QI live in a large apartment complex. They recently changed the parking rules so no more than two cars per apartment are allowed at the complex. Also, guests are no longer allowed to park on-site, even though unmarked spots are open. They are now issuing two stickers per apartment. Would it be okay to ask a neighbor for a sticker and use it? I'm worried management would consider it a sublease and get my neighbor in trouble. Doesn't the complex have to allow on-site visitor parking? Parking on the street is far away and not safe.

ATenants' attorney

Kellman replies:

Most parking rules are governed by the lease, which covers your use of private property. Some complexes provide ample parking room, while others provide none. The landlord is generally not legally required to provide additional guest parking.

The situation may change, however, if there is clearly ample parking room for visitors, but permission to use that space is being arbitrarily denied. Such overly restrictive regulations can also be seen as a deterrent to having visitors, which may then be a violation of your constitutional right to freedom of association.

As to the neighbor, the contract probably allows for each unit to be allowed up to two spaces. Using your neighbor's parking stickers may be beyond the permission granted in the rental agreement and could be seen as an improper sublease of that space, as you feared. Check the rental agreement as to the specific permission for parking spaces and see how the rules are being applied.

Also, check the zoning regulations for that complex because there may be some specific ordinance or other rule or regulation that may force the landlord to loosen up that parking policy.

Property manager Griswold replies:

Now that Steve has covered the legal aspects of your parking situation, let's address the practical considerations. In the past 20 years, I have managed more than 600 rental properties and could probably count the ones with sufficient on-site parking for both residents and guests on my two hands.

Parking is always a challenge. Ironically, it is the worst at properties that have garages because no one uses the garage for vehicles -- the space is used to store anything and everything but cars. This means all those cars are competing for the few remaining open parking spaces.

I would suggest that you contact the management office and obtain written permission to use your neighbor's parking permit. While the management has the legal right to deny your request, if it agrees to it, you would avoid the unpleasant surprise of finding your car towed or your neighbor receiving a nasty legal notice threatening his continued tenancy.

My policy at properties with parking limitations is to have a policy similar to the two-car-per-apartment, but allow residents to make their own arrangements for parking stickers they can't use. We do require that management is notified and grants written permission because it is important to accurately track each sticker to ensure that people don't steal or even produce and sell counterfeit parking stickers. (Yes, it does happen!)

When properties have a shortage of parking, the issue of guest parking may require management to establish a policy that enhances the on-site parking opportunities for residents. This may include the strict policy of very limited or even no on-site parking for guests. I believe it is much more important to offer sufficient, well-located parking for paying residents than for some residents who may have guests. If this is a significant problem for you, then you may be well advised to move to another apartment community where parking is more abundant.

We have a rental property that has been rented to the same tenant for 18 years. The tenant told us that there is a law in another country that when you rent a property to the same tenants for 20 years or more, the rental property becomes this tenant's property because the property is considered paid for or purchased by the tenant. Is there such a law in the United States? Our tenant has been a great renter, but at the same time we don't want to lose our property to our long-term tenant.

Property manager Griswold replies:

While I have no information about real estate laws in other countries, I am not aware of any such law here in the United States. That is the benefit of owning real estate here -- the tenant essentially pays for the property for you, yet you always retain ownership and control. With the majority of real estate in the United States purchased with mortgage financing, the actual purchase of the property is typically with 20 percent up front and the balance paid over time. Thus, the rent paid by tenants will allow you to pay that mortgage payment until the mortgage is paid off.

Of course, I always suggest that good landlords should show their appreciation for their good tenants by promptly addressing any maintenance concerns, regularly updating the property through improvements and keeping the rent just below market.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold and San Diego lawyers Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant's Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords. E-mail your questions to Griswold at rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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