Tenant rights questions raised

Argyle House residents were displaced on short notice because of apartment construction.

Anna Linnemanstons said she was confused when Dinnaken Properties management gave her a letter a week ago that stated she and her two roommates would have to vacate their Argyle House apartment within two days.

The letter said they would have to leave for two weeks so that workers could begin restoring water damage done to the property.

Linnemanstons said a previous letter, sent Jan. 23, indicated some tenants might be displaced, but it was unclear which ones.

Since summer 2007, the company has been repairing bay windows throughout the 85-unit building. However, such short notice to tenants could be in violation of tenants’ rights.

Construction plans called for three units to be vacated at a time, each unit housing between two and five tenants.

Landlords typically have no right to displace tenants after the tenants sign a lease agreement, said Bill Dane, a University Student Legal Service staff attorney.

However, tenants can be asked to move within a reasonable amount of time, if the time is specified in the lease, Dane said.

Section 16 of the Dinnaken Properties lease agreement states that management will give seven days’ notice before a tenant is required to vacate a unit for repairs.

Dane said that unless there were emergency circumstances, Dinnaken Properties shouldn’t tell its tenants to leave.

“The circumstance is not well-defined in the law,” Dane said. “Tenants have an absolute right to occupancy of their unit, and no landlord has the right to come in and ask a tenant to vacate in the middle of their tenancy on any amount of notice.”

Yvonne Grosulak, vice president of Dinnaken Properties, said management gave more than seven days notice of the project’s start date, citing the Jan. 23 letter.

The letter outlined the repairs and what course of action the construction would take.

Because the work starts each day at 7 a.m., Grosulak said it would be less intrusive for tenants if they vacated their rooms for two weeks while workers made repairs.

The property sent the follow-up letter Feb. 4, which said tenants needed to vacate the unit by Wednesday, Feb. 6.

The letter stated that Dinnaken Properties would provide rooms for displaced tenants, as well as clean linens. Tenants are advised to bring personal items with them.

Grosulak said Linnemanstons’s unit requested two days extra to vacate, and the company did extend the move-out date to Feb. 8.

To repay tenants for any inconvenience, Dinnaken will compensate each tenant for two weeks of February rent. They can also enter their permanent units after 5 p.m. during construction, Grosulak said.