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2008-02-12 16:38:00

Q & A: Right of Entry at a Residential Investment Property

Q.  We are planning on selling a rental house. The tenants said they don't want a lock box put on the front door. Can we do it anyway? Do we still have to give them notice that someone is coming by to see the house?

A.  We don't advise our clients to allow lock boxes because of potential liability. Moreover, California law requires a reasonable notice be given to the tenants before entering. Twenty-four hours is presumed to be a reasonable time.

Q.  One of our tenants is moving out in three weeks. She has refused to allow any prospective tenants to see the apartment. Is there any way we can force her to let us show it since the law says we have the right to show it?

A.  You can serve her with a three-day notice to perform conditions and/or covenants or quit to give you reasonable dates and times for entry. If she fails to comply, we can file an unlawful detainer action on your behalf anywhere in California.

Q.  We inspect each of our rental units twice a year to make sure the residents are taking good care of it and to see if anything needs repairing or replacement. I learned at a seminar that we are not supposed to "inspect" our properties. How are we supposed to protect our investment?

A.  In order to protect the tenant's right of privacy, California law does not recognize the right of landlords to enter the dwelling unit purely for the purposes of inspection. You can require tenants to report any repair and be responsible for any damage for failing to do so. You may also inspect if the tenant has a waterbed or smoke alarm, or as a reasonable follow-up to a recent repair.

Q.  One of our residents keeps asking us to make repairs in her unit, and then won't let us in to do the work. Now she says we aren't maintaining her apartment, so she doesn't have to pay the rent. What should we do?

All residential leases in California carry with it an implied warranty of habitability. If the landlord breaches this warranty, the resident is entitled to withhold rent. However, a well documented case, especially with witnesses, that shows the tenant is allowing the condition to continue by not cooperating with the landlord, will allow you to successfully rebut this defense. You may consider serving a three-day notice to pay rent or quit. If they fail to comply, we can file an unlawful detainer action on your behalf anywhere in California.

Q.  If someone says we can't enter his unit unless he is present, what would happen if we entered anyway? Could he sue us?

A court may consider this a violation of the right of the tenant's privacy and allow for statutory and actual damages as well as a restraining order. The tenant may also claim broken or missing items.

Q.  We need to get inside our rental unit for an appraisal. The tenant signed a contract stating that she would allow entrance. She is in the military and is never home. She opposes our entry to do the appraisal. What is my recourse?

A.  California law specifically allows landlords and their agents entry into the rental unit for purposes of selling the unit. Reasonable notice must first be given and 24 hours is presumed reasonable. If, however, the tenant rejects the entry, you may not enter unless with a court order. (LegalEase is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please contact the nearest office to discuss the facts of your particular situation. Kimball, Tirey & St. John makes no warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, with regard to this information. Kimball, Tirey & St. John shall not be liable in the event of incidental or consequential damages in connection with, or arising out of, the use of any information herein contained.)

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