When was the last time you had a walk-through with your tenant prior to them vacating the unit? The law regarding having a pre-inspection with your tenant was passed in 2003 however, many of you are still not following the proper procedures. Did you know that the number one reason a landlord is sued by their tenant is because of the landlord’s retention of the tenant’s security deposit? You need to be very vigilant in your dealings with your tenant during their tenancy so that you have no problems and you protect yourselves from future litigation. This article will outline the procedures that you must follow in order to comply with AB-2330.
The first thing you always need to do is to take pictures of your unit prior to renting to the tenant. Make sure that you have these dated and keep them in your property file. If you accept a tenant, make sure that you go through the unit with them and you do a move in/move out checklist. This form can be obtained from AOA.
When does the AB-2330 kick in? Normally, it is when either the owner or the resident gives notice to terminate the tenancy or the lease is about to expire. You must, within a reasonable amount of time after the notice is served, inform the resident of their option to request an inspection and option to be present. You can send them AOA’s form 135 entitled “Right to Request Initial Move-Out Inspection”.
Once the tenant receives the form they either request an inspection or do not request one. If the tenant denies the inspection then there is no further action required by landlord! However, if the tenant requests an inspection, then you must schedule an inspection on a mutually agreeable date that needs to take place no sooner than two weeks prior to the date the tenant vacates. You can either agree on a date for the inspection, or if you don’t agree on a date, you still must do the inspection. It is imperative that you give that resident at least a 48 hour written notice that you are going into their unit to do the inspection. The notice can be waived but the waiver has to be in writing so it is best just to give notice of the date.
If the tenant withdraws the inspection then you do not have to do anything further. If the inspection goes forward, the tenant has the option of being present at the inspection or not. Either way the landlord can proceed with the inspection.
You then need to fill out the Initial Move-out Inspection Record which is part of AOA’s Form No. 135. The inspection record requires you to go through each and every room and item and determine the condition of the item. Once you do the inspection, you will need to do an itemized statement specifying repairs’ or cleanings that are proposed to be the basis of any deductions from the security deposit you intend to make. The itemized statement must include the following statement:
“State law permits former tenants to reclaim abandoned personal property left at the former address of the tenant, subject to certain conditions. You may or may not be able to reclaim property without incurring additional costs, depending on the cost of storing the property and the length of time before it is reclaimed. In general, these costs will be lower the sooner you contact your former landlord after being notified that property belonging to you was left behind after you moved out.”
The tenant then shall have the opportunity during the period following the initial inspection until they vacate to fix any of the identified deficiencies. This is a landlord’s nightmare giving the tenant the right to make their own repairs and fix the unit. Be advised that if the tenants work is not acceptable by a reasonable person’s standard, you can still deduct for the cost of the repair. You are not stuck with accepting the tenants repairs if they are inferior. Also, you are not limited to what you do on your initial inspection. If you find something else that you missed on the pre inspection, you can still deduct from the security deposit for repairs. Remember to attach the receipt for the work with the name and phone number of the person who did the work or estimate. Also, you are not required to do the work in or deduct the estimate from the security.
Make sure that you take pictures of the damage and the subsequent repairs to the unit and keep those in your file for the tenant. If the tenant sues you in small claims court for failure to return their security deposit, you will be well armed with all evidence to support your claims! Make sure that if you do get sued that you file a defendant’s claim for all the money the tenant owes you and also specify any damages to the property. Further, do not stipulate to a judge pro tem always ask for a judge or commissioner.
[Editor’s Note: AOA members may download form 135, the AB-2330 Walk-through (at www.aoausa.com) which includes instructions and required forms to perform the initial move-out inspection.]
Attorney Helen Grayce Long is an attorney at Fast Eviction Service. She attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a bachelor of arts. She then attended the University of San Francisco School of Law. Grayce has been an attorney for 25 years and specializes in Real Estate Law. She’s done landlord/tenant work throughout the state of California with an emphasis on Rent Control law. For more information, call (800) 686-8686, email [email protected] or visit www.fastevictionservice.com.