The Importance of a Detailed Move-In Process

February 15, 2011 | | Uncategorized | No Comments

The importance of a sound, detailed Move In process can not be overstated.  While not all possible scenarios can be anticipated, extra time taken at this stage of the landlord-tenant relationship will serve to set expectations in advance and eliminate many of the misunderstandings that often arise when the parties are not aligned on certain issues.

The Lease and Addendums

This process typically begins with signing the lease or rental agreement.  Oral agreements are legal and binding, but disagreements are difficult to resolve and promises made by either party, if not in writing, may go unfulfilled with no recourse available to the injured party.  It should be noted that rental agreements for more than one year must be in writing.[1])

Landlords should be very familiar with the provisions of the lease documents they use and be able to answer any questions that the tenant has.  There are numerous agreements available for purchase or download through professional associations and other vendors and can be several pages in length.

Numerous addendums are used to further clarify terms relating to special circumstances or arrangements such as the use of waterbeds, satellite dishes, pets, garages, etc.  Many landlords include a special House Rules addendum that is specific to their property.

It is very important for tenants to carefully read everything they are asked to sign.  Landlords should verbally disclose the important points of the agreement.  If you have a policy prohibiting pets or smoking, point that out and remind the tenant.  Reminding a tenant to pay their rent on time is often advisable as is a review of the late charge policy.

The Condition and Inventory Checklist

Most landlord disputes arise from disagreement over the security deposit when the tenancy is terminated.  For this reason, a detailed Inventory Checklist is essential for documenting the condition of the unit upon moving in.  This will help the landlord justify withholding deposit money for damage done during the tenancy but will also protect the tenant from being charged for damage that existed prior to the start of the tenancy.

The tenant and landlord should walk through the unit and thoroughly document the condition on a checklist form.  The California Department of Consumer Affairs has a form that can be downloaded at http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/checklist.pdf.  Many landlords (and sometimes tenants) will photograph or videotape the unit to further document the condition.

Required Disclosures

There is no shortage of required and suggested disclosures that a landlord must give a prospective tenant.  There are NO disclosures that a tenant is required to give to a prospective landlord!  Landlords must be aware of the legal and regulatory changes that affect the ownership and operation of rental property.  Here are some of the more commonly required ones.

  • Lead-Based Paint is a legitimate health hazard and regulation to protect the public affects properties constructed before 1978.  Landlords must disclose the presence of known lead-based paint in the unit before the tenant sings the agreement to rent or lease.  A copy of the EPA’s “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home” must also be given to the tenant in advance.[2] There have been significant changes to the EPA’s regulations regarding renovation of these properties that impact landlords, tenants, and contractors.  Landlords need to make themselves aware of these changes before doing renovations.
  • Carcinogenic Material: Landlords with 10 or more employees must disclose the existence of known carcinogenic materials.
  • Death in the Rental Unit: Death of a prior occupant must be disclosed to prospective tenants if the death occurred within the past three years, unless the tenant was ill with, or died from AIDS.  The landlord may not intentionally misrepresent the cause of death if asked by a prospective tenant.[3]
  • Megan’s Law:  Language is required in rental agreements advising tenants of the availability of information on a Department of Justice website about specified registered sex offenders.[4]

An appendix of Legally Required Text of Notices is available at the following government website: http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/appendix5.shtml.

[1] Code Sections 1091, 1624(a)(3)

[2] United States Code Sections 4851b, 4852d; Health and Safety Code Section 17920.10

[3] Civil Code Section 1710.2

[4] Civil Code Section 290.46 Ballek ladislav .

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