Q. I just rented a bedroom in a 5-bedroom apartment. I initially put down a deposit for one of the larger bedrooms, one that had windows and a closet. But when I moved in, the only bedroom that hadn't been rented was the one with no window and no closet. I had already signed the lease before looking at it because I had assumed that I was getting the room I had initially asked for. So I complained to the Realtor, but he said he couldn't do anything about it because I already signed the lease. This just doesn't seem right, and living in that isolated room is absolutely awful. I don't want to live there, but I can't afford to lose my deposit. Is it legal for someone to rent a room with no window or closet?
A. The lack of a closet is not a legal issue, but it is definitely illegal for a bedroom to have no window. Chapter 3 of the International Residential Code requires that a room used for sleeping purposes have a window for light, ventilation, and emergency escape. The code even specifies minimum required dimensions for this window.
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The owner of the property, the Realtor, the property manager, and anyone else who was involved in renting this room to you is breaking the law because the room is not a legal dwelling, and this fact should invalidate the lease. If you or anyone else living in such a room were unable to escape the building in the event of a fire, those who rented out the room could be criminally liable.
I don't know which governmental agency in your locale addresses this kind of situation, but you can start with the District Attorney's office and see what they recommend.
Q. We just signed a purchase contract for a home and are not sure when we should schedule the home inspection. Should we get it right away or wait till we have loan approval?
A. The best time to schedule your home inspection is immediately after signing the purchase contract. Home inspections typically occur during the first few days or weeks of a transaction. The time limit for having the inspection is usually specified in the contract. Missing this deadline places you at a serious disadvantage. You can forfeit the right to have an inspection, or you can lose your opportunity to negotiate the inspection findings with the seller.
Keep in mind also that the best home inspectors are usually busy with other clients. If you wait too long to call the inspector of your choice, you may have to settle for another inspector who is less experienced and therefore less thorough. Top-notch inspectors are in high demand and are likely to be booked up when you need them. Therefore, time is of the essence when scheduling a home inspection. It should be done at the earliest possible time.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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