Q. My son parked in his girlfriend's assigned parking space at her apartment complex. The property manager had his car towed claiming he was not the tenant and that parking is for tenants only. The tenants are not provided with parking stickers. There is a sign posted outside the complex labeled "Tenant Parking Only."
Does the tenant have the authority to let someone else park in her assigned parking space? Can my son's girlfriend withhold the rent to offset the cost of the towing?
A. Under the parking policies of most rental properties, I believe that your son's car should not have been towed at least based on the weak reason provided by the property manager. It is reasonable and customary for the tenant to allow the use of her parking space by her guest or visitor on a short-term basis.
Typically, parking spaces are allocated to each tenant based on the number of occupants or bedrooms in the unit they rent. At some properties where parking is limited or there is a concern by the owner or property manager that unauthorized vehicles could unreasonably use spaces intended for tenants, then parking stickers or some type of control device is used.
In this case, there are no parking stickers, just signs indicating "Tenant Parking Only." I have never heard of anyone interpreting that to literally mean that an overnight visitor or guest cannot use the tenant's parking space on a short-term basis assuming the tenant's car is not illegally parked elsewhere on the property.
If ownership and management want to implement and enforce a strict parking policy, then the details should be clearly communicated in advance and warnings given before towing. I believe the consequences should match the misdeed. And in this case, to tow your son's car for parking in his girlfriend's parking space claiming that he is "not a tenant" is too harsh, in my opinion.
I suggest that your son write a letter to the owner and property manager seeking the reimbursement of the towing charges. If that is not successful, he may seek to recover the cost of the towing in small claims court but under no circumstances should his girlfriend withhold rent, as any dispute with the owner or property manager should be limited to your son. Withholding rent has very serious consequences and should be used only under specific circumstances with the advice of legal counsel or a competent tenant-landlord legal adviser.
Q. We are owners of a rental house that has a well with a water purifier system. At the beginning of a recent tenancy, our maintenance person made a special trip to show the new tenants how to use and maintain the water purifier. Part of the information given to the tenants was to emphasize that the bleach reservoir needed to be kept filled, which takes just a few minutes every couple of weeks. We assumed the cost for the bleach and gave them several months' supply.
However, less than four months later, the tenants complained of a bad smell in the water. The maintenance person found that the tenants had not filled the bleach reservoir, and that this oversight was causing the water to smell. Should the tenant pay for this service call?
A. Yes. I believe that you made it very clear that the tenant is responsible for the proper maintenance of the water purifier. It is not unreasonable to expect that the tenant would be able to handle basic tasks like keeping the bleach reservoir filled. If you felt that the oversight by the tenant was an honest mistake, you could agree to split the cost or waive it and re-emphasize that the next time they will be charged.
I also think that it would be a good idea to have a written addendum with the tenant that outlines the proper maintenance procedure. The addendum should also state that any service calls resulting from the tenant's failure to do the basic maintenance of filling the bleach reservoir will be charged to the tenant and specify the amount of the charge, which should not exceed the actual cost to you from the maintenance person.
• Property manager Robert Griswold is author of "Property Management for Dummies." Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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