Q: I just remodeled my unit and am going to rent it out this month. I know everything in the unit is new; do I still have to do a pre-move in walk through with my new tenant?
A: A landlord should always do a pre-move in and move-out inspection. The inspections are useful for possible future lawsuits and to determine damage beyond normal wear and tear. If your tenant takes you to small claims court for the security deposit, then you will need significant evidence to prove the deductions you made for damages are valid. A pre-move in inspection should have a checklist in writing and should be initialed or signed by both landlord and tenant.  

It is advisable for the landlord to take pictures of the unit both before and after a tenancy. This gives the landlord substantial evidence of the conditions of the unit to defend in an eviction or small claims matter.   

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 are unnecessary. Can I terminate the rental agreement and not give them the keys?
A: You may not terminate the rental agreement and you must give the tenants the keys.  A landlord does not have to honor all repair requests as long as they are not considered habitability issues. For example, a tenant may not like the color of a working refrigerator, but the landlord does not have to purchase a new fridge to accommodate this request. If the tenant makes a claim that the refrigerator is leaking, then the landlord must address this repair request. All reasonable repair requests must be inspected and repaired by the landlord in a reasonable amount of time. 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. 

Q: My tenant requested a move-out inspection before they moved but we weren’t able to complete one because our schedules did not match. They moved out a few days ago but there is a lot of damage to the property. Can I schedule a walkthrough after they’ve moved to have my tenant make repairs so I don’t have to?
A:  You may not do a move-out inspection after the tenancy has terminated. A landlord must allow the tenant to have a PRE move-out inspection to remedy any security deposit deductions in the rental unit before vacating. This does not apply to a tenant that has been given a 3 Day Notice. If the tenant does not wish to be present during the inspection, then the tenant must provide the landlord with written consent for the landlord to perform the inspection without the tenant present. The landlord must give 48 hours’ notice to the tenant before performing the move-out inspection. If the tenant is not present and has given the landlord permission to do the inspection, then the landlord must leave an itemized statement which provides repairs and cleaning the landlord intends to deduct from the tenant’s security deposit.  If you give the tenant notice that the tenant is entitled to the move-out inspection, and the tenant does not request one, then the landlord is relieved of the obligation to complete the move-out inspection.  

Q: My tenant is suing me in small claims court for their entire security deposit. We did an initial walk-through but never got around to doing a pre-move out inspection. Can I lose my small claims case because we didn’t do the pre-move out inspection?
A: If the tenant requested a PRE-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 a PRE-move-out inspection so the tenant has the chance to repair or clean any issues that may lead to deductions from the security deposit. The landlord must give the tenant notice of the tenant’s right to that move-out inspection. The landlord may want to include this right to inspection in the lease or rental agreement.   

Attorney Franco Simone, of the Landlords Legal Center and has been doing evictions for 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday- Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email info@landlordslegalcenter.com