Landlords need to enter their rental units at certain times throughout a tenancy to ensure everything is in proper and working condition. Here’s what you need to know about the process of entering and inspecting rental units.

The landlord’s right to enter

Residential landlords or property managers may enter rental units in specific circumstances, most often only with the tenant’s permission. Reasons for which a landlord may enter a residential unit include:

  • emergencies;
  • to conduct repairs or improvements [See RPI Form 567];
  • showing the unit to prospective tenants or buyers with adequate notice to the current tenant [See RPI Form 116 and 116-1]; and
  • periodic and pre-expiration inspections. [Calif. Civil Code §1954]

Each of the above situations has its own protocols for landlord entrance. This article outlines the protocols for the landlord’s right to enter a unit throughout a tenancy to conduct inspections.

Rental walk-throughs: The initial inspection

Prior to leasing or renting out a unit, the landlord needs to document the unit’s condition with the new tenant.

To do so, the landlord conducts a walk-through of the unit, during which any observable or known defects are noted on a condition of premises addendum. Once completed, the addendum needs to be signed by the tenant to acknowledge they were informed of any defects. [See RPI Form 560]

Landlords may use a separate condition of furnishings addendum in addition to the condition of premises addendum when the apartment is furnished. [See RPI Form 560-1]

Landlords (and prospective tenants) need to pay attention to:

  • common area conditions, such as:
    • stairs and railings;
    • fencing;
    • lighting;
    • security; and
    • walkways;
  • doors and locks;
  • kitchen and heating/cooling appliances;
  • electric and plumbing systems; and
  • general wear and tear, such as:
    • paint;
    • carpets;
    • ceilings;
    • closets; and
    • windows.

These aspects need to be in a functional and safe condition to maintain the quality and habitability of the unit. When everything is in order — or aspects needing repair have been noted and methods for repair agreed upon — the completed condition of premises addendum signed by the tenant is attached to the rental or lease agreement into which they enter. [See RPI Form 550 and 551]

The landlord and tenant may then proceed with establishing the tenancy.

Periodic inspections throughout tenancy

During the tenant’s occupancy of the unit, the landlord may conduct periodic inspections of the unit to see that its condition and habitability is maintained.

The landlord needs to provide notice to the tenant before they may enter the unit. The tenant is entitled to a 24-hour notice of entry prior to each inspection. [CC §1954(d)(1); see RPI Form 567]

Any deficiencies which have arisen during the tenancy are noted on a new condition of premises form. The landlord uses the form to keep track of repairs and maintenance requested and completed in the unit throughout the tenant’s occupancy.

When repairs or maintenance need to be made, the landlord may notify the tenant 24 hours ahead of time in writing, or the tenant and landlord may orally agree to a set date and time within one week of the conversation. [CC §1954(d)(3)]

The pre-expiration inspection

At least 30 days prior to the expiration of a tenancy (without an agreement to remain in possession), the landlord needs to notify the tenant of their right to have a pre-expiration inspection conducted. Once notified, it is up to the tenant to request an inspection be performed by the landlord. [CC §1950.5(f); see RPI Form 567-1]

The pre-expiration inspection is mutually beneficial for the both the landlord and the vacating tenant. During the inspection, the landlord notes any defects or deficiencies in the condition of the rental unit. The tenant then has an opportunity to cure the deficiencies before vacating the premises — saving the tenant deductions from their security deposit, and saving the landlord from having to remediate the unit beyond normal wear and tear before renting it out again.

However, the landlord has to notify the tenant before they may enter the unit to perform the inspection. The tenant is entitled to a 48-hour notice of the date and time of the requested inspection. This notice needs to be accompanied by a notice of the tenant’s right to reclaim personal property. [CC §§1950.5(f)(1) and 1954(b); see RPI Form 567-2 and 584]

The tenant may waive the 48-hour notice by signing a written waiver with the landlord.

After serving the tenant a 48-hour notice of inspection, the landlord may enter the unit at the scheduled date and time to perform the inspection. During the inspection, the landlord needs to record any observable or known defects on a statement of deficiencies.  The statement is then provided to the tenant so they can make the appropriate cleanup and repairs. [CC §1950.5(f)(2); see RPI Form 567-3]

Pre-expiration inspections are to be performed within two weeks before the expiration of tenancy. The tenant has until the tenancy’s expiration date to perform the repairs. [CC §§1950.5(f)(1), 1950.5(f)(3)]

When the tenant does not request a pre-expiration inspection in response to the notice of right to an inspection, the landlord is not required to perform one. Instead, the cost of repair for deficiencies in the condition of the premises when the tenant vacates will be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit.

The final inspection and security deposit deductions

The landlord conducts a final inspection of the unit within 21 days after the tenant vacates the premises. [CC §1950.5(g)]

During the final inspection, the landlord notes any deficiencies in the unit which:

  • did not get repaired after being noted in the statement of deficiencies;
  • were obstructed by the tenant’s property and thus were not noted in the statement of deficiencies; or
  • occurred between the pre-expiration inspection and the final inspection.

Costs incurred to repair the above deficiencies are deducted from the tenant’s security deposit and noted in an itemized statement of deductions. The itemized statement of deductions is to be provided to the tenant within the same 21-day period after they vacate the unit. [CC §1950.5(g)(1); see RPI Form 585]

The landlord also refunds the tenant’s security deposit, less the itemized deductions, within the 21-day period after the tenant vacates. [CC §1950.5(g)(1)]

When the costs incurred by the landlord to repair deficiencies exceed $125, the landlord attaches copies of invoices and receipts for the repairs to the itemized statement of deductions. [CC §1950.5(g)(2)]

For more information about the landlord’s duties throughout a tenancy, see Landlords, Tenants and Property Management, available through the first tuesday Realtipedia.