Landlord and tenant may negotiate amount of rent

Q. Is it against any law to negotiate rental rates? Could it be considered discrimination if a landlord charges different rates for the same size apartment?

A. Discrimination is basically treating one person better or worse than another. It is discrimination to charge different people different rent for the same apartment. Discrimination, however, is not per se illegal. In fact, it is not uncommon for a seller to charge different prices to different customers. I am sure that many people who buy the same type of car pay very different prices.

What is illegal, however, is discriminating based on something protected by the law. For example, the law prohibits housing discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion or disability. If a landlord discriminated based on one of these categories, he or she has violated the law. Otherwise, landlords are free to charge different rents. Of course, you are free to offer less.


Q. My landlord wants an additional $500 deposit to renew my lease. Before I sign it, I would like to know if there are any legal limits on the amount of a deposit.

A. A deposit is a matter of private contract law between you and your landlord. The terms of a lease are a matter of negotiation. The landlord may ask for whatever amount he wants for a deposit, and may increase the amount as much as he wants at the end of the lease. Your options are to negotiate a lower deposit, pay what he asks, or move elsewhere.


Q. Three years ago I was divorced. In the divorce, my husband agreed to pay all the credit card debt. He has now filed bankruptcy and the credit card companies are coming after me to pay. Do I have any liability?

A. The divorce was between you and your husband. It does not affect any liability to other parties. If your name was on the accounts at the time of the divorce, you remain liable for the debts even though the divorce decree said your husband would pay. Of course, if you do pay, you have the right to seek reimbursement from your ex based on the terms of the divorce.


Q. How much notice am I entitled to before I am fired? I showed up for work this morning and was told I was no longer needed. Am I entitled to two week’s notice? This doesn’t seem fair.

A. As a legal matter, you generally are not entitled to any notice prior to being fired unless you have an employment contract or union agreement that says otherwise. Your employer may not have treated you fairly, but from a legal standpoint, it had the right to do what it did.


Q. I just purchased a house that has unpaid maintenance fees for the past two years. Am I, as the new owner, liable for these charges?

A. As a general rule, the prior owner (the seller) is responsible for paying any maintenance fees due at the time of the sale. The property, however, continues to be subject to a lien in the event those fees are not paid. In other words, you may not legally owe the fees, but you might lose your house if you don’t pay them. If you do pay, you could have a claim against the seller to be reimbursed. If a title company assisted you with the sale, it should have taken care of this issue. It may be, however, that your agreement requires that you, rather than the seller, pay the fees. I suggest you review your closing documents and speak with the title company to see how existing maintenance fees were handled.


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