Only in Berkeley • December 1, 2002
by Mark Tarses
The Berkeley rent board routinely tells tenants that they have rights that they really don't have.
Light Bulbs. For example, rent board members sometimes tell tenants that they have a right to replacement light bulbs in their apartments. One rent board employee told a group of U.C. students in my presence that: "If a light bulb in a ceiling fixture burns out, you should call your landlord, and tell him to come over and replace it. If he doesn't, and if your apartment had a working light bulb in the fixture when you moved in, that's a reduction in service. You can petition the rent board for a rent reduction."
The light bulbs in common areas, like halls, parking lots, and yards, are usually the landlord's responsibility. However, tenants do not actually have a legal right to demand that the landlord replace burned out light bulbs inside their apartments.
30 Days Notice. One right that tenants do have, but that is widely misunderstood is the right to terminate a monthly rental agreement on 30 days notice. Contrary to what many landlords and tenants believe, the date the rent is due has nothing to do with a 30 Day Notice.
If there is a month-to-month rental agreement, a tenant may give a 30 Day Notice to the landlord at any time, regardless of what day of the month the rent is due. In other words, if a tenant gives his landlord a 30 Day Notice on the 15th of the month, his obligation to pay rent ends on the 14th of the following month. The fact that his rent is due on the 1st of the month is irrelevant. The landlord cannot insist that the tenant pay 45 days rent instead of 30 so that the move-out date will come at the end of the month.