Question: What if my rental unit is cited by City of Los Angeles Code Enforcement and the tenant does not allow access to the rental unit to inspect and repair?
It is a very common occurrence in the City of Los Angeles that tenants will file a complaint to the City of Los Angeles Health Department to conduct annual inspections of the rental properties and to investigate tenant complaints.
This procedure can be very frustrating for a landlord who has a very recalcitrant tenant who refuses to allow inspection of the rental property after making a complaint.
The resolution of this issue should take place long before the tenant makes a complaint. First, the landlord should always do a pre-move in inspection of the rental unit. Fill out a pre-move in inspection form to be kept in the tenants’ file. An inspection of the rental unit should also take place every six months to determine the condition of the rental unit and need for repairs.
California Civil Code Section 1954 gives the tenant legal authority to enter a Rental Unit after giving a 24-Hour Notice to Inspect the Rental Unit for needed repairs.
It is also helpful, but not legally required, that the rental agreement have a provision that a tenant who refuses entry to the rental unit after receiving a 24-Hour Notice will be in Breach of the Rental Unit Agreement and may be subject to a 3-Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit.
Every tenant complaint or work order should be responded to as soon as possible. The landlord should have the tenant put the request in writing and make sure that the date of the complaint and work order is clearly set forth in the writing.
When responding to the work order make sure the maintenance person takes the written complaint or work order with him. It is usually best to make an appointment with the tenant before arriving to complete the requested work.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL MAINTENANCE PERSONS HAVE WORKING CELL PHONES WHENEVER THAY ARE RESPONDING TO A REPAIR REQUEST OR WORK ORDER TO RECORD THE INTERACTION WITH THE TENANT.
Make sure that the maintenance has the tenant sign off on the work order that has the date and time of the appointment with the tenant clearly marked on it. If the tenant refuses to allow access to the rental unit make sure that the maintenance person writes that information on the work order and have the tenant sign it so it clearly states that the tenant denied access. If the tenant refuses to sign the work order, make sure that information is also clearly stated on the work order and dated with the specific time.
When Code Enforcement contacts the landlord after conducting an inspection make sure Code Enforcement gets a copy of each work order that has been requested along with a receipt for the work done.
If the landlord receives a Notice of Citation and Order to comply immediately serve a 24-hour Notice of Intent to Enter the Rental Unit to make the needed repairs. Once again record every contact with the tenant. If the tenant refuses access that must be recorded by cell phone and on the Notice of Intent to Enter.
A landlord has an absolute right to enter the premises after service of a 24-hour Notice to Enter to Inspect and Repair. A tenant’s failure to allow access may constitute a waiver of any defense the tenant may have if an Unlawful Detainer action is filed.
A tenant’s failure to allow access will work in the landlord’s favor when responding to a Code Enforcement Complaint.
It is also a good idea that after the tenant’s first refusal to allow access has occurred that the Landlord serve a Second 24-hour notice of Intent to Enter to Inspect and Make a Repair. The landlord can, if the need arises, call local law enforcement to assist in gaining access to the rental unit.
If you are contacted by Code Enforcement and the Tenant has denied access to the rental unit you should so advise Code Enforcement. Many times, the inspector will be very helpful in persuading the tenant to allow access. If not, informing the inspector of the tenant’s denial of access can only work in your favor when you are challenging the Citation or evicting the tenant for the tenant’s refusal to allow access.
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