Landlord-Tenant Law: Legislation Affecting Real Estate as of 2003

Legislation Affecting California Real Estate as of 2003

Many of us have been renters at some point in our lives. As tenants, we worried about the landlord raising rents or holding back our security deposit. The years pass, and suddenly some of us find ourselves in the position of being the landlord. Now our concerns focus on lease terms, repairs and the ability of the tenants to pay rent.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, either as tenant or landlord, you should be aware of several new pieces of legislation that affect real property in California as of January 1, 2003. The following two new pro-tenant bills have taken effect, SB1403 and AB2330, giving rise to these statutory requirements for landlords:

Month to Month Tenancy (Civil Code §1946.1)

– The landlord must give sixty (60) days notice prior to termination if the tenant has lived in the property for one year or more. A thirty (30) day notice is allowed if the tenant has lived on the property for less than one year.

Landlord Inspections and Tenant’s Right to Cure Before Moving Out (Civil Code §1950.5(f))

– The landlord must notify the tenant in writing of his or her intention to inspect the property within a reasonable time before the termination or expiration of the tenancy term. The tenant has the right to request that the landlord conduct a preliminary inspection to provide the tenant with the opportunity to cure or repair any defects that might be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit. After such inspection, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized statement of the needed cleaning or repairs that would be deducted from the security deposit if left unattended to. A landlord’s bad faith withholding of a security deposit without an accounting within 21 days after tenant has moved out is subject to statutory damages up to twice the amount of the security deposit, in addition to actual damages.

Notice that Property is for Sale (Civil Code §1954)

– A landlord who wishes to show a property currently occupied by a tenant must give written notice that to the tenant that the property is being marketed for sale. Once a written notice has been provided to the tenant within the last 120 days, the landlord may simply provide 24-hour oral notice to the tenant of his or her intent to enter the premises and show it to potential or actual purchasers. The written notice may be hand delivered or left under the door 24-hours in advance of the showing. If it is mailed, it must be mailed at least 6 days in advance of the showing to be considered reasonable.

Notice of Planned Demolition (Civil Code §1940.6)

– The landlord is required to give notice to new tenants of the earliest planned demolition date of the rental property. Failure to notify the tenant could result in the landlord owing $2500 to the tenant.

Unlawful Detainers (Civil Code §1179)

– The Court and the tenant have expanded powers to avoid forfeiture of the tenancy. A tenant appearing without an attorney may orally request relief from the forfeiture after an eviction action has commenced if all rent and costs have been paid by the tenant to the landlord. Alternatively, the court can restore the tenant to the property on its own motion under like circumstances, at any time before the property is restored to the landlord.

Awareness of these new provisions can prevent the landlord from being subject to statutory penalties or delays. In many of the above cases, pre-printed forms are available to provide the adequate written notice. For tenants dealing with absentee landlords, these new statutes provide a means to enforce better communication between tenants and landlords.