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Security deposit law applies to all landlords, large and small

March 28, 2004|By Project Sentinel

Question: I own a duplex. I live in one side and rent out the other. Do the new requirements on handling deductions from a security deposit apply to me?

Answer: The changes to Civil Code 1950.5, which went into effect Jan. 1, apply to all rental properties regardless of size. The changes affect what documentation must be provided to a tenant when the deductions from a deposit exceed $125.

The new version of the statute requires an itemized statement detailing the time spent to repair and/or clean the unit and the reasonable hourly rate charged. If the work was performed by a business, the landlord must provide a copy of the bill, invoice or receipt. If the invoice or bill does not contain the name, address and phone number of the service provider, the landlord must provide it.

If a deduction is for materials or supplies, the landlord must provide a copy of the bill, invoice or receipt. If the landlord buys these items on a regular basis, the tenant must receive a copy of the bill, invoice or receipt, vendor price list or vendor document that lists the cost of the item used in the unit. An example of a vendor price list could be a plumbing catalog that lists the per-unit cost.

If a repair cannot be completed before the 21-day requirement for deposit settlement, a landlord can deduct a "good faith" estimate and list it on the itemized statement.

If the estimate is given because the party doing the repair has not provided the documentation or the landlord is waiting for parts, supplies or a service company, the name, address and phone number of the service person or the parts or supply source must be listed on the statement sent to the tenant.

Fourteen days after completing the repair or receiving the documentation, a landlord must give receipts to the tenant. Tenants can waive their right to the information, but only in writing.

If a tenant changes his or her mind about receiving the information and receipts, the tenant can take back the waiver within 14 days after receiving the statement.

No walk-through for evicted tenant

Question: I'm familiar with the requirement to offer a walk-through inspection about two weeks before a tenant moves after giving or receiving a 30- or 60-day notice to move. What is the rule when a tenant moves after receiving a three-day notice to pay rent or quit?

Answer: As you have stated, since January 2003 a tenant vacating under normal circumstances is entitled to notification of the right to have a walk-through inspection with the landlord or agent about two weeks before the move-out date.

Effective Jan. 1, Civil Code 1950.5 was modified so that a tenant who voluntarily moves or is evicted after being served a proper three-day notice to perform covenant or quit or a three-day pay rent or quit notice is not entitled to an inspection.

Final inspections are a good practice regardless of how a tenant vacates because a landlord is still required to properly account for the tenant's security deposit.

State code bans gender-based bias

Question: I manage a large apartment complex and try to keep up with the new laws. Can you explain the new law about gender discrimination?

Answer: Rules covering gender discrimination are set forth in California Government Code Section 12926, stating that landlords or their agents may not refuse housing on the basis of a person's gender or gender identity. Landlords may not refuse to rent to someone who has changed or is changing his or her gender through hormone treatment, surgery or both.

If an applicant's dress and/or mannerisms do not match a landlord's expectation for that individual's stated gender identity, the landlord cannot legally refuse to rent on that basis.

Project Sentinel is a rental housing mediation service in Sunnyvale, Calif. Questions may be sent to 1055 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Suite 3, Sunnyvale, CA 94087, but cannot be answered individually. For housing discrimination questions, complaints or help, call the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment at (800) 233-3212 or the Southern California Housing Rights Center at (800) 477-5977.

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