Does My Landlord Need To Reimburse Me When I Can’t Use The Garage?

Dave’s at SF Appeal to answer your landlord-tenant questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com, here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

garage-doorI live in an condo in SF (the owners rent out their unit to me) so I am not subject to the provisions of rent control.

I pay $3100 a month in rent and have lived there one year. My rent includes parking in the garage.

Two days ago the garage door broke and we were asked to park on the street while it was being repaired. This is a huge burden for me as street parking is super tough in our neighborhood. The garage door should be fixed today but that was two nights I wasn’t able to use the garage I pay for.

I told my landlord that I thought I should be compensated for this but he says that my lease has a clause about “reasonable loss of usage” and since it’s being fixed quickly I have no claim. I don’t agree with him on this. I pay a LOT of money in rent to have the convenience of a parking spot. Am I allowed compensation here?

Wow, we all should have it so tough.

Yes, you lost the use of your garage and yes, it was a hassle to find a parking place for two days, but the circumstances, as you describe them, do not warrant any reimbursement from the landlord.

Despite the “reasonable loss of usage” clause in your lease, which I suspect may be illegal depending upon its content, I think that a court would see the loss of the garage as just that–a reasonable loss of use.

Evidently, the landlord responded quickly to the problem and he did what he had to do. What else can you expect? The landlord’s response seems to be reasonable under the circumstances.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you do have a colorable claim. In legalese a colorable claim is a claim that is plausible, one that could potentially prevail. What are your damages? You’re certainly not going to be able to claim negligent infliction of emotional distress.

About the best you can do is base your damages upon loss of use of the garage for two days. If your garage constitutes 10% of the value of your unit, you can claim $310.00 divided by 30 days for a grand total of $20.66.

Are you really going to go to small claims court for $21.00? The filing fee alone is $30.00, not to mention the time and energy you’ll spending filling out your claim documents, serving them and attending a hearing in court. And it’s highly likely that you will lose.

If you are still considering that option and you’re fired up about asserting your tenant rights, you should instead volunteer your time at the San Francisco Tenants Union.

At the TU you can speak to tenants with small children who, for example, are enduring a bathtub full of sewage that the landlord refuses to acknowledge or repair. You can see a slew of trumped up three-day notices designed to evict tenants who don’t have enough money to defend them in court. You can meet ninety-year-old native San Franciscans who are being thrown out of their homes to enable developers to sell TICs to Twitter-motherfuckers.

In other words, you can use your indignation to tackle real tenant troubles rather than small inconveniences.

Crow & Rose's legal practice emphasizes eviction defense, wrongful eviction and other landlord tenant and real property matters.

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