PROBE: Nov. 19, 2001

November 19, 2001

QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago my great-grandparents gave a landlady $800 for first and last months' rent on an apartment, although they were not sure they wanted to rent it. They signed a contract but did not get a copy of the paperwork.

The landlady said she would return their deposit if they found another apartment. They did find another apartment. She returned only $500. She said she does not have to return the rest of their money. My grandparents are more than 80 years old and they can't afford to lose $300. What now? — Angry Grandson, Calexico

The landlady said she doesn't have to return the $300 to your grandparents because they deposited only $500. She said she has the contract to prove it — and she has a canceled check to prove she gave back the $500.

You said you can produce a handwritten receipt for the $800 your grandparents gave the landlady. If your grandparents have a canceled check for $800, they may be able to win in small claims court.


However, don't bet on it. A deposit is given to hold a rental unit or product. Some judges will order a refund if you change your mind and some will not.

A time-honored legal tenet: Possession is nine-10ths of the law. In this instance, the landlady has the $300 and it may be hard for your elderly grandparents to wrest it from her.

QUESTION: The city of El Centro is going to hire a contractor to cut the grass in the parks. What are Clifford Hambrick and his park maintenance crew going to do? Is the city going to ease them out? — Taxpayer, El Centro

Hambrick and his five-member crew are going nowhere. There's more than enough for them to do, said Marty Tracey, city director of parks and recreation.

The city has 110 acres in 11 parks, plus several retention basins, Tracey said. Hiring the grass-cutters will free the employees to catch up with some work that's not getting done, he said.

QUESTION: Recently while some friends and I were driving in California, we stopped at the Lazy Lizard Saloon in Ocotillo for drinks. We were amazed to see people smoking inside the bar.

The Lazy Lizard is a nice place to stop. It's clean, friendly and offers a nice clean area outside behind the bar.

I thought the people of California had outlawed smoking in restaurants and bars. What happened? — Gasping, Passing Through

There's been rumors for years that when Ocotillo's deputy is away, Lazy Lizard patrons will puff away.

Saloon owner Rose Nolta says, "I don't know what your reader is talking about. We have (no smoking) signs all over the place. We have a patio outside where people can go to smoke. I am sure if somebody lights up, my bartender takes care of it."

Of course.

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