06 August 2012
Q: I am a very conscientious landlord. I want to ensure that my rentals are well maintained and that any maintenance issues are addressed immediately. Every year, I send a notice to my residents informing them that I will inspect each unit. I have been doing this for years without any problems. This month I received a letter from one of my tenants telling me that I had no right to enter his apartment to look around, that he would not let me in. What do I do? Can I force my way in to do the inspection?
A: Your policy of doing annual inspections is admirable, and is practiced by responsible landlords throughout California. Most tenants welcome a responsible landlord's actions in ensuring that all is well, and voluntarily cooperate in providing access upon the landlord's reason able request. It is clearly in the best interest of all to ensure that any maintenance issues are promptly addressed, and that a spirit of communication and cooperation exists between a landlord and his residents. Trouble is, your resident is right. There is no specific provision in California law requiring a resident to allow the landlord access to merely "inspect" the premises
California law states that a landlord can enter a rental unit only for certain reasons. Those reasons are in an emergency, when the tenant has moved out or abandoned the premises, to make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements, to show the unit to prospective purchasers, tenants, or lenders, to provide entry to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit, or to conduct a pre-move out inspection at the end of the tenancy, pursuant to court order, or to inspect the smoke detector or inspect the installation of a waterbed. Conspicuously absent from this body of law is the unfettered right of a landlord to just inspect for the pure sake of just making sure everything is all right. You cannot force your tenant to allow access for the purpose of inspection.
Q: What types of repairs can I require the tenant to take responsibility for?
A: A landlord and tenant can agree, in writing by the rental agreement, to allocate responsibility for minor repairs between them. Often landlords and ten ants may agree that certain items/amenities will be the tenant's responsibility to maintain. These may include refrigerators, washing machines, pools or spas, air conditioning, and minor plumbing issues.