In our previous article regarding emotional support animals published in April 2017, we inadvertently used the term “service dog” when we should have used the term “emotional support animal”. Under federal law “service dog” has a specific legal definition. We did not intend the article to be about service dogs.  We regret this error in our publication.  

Q: I just remodeled my unit and everything is new. I am going to rent it out this month. Do I still have to do a move-in inspection with my new tenant?

A: Yes, a landlord should always do a move-in inspection. The inspection is useful for possible conflict regarding the initial condition of the unit and to determine damage beyond normal wear and tear when the tenant vacates. During a move-in inspection, you should have a thorough written checklist to note the condition of all items in the unit. When the checklist is complete, both landlord and tenant should sign off on the checklist. Additionally, it is advisable for the landlord to take pictures of the unit. This gives the landlord substantial evidence of the condition of the unit at time of move in if a conflict arises.

Q: I signed a rental agreement with new tenants and we just did a walk through. They are making a lot of claims for repairs and upgrades that seem cosmetic. Can I terminate the rental agreement and refuse to give them the keys?

A: No, you may not terminate the rental agreement and you must give the tenants the keys. All reasonable repair requests that affect habitability of a unit must be inspected and repaired by the landlord in a reasonable amount of time. However, a landlord does not have to honor repair requests meant to make the unit more aesthetically pleasing. For example, a tenant may not like the color of a working stove. The landlord does not have to purchase a new stove to accommodate this request because this does not affect the habitability of the unit. On the other hand, if the tenant makes a claim that the stove burners will not ignite, then the landlord must address this repair request because units must have a working cooking source to be fit to live in.

If the tenants continue to make unreasonable requests for upgrades, then the landlord may terminate a month to month tenancy with a 30 Day Notice to Quit as long as the tenants have not resided in the property for more than a year. However, if a landlord terminates a tenancy based on legitimate repair requests for habitability issues, this may be considered retaliation for the tenant exercising their rights. Thus. it is advisable to speak with an attorney prior to terminating the tenancy based on the tenants’ repair requests.

Q: My tenant gave me a thirty day notice of intent to vacate my property. What do I need to do to prepare for the tenant giving me the keys back?

A: California law states that the landlord is required to give a tenant written notice of the tenant’s right to an initial inspection before moving out of the property and the tenant’s right to be present at the initial inspection. An initial move out inspection is not required if the landlord terminates the tenancy be serving a three day notice on the tenant. This notice of right to initial inspection must be served within a “reasonable time” after the tenant or landlord has served a notice to vacate. If the tenant does not request an initial inspection of the property prior to their move out date, the landlord is not required to take any further action. If the tenant does request an initial inspection of the property prior to their move out date the landlord is required to set the inspection no earlier than two weeks before the move out date and this date and time must be mutually agreed upon. The landlord is also required to give the tenant at least a 48 hours’ advance written notice of the inspection date and time. Advance written notice is not required if the parties agree in writing to waive the 48-hour notice requirement or if the tenant cancels a previously agreed upon inspection date. Additionally, at the initial move-out inspection the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized list of possible deductions from the security deposit and give the tenant an opportunity to remedy all possible deductions noted on the itemization. The landlord should make note of any area that they were not able to inspect. Once the tenant has moved-out of the property the landlord cannot make deductions from the security deposit for any items that were not noted at the time of the initial inspection unless the area was not inspected due to obstructions such as carpets or large furniture blocking the damage from sight.

Q: My tenant is suing me in small claims court for their entire security deposit. We did a move-in inspection but never got around to doing an initial move-out inspection before the tenant vacated. Can I lose my small claims case because we did not do the initial move-out inspection?

A: Yes, if you failed to provide the tenant notice of their right to the initial move-out inspection or the tenant requested a move out inspection and you did not perform one, then it is likely you will lose your small claims case. The tenant is entitled to the initial move-out inspection so that the tenant has the opportunity to repair or clean any issues that may lead to deductions from their security deposit. The landlord should include notice of the right to the initial move-out inspection in the lease or rental agreement.