Mega Group Online

TENANT FILED COMPLAINTS ABOUT PARANORMAL ACTIVITY WILL BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

Just in time for Halloween; the RPA announced today that tenant filed complaints about ghosts, hauntings, or paranormal activity will be taken seriously. The Agency known for providing formal complaint resolution for tenants in all 50 States is now officially legitimizing paranormal related apartment complaints.

“Our organization is not claiming to validate the existence of ghosts or hauntings,” states RPA Director: Scott Paxton; “but we are validating that this issue is a very real concern for some tenants who claim to be living in haunted apartments.” When unexplained paranormal activity prevents a tenant from their right of enjoyment; filing a formal complaint through the RPA Complaint Center will be treated like any other complaint and not dismissed.

According to an AP/Ipsos poll, located here; 1/3 of Americans believe in ghost. That’s more than 32 million tenants nationwide, as per the updated rental clock located on the Rental Protection Agency website: http://www.rentalprotectionagency.com/rental-statistics.php

The RPA will most likely take some heat from skeptics about this decision to formally accept paranormal related complaints; but the organization is more concerned protecting tenants rights than it is about turning their backs on tenants with legitimate concerns.

For more information on the Rental Protection Agency and their complaint center, please visit the official site located at: rentalprotectionagency.com

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/prwebHaunted/Apartments/prweb10045383.htm

 

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/business/prweb/article/Rental-Protection-Agency-Acts-as-Modern-Day-Ghost-3972728.php#ixzz2AM8LtNV0

APARTMENT OWNERS MAY BE LIABLE FOR GANG ACTIVITY

Federal agents and local police arrested four members and associates of a South Los Angeles street gang Thursday, the same day city prosecutors filed a civil injunction to force changes at an apartment complex that has been a center of gang activity, authorities said.

Those arrested Thursday  — all tied to the Denver Lane Blood gang — were Rodney Longmire, 29, of Lynwood; Jermaine McClelland, 36, and Marcus Washington, 40, both of Los Angeles; and Darrell Sanford, 29, of Hawthorne.

They also were named in a series of federal grand jury indictments unsealed Thursday and included Sanford’s brother Reginald, 35, of Compton; Damone Giles, 34, of Long Beach; Quincy Giles, 30, of Los Angeles, James Madison, 40, of Inglewood; and Luvvaughn Lovings McCoy, 35, of Los Angeles.

Two of those defendants were already in custody and two are fugitives, authorities said.

The indictments accuse the defendants of assorted drug and gang charges and are the result of a two-year investigation into the gang.

If convicted on all charges, each defendant could receive up to 40 years in federal prison.

Meanwhile, in a related action, the city attorney’s office said Thursday that it had filed a civil enforcement action that would impose court-ordered conditions against the owners of a two-story, 28-unit apartment building on the 800 block of West Imperial Highway known to be frequented by the Denver Lane Blood gang.

Prosecutors said the action was in response to ongoing gang crime at the location.

In arguing for the injunction the city attorney said that over the last five years there have been nearly two dozen arrests at the property for alleged drug sales, armed robberies, gang graffiti vandalism, gun possession and beatings of residents or visitors.

Between June and September of this year, law enforcement agencies reported that investigators made half a dozen purchases of crack cocaine from multiple Denver Lane gang members and associates in and around the apartment complex.

If approved, the injunction would prohibit the owners from allowing gang members to sell drugs or commit other crimes at the property and force them to make mandatory improvements to the property.

Those fixes would include installation of a controlled entry gate, improved lighting, video surveillance, tenant screening procedures and extensive background checks, the hiring of licensed security guards, and prohibiting known gang members from accessing the property, the injunction request states.

 

To read more, visit http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/feds-city-attorney-target-south-la-gang-with-indictments-injunction.html

PROPOSED CITY ORDINANCE WOULD HOLD LANDLORDS ACCOUNTABLE FOR NUISANCE TENANTS

Cedar Rapids officials are making a new push to identify nuisance rental properties — including those at or near where crimes take place — and to put in place a mechanism that can assess fees and pull rental licenses from landlords with repeat violations who don’t agree to remedy them.

This latest City Hall attempt to clamp down on nuisance rental properties, nuisance landlords and nuisance tenants is being modeled after programs in Davenport, Iowa City, Dubuque and elsewhere. At a joint meeting on Thursday, the City Council’s Development Committee and Public Safety Committee agreed to bring the nuisance abatement program to a vote of the full council in December.

Here’s how the program would work:

  • A central reporting system would be used to inform landlords each time an issue comes up at one of their properties, whether it is a police call or a violation of city housing, zoning or animal ordinances.
  • The system would assess points sufficient to label a property a nuisance with repeat violations.
  • A nuisance abatement coordinator would work with landlords to come up with a plan to abate the nuisance. Landlords would be billed for city costs related to the nuisance and could have a rental license pulled if they don’t work to remedy the problems.
  • The program would ask landlords to take part in a training program and require landlords to do criminal background checks on prospective tenants, either on their own or through a city-provided service.

Council member Monica Vernon, chairwoman of the Development Committee, said on Thursday that she understands that landlords have property rights and have expressed concerns about the city infringing on those rights with tougher nuisance regulations.

“We believe in property rights, but we also believe in the rights of neighborhoods,” Vernon said. “Other property owners shouldn’t be subjected to nuisance properties.”

Police Capt. Steve O’Konek and Kevin Ciabatti, the city’s building services manager, talked to the council committees on Tuesday about how much it costs the city to continually send police officers and city zoning and housing officials to the worst of the city’s nuisance properties.

O’Konek singled out five apartment complexes in the city, noting that each had hundreds of calls for police service in each of the last three years, a cost of which was estimated at $190 an hour per call.

“We’re not going to be the private security force for landlords who think they have a God-given right to rent to anyone without doing background checks,” council member Pat Shey, a Development Committee member, emphasized on Thursday.

Shey said an ordinance in Davenport that takes steps against nuisance rental properties has worked well and resulted in a drop in the crime rate. Less crime has gotten landlords behind the program, Shey said.

Cedar Rapids area landlords have not been happy with other recent attempts by City Hall to impose certain regulations. Landlords in 2011 succeeded in court to set aside the city’s attempt to require landlords to add a “crime-free addendum” to landlord-tenant leases.

Council member Justin Shields, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said Thursday that the new nuisance abatement ordinance is designed to take on those “who don’t know how to behave.” He said that sometimes is the tenant and sometimes the landlord.

“We’re going to make some corrections,” Shields vowed. “… Some things are going to change.”

Ciabatti noted that city officials have been meeting weekly for about six months with a group of “stakeholders” that have included landlords like Mari Davis.

Davis on Thursday said the proposed new program has some good features, but she said it has the same flaw – addressing crime through landlords and rental housing – that the city’s recent unsuccessful ordinance had tried to do.

Vernon said the city’s new proposal does not “meddle” with the landlord-tenant lease.

Steve Etzel, a landlord with many rental properties in the Cedar Rapids area, on Thursday said the city needs to go after tenants who commit crimes and not punish landlords because of them.

Etzel’s partner, Tom Bevard, said the new proposed ordinance would hold a landlord accountable for a police call to the landlord’s rental property even though the tenant may not have been charged by police and so isn’t in violation of his landlord-tenant lease. How does a landlord take action in such an instance? he wondered.

Bill Roemerman, the Cedar Rapids attorney who represented local landlords against the city in the dispute over the crime-free addendum to rental agreements, on Thursday said he agreed with the “spirit” of the proposed city ordinance, but he said he wasn’t sure about using the ordinance to control the behavior of the tenant.

O’Konek said the current plan is to start to implement the new ordinance, if the council approves it, on March 1 with full implementation next July 1.

To read more, visit http://thegazette.com/2012/10/19/cedar-rapids-again-targeting-nuisance-landlords-tenants/

“SUSHI DEFENSE” SAVES TENANT FROM EVICTION

AN EAST VILLAGE woman won a six-year fight to stay in her rent-stabilized  apartment Tuesday thanks in part to her unorthodox “sushi defense.”

Masako Mogi, who has lived in her $992-a-month studio at 409 E. Sixth St.  since 1980, was facing eviction due to her landlord’s claim that the  below-market digs were not her primary residence.

The landlord had hoped to boot Mogi, renovate the apartment and more than  double the rent — the going rate in the chic neighborhood of bars and former  cold-water tenements.

The building owner had presented records showing Mogi used a below-average  amount of electricity — evidence she spent most of her time in a second home in  Westminster, Vt.

But Mogi testified that she often eats out, orders takeout or makes sushi,  which doesn’t require much juice.

And her neighbors also testified they saw Mogi in the building “constantly,” swaying the Appellate Division to rule 3-2 in Mogi’s favor.

“I’m so excited I can’t talk. Emotion is taking over me,” Mogi told the Daily  News.

“She’s overcome,” her neighbor, Howard Weil, said as he grabbed the phone.  “She’s had four landlords during her case. They put her through a lot.”

Unless it’s appealed, the ruling ends a six-year battle to evict Mogi on the  grounds that her studio was not her primary residence.

The corporate owners contend that Mogi, a retired Japanese/English  interpreter, really lives in Westminster, Vt., in a small cabin that she bought  in 1990.

The Appellate Division majority said that when Civil Court Judge Jean  Schneider ruled in 2008 that Mogi’s landlords could evict her, Schneider put too  much emphasis on one barometer of residency: Mogi’s bank and credit card  records.

Schneider said she was persuaded that bank and credit card records showed  more activity for Vermont than New York and she concluded that Mogi stayed in  Manhattan only 45% of the time between 2004 and 2006, when her lease  expired.

Tenants who spend less than half a year in their rent-stabilized apartments  are considered to have primary residences elsewhere and can be evicted.

Mogi’s lawyer, Steven DeCastro, argued it was impossible to tell who used  the credit cards and bank in Vermont because Mogi shares her Vermont house, car,  bank account and credit cards with a long-time companion who mostly lives  there.

“An apartment should not be decontrolled merely because its tenant decides  to spend her weekends, holidays and vacation days in a second home that she  shares with a long-term friend and companion,” the judges said.

The appellate judges noted that Schneider said she was not persuaded by most  of the landlord’s other evidence.

For example, the landlord showed Mogi had below-average electrical use for  her studio. Mogi testified that she often eats out, orders takeout or makes  sushi, which doesn’t require electricity.

The appellate judges noted that Mogi’s apartment was furnished, and the  trial judge did not question the credibility of other tenants who testified that  they saw Mogi “constantly” in the building between 2004 and 2006.

“Under any fair interpretation of the record, a clear preponderance of the  probative and credible evidence supports the conclusion that the tenant was  using the New York apartment as her primary residence,” the judges said.

Justice James Catterson, who dissented from the majority opinion, rejected  Mogi’s sushi defense and said her average electric usage — 55 to 133 kilowatt  hours a month compared with 200 to 250 kilowatts for studios of that size — was  proof that she didn’t live there frequently enough.

 

To read more, visit http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fishy-sushi-defense-article-1.1173319

TENANT SCREENING MAY HAVE PREVENTED GIRLS’ MURDER

When she moved her daughter into an Edgewater apartment in September 2004, Mary Pat Dorner believed her adult child would be safe: The building was in a good neighborhood; the studio unit was too high up for prowlers to reach; and the management company claimed they screened all tenants.

“It was a beautiful building,” Dorner, 53, recalled Wednesday.

And then on Jan. 24, 2005, another tenant raped, beat and strangled 21-year-old Melissa Dorner in her apartment.

 On Tuesday, a Cook County jury awarded a $10 million verdict to Dorner’s family — most of which they will never collect because Dorner’s killer, Roberto Ramirez, is in prison and is not believed to have any assets.

But the jury decided that a small part of the blame for Dorner’s death lay with the building management company because it did not follow its own policies and procedures in screening tenants and dealing with problem ones, Dorner family attorneys said.  Had the management company followed its own policies and procedures in screening prospective tenants, Ramirez would never have been in the building,” Dorner family attorney Colin Dunn said following the verdict. “Numerous policies were either violated or ignored.”

Among other things, Ramirez gave a false social security number on his rental application, which should have ruled him out as a renter, Dunn said. During the week-long trial, attorneys for the family argued Ramirez assaulted another woman in the building just two months before the slaying. The on-site manager was alerted, but family attorneys argued, the defendants did not follow up.

After the slaying, Ramirez fled to Mexico but authorities extradited him, and he later pleaded guilty to killing the one-time hostess at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant.

The family later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ramirez, along with the building’s management company and owners.

The jury reached its verdict after deliberating a day and a half. The jury assessed 90 percent liability to Ramirez and 10 percent to the management company, Wilmette Real Estate and Management Co. of Wilmette, and owner BCH Tower of Chicago. Alan Didesch, general counsel for the building’s owner and management company, told the Chicago Sun-Times his clients will appeal the decision.

On Wednesday, Mary Pat Dorner said she is happy the management company’s name is now public, and she hopes the case highlights the need for renters to be very careful in choosing an apartment.

Dorner said life has been a struggle since her daughter’s death. Dorner’s younger daughter, Christine, is getting married in a month, and Melissa would likely have been her maid of honor, the girls’ mother said.

“I’m surviving,” said Dorner, who lost her husband in 2008 to heart failure. “He didn’t recover from Melissa’s murder. … He died of a broken heart. He couldn’t handle the situation.”

To read more, visit http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/11581237-418/10m-verdict-for-family-of-woman-slain-by-neighbor-in-edgewater-apartment.html

WHEN RENTAL UNITS NEED REPAIRS

ONE of the advantages of being a renter is that when the roof starts leaking or the hot-water heater dies, the repair is not your responsibility — in theory, that is.

In reality, some tenants have to go nine rounds with their landlord to get a plumber or a handyman on the scene. Others decide to live with peeling paint, or do without an air-conditioner, to avoid rocking the boat.

Although New York City offers help to tenants who have trouble getting repairs addressed, that assistance is generally more useful for serious problems, like a lack of heat or hot water, than it is for a dripping faucet. And housing court, the renter’s remedy of last resort, has become a less attractive option in recent years because it can land you on a blacklist used by tenant-screening companies to weed out applicants for rentals.

But there are ways to nudge a landlord to address non-urgent maintenance issues, starting with an e-mail or letter describing the problem, so that you have a record of the complaint. An emergency like a waterfall coming through the ceiling obviously warrants a phone call, but it’s still worth following up in writing and mentioning your willingness to provide access to the apartment.

“The main goal is to get the repairs done, so you want to be as clear and cooperative as possible,” said Karen Bacdayan, a housing law specialist with the Brooklyn branch of Legal Services for New York City, which offers free legal advice to low-income clients.

Lawyers who represent tenants recommend taking pictures of problems like mold on the ceiling, and keeping a log listing the dates and times when the heat or hot water wasn’t working. If the heat is not functioning properly, note both indoor and outdoor temperature. New York City requires landlords to heat apartments to at least 68 degrees between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. when it is cooler than 55 degrees outside, and to at least 55 degrees between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when the outside temperature falls below 40.

If your landlord isn’t responsive to either an emergency or a serious maintenance problem, your next option is to call 311, the city’s citizen service center.

“When a complaint is called in to 311,” said Vito Mustaciuolo, a deputy commissioner for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, “operators enter the information directly into our database and the caller is given a complaint ID number.”

The department enforces the city’s housing maintenance code and New York State’s multiple-dwelling law, so your problem has to be addressable under those regulations. Some problems that are: inadequate heat or hot water; electricity and gas malfunctions; mold; leaks; peeling paint; plumbing or sewage issues; rodent or insect infestations; and safety hazards like broken locks or window guards.

A problem that is not: a broken dishwasher or washing machine.

The department’s manual, “The ABCs of Housing,” available online, addresses repair issues.

When in doubt, Mr. Mustaciuolo said, call 311 and ask if your problem qualifies for city intervention. He notes that the city receives more than 600,000 housing complaints every year.

But give your landlord a chance to respond before you ask for city help. Frank Ricci, the director of governmental affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, a trade group for property owners, said some tenants dial 311 before even trying to deal directly with a landlord.

“There’s a fair amount of people who think they should call the city or the state when something goes wrong,” Mr. Ricci said.

Once a complaint is filed, the city will contact the landlord or the building’s managing agent, and may send out a housing inspector who can issue a violation. You can look up your address on the department’s Web site to see if any open violations or complaints were filed in the last year; you can also check the status of a complaint.

Depending on the violation, the landlord has 24 hours to 90 days to correct the problem. For immediate hazards like no heat, if the landlord does not act, the city might handle the repair and bill the landlord.

But for less urgent repairs, or for situations in which the city does not intervene, you may have to take matters into your own hands.

“Lots of landlords just ignore violations,” said James B. Fishman, a founder of Fishman & Mallon, a law firm that specializes in consumer and tenant law. “The next step would be to consider an H.P. action, which is a tenant-initiated lawsuit in housing court.”

It costs $45 to file an H.P., or Housing Part, action; the advocacy group Housing Court Answers has a guide and video on its Web site explaining the process. It also operates a hot line, at (212) 962-4795. You can file a Housing Part action on your own, or with other tenants in your building — if, for instance, your landlord has refused to fix the elevator.

Mr. Fishman said he had never seen an H.P. action show up on a tenant-screening report, but he and other lawyers advise tenants against withholding rent as a way of getting maintenance problems addressed, because of the risk that the landlord will sue to collect back rent or start eviction proceedings.

A suit by a landlord is the kind of thing that can end up on the dossiers of tenant-screening companies.

“We get calls all the time from people who can’t get apartments because of this,” said Louise Seeley, the executive director of Housing Court Answers.

The threat of that blacklist is one reason lawyers caution against paying for repairs yourself and deducting the cost from your rent, unless you have received written permission from your landlord.

Jeffrey McAdams, a tenant lawyer in Manhattan, said that you could be sued later for not having paid your full rent. But he emphasized that tenants should not feel they have to live with a problem like a plumbing backup, just because they might have aggravated the situation.

“Part of living in an apartment is that things break,” he said. “Other than an extreme case, it’s the landlord’s responsibility and the landlord’s expense to make the repairs.”

To read more, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/realestate/getting-started-when-a-rental-needs-a-repair.html

WASHINGTON STATE GOVERNOR SIGNS FAIR TENANT SCREENING BILL

Washington has laws like the landlord – tenant act that address housing discrimination. But some landlords find ways to get around the mandates, until now.

On Thursday, Governor Christine Gregoire signed the ‘Fair Tenant Screening Act.’ It forces landlords to make public details about potential tenants collected in screening reports.

The reports could be misleading about an applicants past, such as their income, disability or domestic violence.

“We see that barrier frequently for the clients were working with for the victims of domestic violence, being able to find safe affordable housing is essential for their family safety,” explains Erinn Gailey of the Domestic Violence Center of Benton and Franklin Counties.

One example the Domestic Violence Center has heard is clients being evicted for breaking a past lease to avoid an abuser. Gailey adds the center has advocates to help victims and educate landlords. The measure goes into effect June 7th.

To read more, visit http://www.kndo.com/story/17170926/governor-sign-fair-tenant-screening-bill

SECTION 8 DROPPED BY APARTMENTS, TENANTS ONLY GIVEN 60 DAY NOTICE

They are people who don’t need another problem in their lives and now they have a big one, finding a new place to live. An Omaha apartment complex is making the move to shed its Section 8 tenants.

 Imagine being on a fixed income of about $500-$700 a month and you have 60 days to move, 60 days to come up with deposits, 60 days to find money to pay movers and you have to continue to pay your monthly bills. Things could get pretty scary before the end of April.

Teresa Teater was shocked when she received a letter from her apartment complex at 108th and Fort, telling her she has 60 days to move because they are no longer participating in the voluntary Section 8 housing program. That program helps Teresa pay her rent.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have any money to move, I don’t have any resources, I don’t have a truck, I don’t have any friends to help. I have nothing.”

 Avalon Hills management says choosing not to participate in the Section 8 program is just a business decision. Management is doing nothing illegal and gave Section 8 tenants a 60-day notice instead of the required 30 days.

 The Douglas County Housing Authority says it will do everything it can to help clients find another place to live. “We will work with them to give them a list of what’s out there for them,” said Joan Bertolini with the DCHA. “They have a lot of choices, they have a voucher, they’re not losing their housing assistance, they’re just not able to live at that apartment complex anymore.”

 It is little comfort to Teresa, but landlords sometimes change their Section 8 rules and nothing about it is illegal. “You just don’t do this to people who are on a fixed income that plan to be here.”

Avalon Hills management says Teresa and the other Section 8 tenants can reapply to live in the complex without Section 8 help.

To read more, visit http://www.wowt.com/news/headlines/141246003.html

NOT WITHOUT MY PET

When Nell McCaffery started looking for a rental apartment in New York City, she had three main concerns: living in a good school district for her twin 9-year-old boys; being close to the No. 1 train to ease her husband’s commute to Riverdale; and finding a building that would accept the family dog, a 70-pound mutt with Rottweiler markings.

That last challenge, not surprisingly, was the biggest.

Although Mrs. McCaffery began her search at her computer in Colorado Springs last February, well in advance of the family’s July 1 move, she quickly discovered what New York City pet owners know all too well: many landlords do not allow dogs or cats, especially large dogs or breeds that some people consider aggressive, like pit bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans.

“It was a little nerve-racking,” Mrs. McCaffery said, “because our dog is definitely part of our family. You’d find out a place is pet-friendly, but then there would be restrictions — not more than 50 pounds or not certain breeds.”

She posted a message on streeteasy.com asking for advice. Respondents suggested pet-friendly buildings, property managers and brokers, as well as tips on negotiating with landlords (offer to pay an extra security deposit; do not mention the dog’s breed at all).

After months of daily Web searches and phone calls, Mrs. McCaffery saw an advertisement on Craigslist for a two-bedroom Upper West Side apartment being vacated by a family with two dogs. Although the McCafferys had to pay a nonrefundable $750 pet fee to seal the deal, their lease does not have any breed or weight restrictions — and there is a dog park five blocks away.

“We feel very lucky,” Mrs. McCaffery said. “It’s definitely a pro-dog city. You just have to do your homework.”

Teri Karush Rogers, the editorial director at BrickUnderground.com, a New York City real estate guide, suggests gathering photos of your dog interacting with people and other animals; getting references from your groomer, veterinarian or neighbor; and outlining your dog’s routine — for instance, explaining that you plan to hire a dog walker.

“Prepare a little package almost if you were applying to a co-op board,” Ms. Rogers said. “Basically, you want to convey that you’re a responsible owner.”

Some landlords may not care to see a whole photo album of your dog on Flickr, but in other cases, pictures and references may help sway an undecided property manager or owner. Ms. Rogers also suggested including a certificate from a dog training course like the Canine Good Citizen Program of the American Kennel Club.

Co-op boards and condo associations will probably want to meet the pets to make sure they are not pony-sized and are well behaved. Some trainers specialize in preparing dogs for their star turn in front of a board.

As for finding pet-friendly buildings, go to the horse’s mouth — other pet owners.

“Go to the dog runs and ask people how they got their apartments,” said Diane West, the publisher of New York Tails, a magazine for city pet owners. “That’s the best advice I’ve heard, and it actually works.”

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has an online guide to local dog runs that is searchable by ZIP code or borough. And NY Bits, a resource for no-fee rentals in New York City, maintains a list of pet-friendly buildings organized by neighborhood, including some in New Jersey.

Robert Herskovitz, a Corcoran agent who specializes in helping clients with pets, suggested contacting animal rescue or advocacy groups to ask for housing advice. He volunteers with Mighty Mutts, an animal rescue organization that promotes pet adoptions on Saturdays in Union Square, and is on the steering committee of FIDO Brooklyn, which hosts monthly gatherings for dog owners and their pets in Prospect Park. Central Park Paws organizes a similar event for dog owners in Manhattan.

Mr. Herskovitz cautioned that listings for rental properties can be vague about pet policies.

“Don’t assume because it says nothing that it’s either pet-friendly or not pet-friendly,” he said. “That could eliminate a lot of properties that may actually be willing to accept your pet.”

Contact the landlord if the rules are unclear. Once you find a place, make sure any lease you sign indicates that you are allowed to have a dog or cat — or several pets, if that is the case.

“Get clear written permission as part of the lease,” said Darryl Vernon, a partner in the law firm Vernon & Ginsburg who specializes in housing cases involving pets.

Because some leases include a clause affirming that the lease supersedes any other agreement between the tenant and the landlord, including oral approval of a dog or cat, Mr. Vernon emphasized that including this language in the actual lease gives a tenant more protection.

He also explained what is known in New York City as the “Pet Law,” or “Three-Month Rule”: If you keep a pet openly — meaning the superintendent or doorman has seen you take your dog out for walks; it isn’t kept hidden in a bag — and your landlord does not send you an eviction notice within three months, then, depending on where you live, you may be allowed to keep that pet, regardless of what your lease says.

The Three-Month Rule applies to co-ops throughout the five boroughs. It also applies to condominiums in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens, but not necessarily to Manhattan and the Bronx, because a different court decision affects those boroughs.

A tenant may also be allowed to have a pet despite lease restrictions if the courts determine that an animal helps with a disability, like a hearing issue or depression.

To have a case, Mr. Vernon said, “What you need is essentially two things: You need a disability that really interferes substantially with a major life activity, and then you need your companion animal to be medically helpful.”

Of course, the law works both ways, and if it turns out your dog barks incessantly and drives your neighbors crazy, your landlord can start eviction proceedings, though Mr. Vernon says such nuisance cases can be tough for plaintiffs to win.

“It has to be a substantial interference with other tenants’ rights,” he said, “not just normal barking.” He added that many pet problems can be addressed through training rather than an extended court battle.

To read more, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/realestate/getting-started-not-without-my-pet.html

COUPLE ACCUSED OF RENT FRAUD

A South Bay couple are in custody after being accused of rent fraud.

Timothy August and Monica Perretta are charged with multiple counts of theft by false pretenses and passing bad checks.

Police in San Jose say they swindled landlords out of tens of thousands of dollars in rental income by renting homes with no intention of paying rent and then stalling the eviction process as long as possible.

The couple is suspected of carrying out the fraud in at least six locations, resulting in a windfall of around $30,000 in unpaid rent.

To read more, visit http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/south_bay&id=8470555