Dear Benny: I’ve been living in my apartment for 17 years and am having problems with my next-door neighbor who moved into my building four months ago.
She is harassing me because I am using cleaning materials and cosmetics (deodorant and eau de toilette) that affect her. She claims that she has a medical condition and cannot tolerate some odors.
I spoke with the management of the building and I agreed on using only green materials to clean my apartment. However, I can continue on with my lifestyle and use my soap and cosmetics.
The situation is now out-of-hand, and I would like to know what my rights are. Bear in mind that the management knew her condition before renting the apartment to her. So, I am caught in the middle. — Lia
Dear Lia: You are not alone in dealing with this issue. There are many people with medical conditions who will not tolerate certain chemicals or odors. In fact, many condominium associations have to be careful about the paint they use, as it can and does affect some hypersensitive people.
You have made an effort to cooperate by not using some of the products that irritate your neighbor. To the extent that you can cooperate a little more, such as opening windows when you use your cosmetics or use them outside if possible, that would show your good-faith efforts.
You are not in the middle; your landlord is. Under the Fair Housing Act — a federal law that applies to owners and tenants — the landlord is required to make reasonable efforts to alleviate the situation. However, usually that means that the complainant has to bear the cost of any remedies.
I would not ignore the situation, but suggest that you talk with the neighbor and see if a reasonable accommodation can be reached.
Dear Benny: My question involves renting back after selling your home.
My son and his wife have found a buyer for their townhouse in this tight market, and they and the buyers are willing to close the deal within six weeks. The problem is that the new owners cannot get out of a rental lease until April.
Someone told my son that there is a rent-back limit, and that if he and his wife rent back for longer than 60 days, the property is considered a rental.
Are you familiar with the law on this topic? We have looked online but can’t find an answer. – Barbara
Dear Barbara: You are referring to what we call here in the East a “post-settlement occupancy.”
It is a common occurrence. Usually, it works the other way, in that the seller needs a few days or months in which to get ready to move out of the house.
The seller agrees to put up a security deposit, which is negotiated between the parties. Typically, that deposit comes from the sales proceeds, which the settlement attorney (title or escrow company) will hold in escrow. It is not released until the seller vacates and the buyer can inspect the property to make sure that it is in the same condition as when the contract was signed.
Additionally, the seller agrees to pay the buyer PITI. That stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Since the buyer has taken title and usually obtained a mortgage loan in order to go to closing, the seller agrees to reimburse the buyer the amount of money the buyer has to pay on the mortgage.
To avoid the situation becoming a landlord-tenant relationship, the typical post-settlement occupancy agreement makes it clear, in writing, that no such relationship is created.
But in your case, I would not be at all concerned.
Your son will remain in the property for a few months. If the buyer does not insist on getting a post-occupancy agreement signed, why should your son care if he ultimately is considered a tenant?
Usually, state laws favor tenants. It would be the buyer who should be concerned, because he does not want to create any landlord-tenant arrangement.
Benny Kass is a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. No legal relationship is created by this column. Questions for this column can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.