Car Jail
March 23, 2009 7:44 PM   Subscribe

The power went out at my apartment building, and I lost the use of my car for the day because the gate wouldn't open. What are my rights as a tenant?

The power went out in my building for most of the day. The only gate allowing access to the garage does not have a manual override because it's old.

I couldn't open the gate, and couldn't access my car for the day. So I rented a car for the day.

What are my rights as a tenant for reimbursement of the "loss of use" of my car -- and the saftey issues of not having a manual release on the gate?

I'm in Los Angeles, CA.
posted by donguanella to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You may be entitled to your car rental for the day. You were not damaged.
posted by JayRwv at 7:51 PM on March 23, 2009

What were the circumstances of the power outage? Was it your landlord's fault? If not, then why is he to blame?

I think you may want to look at your own auto policy to see if they will indemnify you for loss of use caused by something like that.
posted by Pacheco at 8:01 PM on March 23, 2009

This does not sound as if it is worth a big fight that takes either time or money. I would send my rent in next month short by the amount of the rental car along with a copy of the receipt and a note explaining why you had to rent the car. Landlord will either accept it or try to call your bluff. He will likely send next month's bill with the missing money added on. Do not send it. At some point in the next couple of months offer to settle for 50 cents on the dollar and there you go.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:02 PM on March 23, 2009

Do not withhold rent without checking the laws in your area first. In many places, doing so is grounds for eviction even if you have cause to do so.
posted by grouse at 8:16 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

My dad used to repeat an old saying all the time when I was growing up and picking up all those causes and crusades in my youth. He used to say: "just like Don Quijote, you only get so many lances to use for tilting at windmills. You have to choose your windmills wisely."

This, friend, is not your windmill.

Let it go.
posted by koeselitz at 8:49 PM on March 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

I live in L.A and have some experience (though not professional) dealing with tenantst's rights.

California Civil Code is very specific about the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords, as well as when exceptions and exemptions apply.

Try these sites as a starting point:

• a search for California tenant's rights is a first obvious start
• The California Department of Consumer Affairs has a tenant's right's section
• NoLo Press has tenant's right's information. The website has a large collection of information, but they save most of the details for their books (which are invaluable, btw, if you 're in an actionable situation.)
• If you are ambitious I'd recommend going straight to the California Civil Code. The interface is minimal, but easy to search. (There is no category for tenant's rights. For tenant/landlord issues check the Civil Code box.)

grouse makes an important point. Here in California I believe you are allowed to withhold rent but ONLY after a series of specific attempts to rectify the situation have failed.

Having said all this, if you have an attentive landlord I would not begrudge him a power outage that was (I'm guessing) caused by the freak windstorm we had. If he's a total dick and/or slumlord I'd browse the Civil Code and find a violation that is a bit juicier ;)

(I'm dealing with the opposite situation right now: My garage door has been broken since Thursday (that's five day's now). Luckily it broke after I left, but there is basically no street parking in my neighborhood so I'm stuck, too.)
posted by Room 641-A at 10:08 PM on March 23, 2009

Repeating that grouse is correct, and JohnnyGunn gave very bad advice. The word for this is "constructive eviction", and you must follow very specific legal procedures to do it without risking being tossed out without recourse. Do NOT try to "call the landlord's bluff". On this point he holds a significant legal advantage.

This probably does not rise to the level of any specific tenant's rights clause, but you never know. Check out your local laws.

But you'd probably do just as well by sending a simple, polite letter asking for a one-time rent reduction in the amount of your car rental. And maybe suggesting replacement of the old gate mechanicals, so it doesn't happen again.
posted by dhartung at 10:40 PM on March 23, 2009

Better to try and turn the situation around. Yes you couldn't get out, but emergency vehicles couldn't get in. I would suggest that the landlord install a battery back up that opens the gate when the power fails. (or at least unlocks it if the gate opens in such a way that it blocks sidewalks)
posted by Gungho at 6:52 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

My apologies. It appears as if I gave incorrectbadpisspoor advice from a legal standpoint. While I would still do what I said I would do if it were my apartment, if you are at all afraid of being evicted, don't listen to me. My assumptions were not based on a constructive eviction, but rather that the landlord would not want to spend more $'s than you were holding back to get you to pay and would be reasonable about it and settle or ask again that you pay the entire amount which I assumed you could always do. I think this is a business issue more than a legal one, but as pointed out, the landlord could make it a legal one.

If ever asked my advice on this sort of situation in the future, I would simply say that you have spent too much time on this already and move on. Ask the landlord to put in a fallback option in the event power fails for whatever reason.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:37 PM on March 24, 2009

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