a landlord can penalize tenants on is a very short list: basically it's late rent and damage to landlord's property, and that's... about it. Plus, on the damage to landlord's property part, even that's not assessed until termination of the lease; and usually in the form of returning none or a partial security deposit back. If damage exceeds the deposit, the landlord has to go to court to sue the tenant for the difference. If the tenant's damage was really bad, then it's grounds for eviction, but that's yet another court battle.
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Old 09-19-2016, 05:55 PM
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What's frustrating is that the law says only discriminatory or retaliatory rent raises are illegal here. Even though we have a letter saying it's because of stuff in the lease I don't think it falls under retaliatory. It would just be nice if they would be more communicative about what they mean.

I don't know what their deal is really and they keep having weird rules at times. For example my step dad's trailer is a functional trailer, fully licensed, he uses it for Scouting as he's the assistant scout master to the local troop. He always parks his truck out front but in back is a two car driveway one spot for us and one spot for them.

The upstairs neighbors have a lot more cars than our one truck so as a favor to them my step dad keeps the trailer over on the grass since he doesn't need it everyday. The Property Mgmt company tried to tell us we can't keep it there. It's in our rental agreement that we can.

When I asked them what exactly the problem with it was figuring they would say something like "we don't want it sitting on the grass and damaging" Instead she said "It's taking up a parking spot"
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Old 09-21-2016, 02:55 AM
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They're just looking for an excuse to get more money out of you. If the goal were clearing up a problem, they'd be willing to tell you what the problem is... or else they'd take the opposite approach and be moving towards pushing you out entirely. But being vague about what exactly they're claiming is wrong means that 1) they can charge you extra, and 2) they can avoid ever admitting you've fixed the supposed problem since they never said what it really was in the first place. Anything you do they can go "nope, still not right," ignore any questions you have, and continue charging the extra rent.
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Old 09-21-2016, 04:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HYHYBT View Post
They're just looking for an excuse to get more money out of you. If the goal were clearing up a problem, they'd be willing to tell you what the problem is... o
Except the upstairs neighbor is having their rent raised also, not to the same amount and we have been told when we fix the problem the rent will go down to the new amount that is still higher than what we were paying. I don't think the Property Management company actually cares. The impression I get is that they do their inspections and then show pictures, report to landlord and then the landlord decides

If it's good enough and if anything needs to be fixed. We then get the letter. I think that the Prop Mgmt company is afraid that if they say (Problem is X) that we can sue them and say "no it's not and you lied'. Thus using only the language from our rental agreement.
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Old 09-21-2016, 05:15 PM
TheHuckster TheHuckster is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackfaire View Post
What's frustrating is that the law says only discriminatory or retaliatory rent raises are illegal here. Even though we have a letter saying it's because of stuff in the lease I don't think it falls under retaliatory. It would just be nice if they would be more communicative about what they mean.
Yeah, it's not retalitory. Retalitory would be if you reported a violation to someone and the landlord got in trouble, after which your rent increases.

In my experience (again, using only local knowledge) raising rent (i.e. not having a one-off penalty for late payment or whatever) can only be done under two conditions:

1.) The tenant is on a month-to-month lease. If you are on a longer term lease, you must only charge the rent that's agreed to on the lease. This agreed to rate is set in stone for the duration of the lease.

2.) If certain terms of the lease do change in the middle, the landlord and tenant must agree to the new terms mutually. Meaning, let's say I charge a different rate depending on whether the tenant has pets (considered a valid reason to have different rates here). The tenant starts off without any pets, and thus the terms they agree to disallows any pets. Then at month-six of their twelve-month lease decides he/she wants one. They have to sign an addendum that removes the pet restriction AND starts a new rate. It's basically a quid-pro-quo at that point.

I can't simply say, "Oh, you violated X term on the lease so I'm going to raise the rent by $Y." Even if it says so on the lease, it's not valid to raise rent during a long-term lease agreement. Again, month-to-month is different, and I have more freedom to say "next month you're paying more" even if it's for no reason other than I just feel like it (as long as it's not for discriminatory purposes).
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Old 09-23-2016, 07:46 AM
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One thing you need to do is see if your city/township/village or county has some sort of advocacy/ombudsman office for renters. They (if they exist in your jurisdiction) will be of great help as they will be able to at least point out the relevant rules/statues/laws governing the renter/landlord relationship.
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  #9  
Old 09-23-2016, 03:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Racket_Man View Post
they will be able to at least point out the relevant rules/statues/laws governing the renter/landlord relationship.
The state has all rules, laws, etc. online. They haven't broken any. It just feels unethical as hell to be punished in way that makes it difficult to comply.

It's like when they jail dead beat dads. The dad isn't working, the mom still isn't' getting any child support, and the criminal record means that's not likely to change.

We have to borrow money from my Aunt to help move everything that's not needed for day to day living into storage because having a financial penalty means less money to fix the problem. I had honestly hoped there was some legal reason they couldn't do this but our state doesn't do rent control.
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