Tenant often liable for key-card damage
Question: My key-card to our apartment building failed to respond to the sensor, resulting in the door not opening. I asked the manager to replace my key-card as it was no longer functioning. He told me to pay $20 as I have punched a hole in it. I'm supposed to pay only if the key-card was lost. Are they not liable to replace it?
Answer: From Gavin Thornton, Legal Aid housing attorney: Determining who is responsible for replacing a key-card usually depends on the tenant's rental agreement and who is at fault for the key-card's failure to work.
Usually a tenant is responsible for tenant-caused damage to the rental property, while a landlord is responsible for repairs arising out of damage caused by normal use or so-called "ordinary wear and tear." Most likely, if a tenant has lost, mutilated or destroyed her key-card, the tenant will be responsible for the reasonable costs of its replacement.
But if the key-card no longer functions because it has been worn out by ordinary use, the landlord likely will be responsible for replacing the key-card. Since some rental agreements might deviate from the norm in assigning the responsibility for certain types of repairs and could even have provisions specific to the replacement of key-cards, it is important to review the applicable rental agreement carefully when trying to determine who is responsible for costs associated with the tenancy.
Q: I am stepfather to my wife's children from a former marriage. Their father has had little contact with them since birth, and I have raised them for most of their lives. I would like to adopt them. What are my legal responsibilities to them if I adopt?
A: From Sheri Rand, Legal Aid's adoptions manager: Once an adoption is granted, the new parent is legally and financially responsible for the minor child or children; that responsibility does not end in divorce or death. If you and your current wife should divorce or separate, or if she should die, you would still be legally and financially responsible for the child(ren) through child support and/or custody orders.
Legal Aid Society of Hawaii operates statewide. Practice areas include housing, public benefits, consumer and family law but not criminal law. For information, call 536-4302. Submit questions by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by U.S. mail to Legal Aid Q&A, 924 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813.