Rights for tenants at will

5 Replies

Hey BP,

I've got a couple questions regarding tenancy-at-will. A friend of mine lives at home with her family and rather than paying rent, her father (a house painter by profession) paints for several of the landlord's units once or twice a week to make up for the rent. As I understand it, this is a tenancy-at-will.

However, a situation has come up which has concerned her family about their rights as tenants. One of their neighbor's parking spaces sits next to a broken sprinkler that is spraying water onto their car, dirtying it up or perhaps "damaging it" according to the neighbor. This neighbor has decided that he would like to have my friend's parking spot instead.

The landlord is okay with this idea and has mandated that my friend switch parking spots with the neighbor. However, I must concede my friend's point that rather than ruin her personal property instead of this neighbor (who, according to the landlord, "pays a lot of money for rent," which is a poor excuse as he probably saves a lot of money getting free paint jobs on the fly from her father) should instead fix the sprinkler out of his operating budget.

This is for a 13-unit building and my friend and her family have been designated as managers who need to make these sorts of adjustments for the other tenants. As this is a tenancy at will, there is no contract that states they are managers, and whether there was ever an oral agreement or not, her family has never been designated any managerial duties from the onset of their tenancy. They simply inhabit the dwelling as any other tenant. The landlord also countered with a threat by stating that he isn't obligated to give them any parking space at all.

My questions are the following: given their tenancy status, do they have equal rights to stand their ground and not feel obligated to swap spaces with this other tenant? Is a property owner obligated to provide at least one parking space to every tenant in this type of multi-family setup, given that there actually are enough spaces for each unit, or is he able to play favorites and provide two or even three spaces to one unit when there exist enough to cover each individual unit? Lastly, is the landlord even legally justified to inconvenience tenants under a tenancy-at-will arrangement and force them to ruin their vehicle against their desires just to please another tenant who pays rent, since realistically he should repair the sprinkler system?

1. Yes he should fix the sprinkler.

2. No he is not obligated to give anyone a space and can actually take away parking privileges from your friend.

Your friend is getting a free apartment and a free parking space! And now wants to complain and call it an inconvenience that the owner of this property wants them to switch spaces!

You make it seem as if the landlord is making a killing on these free paint jobs well if your friend feels that the amount of labor he is giving the landlord isnt worth a free home and free parking then he is free to move and start paying rent.

(585) 678-6857

I'm not sure the family is a tenant-at-will in this case. It sounds to me like maybe the tenant and landlord have an oral rental agreement.

Landlords do not necessarily have to provide parking because they have it available. Landlords are free to charge more or less rent, and offer different amenities to each tenant. The tenants would need to look to the original agreement, oral or otherwise. IMO, they should try to work out something equitable, as the issue at hand isn't really about tenant rights as much as changing the terms of the original rental agreement, which probably included parking.

Thank you for the replies. Based on Southern California estimates a single unit paint job can cost about $500. Rent for the unit in question for these tenants is about $1500/month. Given that three to four units are being labored for the rent is definitely made up for. The question was more with regards to the ethics of choosing to ruin one tenant's personal property over another's when a reserve fund should be set aside to fix a problem associated with the landlord's property that is clearly inconveniencing his tenants.

The problem is in this situation the landlord considers your friends family to be an "employees". Employees know that customer service is important and that they often take one for the team ! In this case the landlord is requiring that. They have a few options

1) tell the landlord no and if he kicks them out move

2) get everything in writing what they are being provided and for what

3) move their car

Originally posted by @Angelo Evangelatos :
Thank you for the replies. Based on Southern California estimates a single unit paint job can cost about $500. Rent for the unit in question for these tenants is about $1500/month. Given that three to four units are being labored for the rent is definitely made up for. The question was more with regards to the ethics of choosing to ruin one tenant's personal property over another's when a reserve fund should be set aside to fix a problem associated with the landlord's property that is clearly inconveniencing his tenants.

How big a unit for a $500 paint job? I think I want their number. :)

You asked about rights, not ethics. A tenant with an oral rental agreement has rights. But landlords have rights to change the terms of tenancy too. Sometimes notice is required, but they still get to make the call what they want to offer and to whom. Then the tenant can agree or not agree to it. Stay away from ethics on this one. Your friends will be better served by deciding what that parking space is worth to them and acting accordingly.

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