Tenant Uproar Over Assigned Parking

by Robert Griswold

Reserved parkingQ: I live in a 39-unit apartment complex where parking is becoming a real problem. Our building is older and was built with only a single parking space for each unit.

Unfortunately, there are often several residents per apartment who own vehicles.

In the past, everyone would just park on a first-come, first-served basis, with overflow parking on the street. But the new management company has implemented assigned parking. There is no charge, but the onsite manager is telling me and other tenants that we cannot use another tenant’s space even with that person’s permission. There is nothing in the lease about parking. This has become a very stressful issue with all of the tenants who have more than one vehicle. Is this legal? Do you have any suggestions?
A: Parking is one of the most common challenges in rental housing and is particularly a problem with older apartment buildings. These communities were built when the zoning and building standards in many areas required parking ratios that were much lower than what has become the norm today. So I understand the challenge that is faced by the manager of your property.

I believe it is legal to restrict parking in each of the 39 assigned spaces to only the tenants of the corresponding apartment. You should check with your local municipality, especially if you are in an urban area, to see if there is an exception, but I am not aware of any state laws that dictate the manner in which parking is allocated. The landlord controls the parking and is fully within his or her rights and responsibilities to develop and implement a parking plan where each rental unit has one assigned parking space.

It would seem that one parking space per apartment was the original plan when the property was built, and it is up to the landlord whether to choose a policy that prohibits a tenant from allowing others to use their one assigned parking space.

I certainly can see your point that it might make more sense to reallocate unused spaces to other tenants that need them or to guest parking. The landlord would then have the option of either controlling the unused spaces himself or simply allowing tenants without vehicles to directly offer their space to other tenants. The landlord does have to worry that a tenant without a vehicle might move and a new tenant with a vehicle will rent the apartment and thus will need the parking space.

I believe that your landlord is taking a cautious and prudent approach that may make parking a greater challenge for those tenants with multiple vehicles, but they have the proper perspective in that their primary goal is to be able to rent the apartments. That is their primary business. In other words, they provide housing and shelter, and a single parking space is part of the package they offer as opposed to being in the parking business where they would be looking to maximize the use of each parking space.

It’s better to have a few unused parking spaces than some empty apartments they will have trouble renting because they cannot offer a parking space with the apartment. The landlord may also be required under zoning restrictions or local laws to control the parking in this manner.

Another option is for your property manager to consider charging separately for rent and parking. Some tenants may not have vehicles, so rather than include a fee in their rent for a parking space that they will not use, they can keep their rent lower while the landlord is able to generate additional income by renting parking spaces to tenants who need them.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies” and “Property Management Kit for Dummies” and co-author of “Real Estate Investing for Dummies.”

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Copyright 2009, Inman News

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