A beautiful Sunday afternoon. I sit in my library and gaze out the bay window people watching while Bella sits right outside the library as if respecting my wishes to write alone. The blinking cursor on my short story beckons. 4000 words in, and it feels as if it will never end. Each word I spit out feels dirty, untrue, and unworthy. Yet I am determined to finish. No more revising until I have a complete story even one I have begun to hate and feel like a third grader would write.
Each day, I continue to write 300 words, and some days those words seem to taunt me with their silliness. They are just plain wrong, but I keep going because I have to keep the end in mind. I can no longer write half way. No longer tell myself, I will get to the ending later (because I never do). Writers write. So if I dare call myself a writer, I get to keep pounding words, nouns, verbs, adjectives, sentences, and as I get near the end, more stuff pops and I begin to wonder if I will ever finish. Then doubts. I am writing wrong! This is wrong, wrong, wrong! And I sit with that feeling, take it in. Then I breathe it out, and keep going.
The end is near, and all that matters is that I finish the story. Good or bad. It is mine.
As the summer comes to an end, it amazes me that 2016 is halfway done. So much has already happened, but really what’s exciting is what the future is bringing due to the seeds I planted at the beginning of the year. There is also some sadness as things I counted on for a long time now have to be let go in order to make room for new things.
Change isn’t always easy even when I have strived for it for the past five years. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable was not a motto I thought I would adopt but the universe planned it otherwise. If all this sounds vague, it’s because I find it hard to put into words how much my life has changed due to my actions, some good and some bad. Yet the faith that the universe as the best in mind for me has moved me to this point in the present.
The end of things is not always bad, but it is necessary. I acknowledge that now. As I prepare for the upcoming wedding of my brother-in-law, and relish all the amazing celebrations in July, it comes to me that end of things does not mean they are finished, it just means to get ready for a new beginning.
IIf you, your family or a friend cause the damage, you should complete the repair unless instructed not to by your lease or landlord. For example, if your child breaks a window, you must replace the glass. You can ask the owner or manager to make the repair, but be prepared to pay for it. If you did not cause the damage, however, the owner probably is responsible for the repairs.
The best time to ask for repairs or improvements is before you move in—but after the lease is signed. Walk through the apartment or house with the owner or manager and jot down everything that is wrong with the place. You can also request repairs at that point. You may want to take a friend with you. Your friend can be a witness if you and the owner later disagree on any promised repairs.
If the repairs are not made by the agreed-upon date, mail a reminder and keep a copy. It is a good idea to put all requests for repairs in writing. Date, sign and keep a copy of each request.
7. Can the owner come into my home without asking me?
Yes, but only in emergencies. For example, suppose a bathtub overflows in the apartment above yours. The owner could check your apartment for water damage even if you were not home.
The owner can enter your home for certain other reasons as well, but only after giving you a 24-hour written notice and only during normal business hours. For example, if you plan to move, the owner has a right to show the apartment or house to prospective tenants. Or, the owner might want an electrician to check the wiring. The landlord must give you a 48-hour written notice to make a pre-vacancy inspection of your unit.
8. What are the owner’s rights?
The owner has a right to expect you to follow the rules of your rental agreement. You should, for example, pay your rent on time and keep the apartment or house clean. And you should avoid bothering other tenants with noisy parties or a television set turned up full blast.
If you don’t follow the rules, the owner may have a good reason to ask you to move. And if you do not move, the owner can sue to evict you.
Also, although no one can refuse to rent to people with children, the owner can limit the number of people living in the apartment.
The owner also has the right to sell the building. If the building is sold, your lease will not change. The owner must either transfer your deposits to the new owner or refund them. If the deposits are transferred, the owner must tell you in writing and give you the new owner’s name, address and phone number.
9. What are my rights?
You may rent your apartment to someone else unless your agreement states otherwise. This is called subleasing. If the agreement forbids subleasing, check with the owner and seek approval in writing. Be sure that your subtenant is responsible. If a subtenant causes damage or does not pay the rent, you will have to pay.
Some communities have rent-control laws that give you certain protections against rent increases. Such laws usually say when and how much your rent can be raised. Many local governments have rent board agencies that can help you with issues involving local rent laws and ordinances.
You also have the right to a decent place to live. The law says that your rental apartment must be livable. If the apartment is not livable—through no fault of your own—you can move. You may not have to pay rent after you move, even though you have a lease. You may also sue the landlord for any rent that you overpaid while living in untenantable conditions.
By law, for a place to be unlivable or untenantable, the problem must be substantial and may include:
a lack of waterproofing and weatherproofing (broken windows, for example),
insufficient hot and cold running water for bathing and cleaning,
a lack of heat,
electrical lighting that is not in good working order,
unclean grounds and building,
roaches and rodents,
too few trash cans for your garbage, or
floors, stairs and railings that are in disrepair.
10. Can I report the owner if the apartment is unlivable?
Yes. Let’s say the furnace has not worked for six weeks in the middle of winter—and the owner won’t fix it, in spite of your phone calls and letters. In this case, you could report the owner to a housing or building inspection department.
What if there are rats or mice in the building? Maybe garbage sits around for a week at a time. Call the county or city health department. A lot of trash in the hallways could be a fire hazard. In such a case, you could report the owner to the fire department.
The government department you call may give the owner a written notice to correct the problem within 60 days. If there is no improvement in that time, you may be able to sue the owner.
If the problems affect tenantability (see #9), you can make repairs yourself or pay to have them made. Then, you may be able to deduct that money from your rent. You cannot, however, deduct more than the cost of one month’s rent for any one repair. And you cannot deduct repair costs more than twice a year.
You could stop paying rent until the repairs are made. However, this can be a risky procedure without legal advice because the owner may sue you. And you probably should put your rent money into an escrow account. This will ensure that you have the money to pay the rent after the repairs have been made, or if you have to move.
In either case, write to the owner first and explain what you plan to do. You also must give the owner a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs. Please note that both of these remedies can result in an eviction if they aren’t done correctly. Seek legal help before withholding rent or paying for repairs.
If you have a major complaint, it is possible that the other tenants do as well. Arrange a meeting to discuss the problem. Perhaps all of the tenants will sign a letter asking the owner to make the repair or improvement. You may all want to select someone to meet with the owner on behalf of the tenants.
I often get calls on leases from frustrated tenants who either are unhappy with a new landlord or do not wish to pay rent for varying reasons. My first question is always the same. What does the lease agreement state? The reality is that when disputes arise, that written agreement could provide most of the answers. So before signing, here are 10 things you should be aware of.
1. Are all rental agreements alike?
No. There are several kinds of rental agreements, including a lease for a specific time period or renting “month-to-month.”
A lease is for a definite period of time—generally one year. Unless you break the terms of the lease, the owner of your apartment or house (your landlord) cannot change the agreement or raise your rent—unless the lease says otherwise. The owner also cannot ask you to move until the lease period is up.
A month-to-month rental agreement is not for a set period of time. It continues until you decide to move or the owner asks you to leave. If you pay your rent monthly, you must give the owner 30 days written notice that you are moving. An owner who wants to raise your rent must inform you in writing 30 days ahead of time if the increase is 10 percent or less, and 60 days ahead of time if the increase is more than 10 percent. An owner who wants you to move must give you a written 30-day notice if you have lived in the rental property for one year or less. If you have lived in the rental property for more than a year, you must receive a 60-day written notice to vacate. (However, you and the owner may agree in writing to a shorter notice.)
2. Must rental agreements be in writing?
No. Leases and month-to-month agreements may be oral or written. However, a lease for more than one year generally must be in writing to be binding.
Written agreement. f you have a written agreement, read it carefully and make sure that you understand it. Sometimes a month-to-month agreement or lease mentions additional Rules and Regulations. Do not sign the agreement until you read the extra rules. Also, make sure that any blank spaces in the agreement are filled in or crossed out before you sign it. Ask for a copy that has both your signature and your landlord’s signature on it.
When you rent an apartment or house, ask for the name, address and phone number of the owner or the owner’s agent. You should have this information in case of an emergency, such as a broken water pipe or lost keys. You also should know where to reach the owner if you have a complaint.
In California, the law says that the names and addresses of the owner and manager must be on the rental agreement if the building has three or more apartments. This information can also be posted in the building in two places where tenants are likely to see it. If the owner’s address is not listed, talk to your building manager. The manager must fill in for the owner.
3. Can I change a written agreement?
You can make changes before you sign, as long as the owner agrees. Just cross out whatever the two of you agree to take out. Write in any additions. For instance, your agreement may say that your rent is due on the 10th of each month. If you want to pay it on the first of the month, you could ask the owner to make that change or cross it out. Both of you must initial all changes.
If the agreement states that everything in the apartment is in good repair, and you have not had a chance to inspect, write Subject to Inspection next to that paragraph.
4. Do I owe any money besides the rent?
You might. The owner has the right to ask for a number of fees and deposits. And you have the right to a receipt or written agreement that explains the charges and how you can get a refund later.
Although the law considers all deposits to be to security deposits; here are some of the payments that the owner might ask you to make:
Last month’s rent in advance.
Cleaning fee or deposit.
Credit check fee.
The owner must return your security deposit no later than three weeks after you move, or tell you in writing why you will not get it back. He or she must also account for how your money was spent. An owner who needs to use part of the money for cleaning or repairs must return the balance to you.
5. What happens when my lease runs out?
Read your lease carefully. It may explain what you must do. For example, the lease may have an automatic-renewal clause. This means that if you are planning to move, you must tell the owner before the lease runs out. The clause applies to the owner as well; he or she also must ask you to move before the lease ends. Otherwise, the lease will be renewed for the same period of time as the original agreement.
Note: Automatic-renewal clauses and extension provisions are voidable if they do not appear in at least eight-point, boldface type. This is an example of eight-point, boldface type.
Sign it. A ticket has nothing to do with your guilt or innocence. When you sign, you are only promising to appear in court to contest the ticket, or to pay it later if you wish. If you do not sign the ticket, the police officer can arrest you.
While it is okay to sign the ticket, you may want to talk with your lawyer before you pay a fine or plead guilty to the charges. Find out if you can attend traffic school instead. If you plead guilty, you may hurt your chances of collecting damages from the other driver later. Or, you may help the other driver to collect damages from you.
Drunk driving. Driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher (or any percent if you are under 21) is illegal, and the penalties for drunk driving in California are severe.
Seat belts/child passenger restraints. You can be pulled over and ticketed by the police if you or your passengers are not wearing seat belts. In addition, children must be protected by a special safety seat until they turn 6 or weigh at least 60 pounds. Children who are required to be in safety seats also must sit in a back seat under most circumstances. (There are exceptions for, among other circumstances, when a vehicle does not have a back seat or when all rear seats are already occupied by children under 12.) And youngsters are not permitted to ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active air bag if they are under a year old, weigh less than 20 pounds or are restrained in a rear-facing car seat.
7. Do I need auto insurance?
California’s compulsory financial responsibility law requires that every driver and vehicle owner have insurance or other proof of financial responsibility. You must carry written evidence of financial responsibility whenever you drive. For most of us, that means evidence of an automobile insurance policy.
Often, that evidence takes the form of an insurance card issued by your insurer. However, if the name of the insurer and the policy number are contained in the DMV’s vehicle registration records, you may simply write your automobile insurance policy number and the name of the insurer on the back of your vehicle registration. If you don’t have this evidence to show to a police officer after a citation stop or an accident, you may have to pay a fine and a court may impound your vehicle. If you have an accident and can’t show proof of financial responsibility, you may also lose your driver’s license for up to four years.
The law says that you can prove your financial responsibility in one of these ways:
Insurance. For most drivers, you must have liability insurance that provides at least $5,000 coverage for property damage for one accident, $15,000 for one person injured or killed in an accident, and $30,000 for two or more people injured or killed. Low-income drivers in certain counties may qualify for state-sponsored, low-cost liability insurance that has lower coverage amounts.
Cash. You can deposit $35,000 in cash with the DMV.
Bond. The DMV also will accept a bond for $35,000, issued by a California-licensed surety bonding company.
A DMV-issued certificate of self-insurance.
8. Should I get a physical checkup after the accident?
A checkup may be a good idea for both you and your passengers if any of you have concerns about your health. You could be injured and not know it right away. You may wish to call your doctor or another health care provider for advice. Your automobile insurance may pay some or all of these health care bills (see #10 and #11). You should consult your policy or agent for details on what is covered.
9. Do I have to report the accident?
Yes. First, you may need to call the CHP or the local police (see #1). Second, report the accident to your insurance company. Ask your insurance company or insurance agent what forms you should fill out and to help you make other necessary reports on the accident. Third, you and the other driver must report the accident to the DMV within 10 days if:
the damage to either car is more than $750; or
anyone is injured or killed in the accident.
Get an SR-1 Report of Traffic Accident form from your local DMV office, CHP, police or insurance company.
10. Who pays if I’m injured or my car is damaged?
That depends on who is at fault, whether you and the other driver have insurance and what kind of insurance you have. There are two major types of automobile insurance: liability and collision.
Liability. If you are to blame for an accident, your liability insurance will pay the other driver for property damage and personal injuries up to your policy’s limits.
If you are not at fault, the other driver’s liability insurance pays for your car damage and/or personal injuries up to the policy limits of the other driver’s policy.In California, if you and the other driver both have car damage or injuries and you both are partly responsible for the accident, you each may be able to collect part of your loss, but not all of it. How much each of you collects from the other’s policy (or from each other’s assets if there is no insurance) depends on the amount of your damages and on how much each of you is at fault.If you loan your car to someone who has an accident, your insurance can also help pay for the damages.
Collision. No matter who is at fault, your collision insurance pays for damages to your car (not your medical expenses), minus the policy deductible.
You may have other insurance, too. Your health insurance, for example, may pay your medical bills. Also, your automobile insurance may have medical payments coverage. If so, it can pay the cost of necessary medical treatment for you and your passenger up to the medical payment policy limits.
I feel like I keep writing about the same thing over and over. July is a busy month in terms of birthdays, anniversaries and now deaths. It makes for a surreal time as I count my blessings that my mother, father in law, sister and niece have birthday near each other, but also have now reminders of deaths of close ones.
So I did the best thing I could think of which was hug them just a bit tighter to let them know they matter to me. That I am grateful for their presence in my life. I avoided posting on social media not because I didn’t want to, but I thought my actions could do a better job than my words.
With so much going on in the world, I sometimes wonder if there is anything I can do to make a difference besides argue with people. Nowadays, that seems to be the go to. We no longer listen to each other, but pound each other with our opinions. It all just seems so irrelevant when we fail to celebrate lives and deaths of ones close to us. I rather honor them than focus on being right. Because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.