Spring Real Estate 2005

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

RentWatch: Ask for inspection?
Landlord must offer move-out inspection

by Martin Eichner

Q: I'm very good friends with the resident manager of the complex I live in. Recently we were discussing the "pre-departure inspection" law that went into effect January 2004. She says the tenant must ask for the inspection and I said the landlord or the agent has to offer the inspection. Who is correct?

A: The short answer is that you are correct and here's why. Civil Code § 1950.5 states that once a landlord or their agent becomes aware that a tenant is moving, the landlord or agent "shall notify the tenant in writing of his or her option to request an initial inspection and of his or her right to be present at the inspection." This inspection is to be no earlier than two weeks before the tenant's last day.

Q: Civil Code 1950.5 continues to state the inspection date must be scheduled at the convenience of all parties, the landlord must give a 48-hour written notice confirming the appointment and the tenant should be given an itemized statement specifying repairs or cleaning that may affect deductions from the tenant's security deposit. By receiving the itemized statement, a tenant then has the option of either performing the repairs or cleaning or not. The only exceptions are hidden damage, such as stains under furniture, or damage caused during the subsequent move-out.

A: It is good practice for both parties to conduct a second walk-through inspection after move-out to document if any of these exceptions exist. At the same time, both parties should take still photographs of the entire unit to document the overall level of repair and cleanliness.


Q: I own an apartment complex. There is a large park-like area between the four buildings with a laundry building in the middle. I have posted rules prohibiting bicycles, skates, skateboards, balls, etc., in an effort to keep the complex quiet and livable for everyone.

Recently, one of the tenants approached me saying that she believed the rules were too strict, because they basically prohibit children from playing in the complex. This is true. In fact, when my managers see children playing, we ask them to be quiet and to go to the city park down the street. My tenant suggested that this might violate fair housing laws. I don't want to discriminate against families with children, but I do want a quiet complex. What can I do?

A: Your rules and the way your managers implement them may indeed violate fair housing laws. When people live in close quarters, some level of noise must be expected. When your tenants are doing laundry, it may be important for them to have their children playing nearby.

If your rules prohibit most activities that children would engage in, they might be overly restrictive, and discriminatory under the law. You may want to examine whether the rules are truly necessary for health and safety reasons. For example, riding bicycles and skateboards on narrow footpaths could be dangerous. Prohibiting bikes and skateboards on those paths may be quite reasonable. But prohibiting any noise at all, even the regular noise children might make in normal play during daytime hours may be so restrictive that it discourages families from living there. Additionally, you should cease having your managers directing the children "down the street." This action could have liability consequences for you.

Martin Eichner edits RentWatch for Project Sentinel, an organization founded in 1974 that provides landlord tenant dispute resolution and fair housing services in Northern California and administers rental-housing mediation programs in Palo Alto and Mountain View. Call (650) 856-4062 for dispute resolution or (650) 321-6291 for fair housing. Copyright 2004 Project Sentinel. All rights reserved.