Question: Last month I moved out of my apartment, and the landlord refused to do a walk-through inspection with me. He told me to just leave the keys on the kitchen counter. He then kept part of my security deposit for repairs that I felt were not necessary. Shouldn't he have allowed me a joint walk-through inspection?
Answer: Civil Code 1950.5 specifically requires a "pre-departure inspection" by the landlord in order to give a tenant the chance to remedy any known or visible defects that may cause deductions from the security deposit.
The landlord has to give a specific written notice to a tenant, at the time the landlord becomes aware the tenancy is ending, that a tenant has the right to request an inspection for the purpose of identifying defects that the tenant may fix in order to reduce or avoid deductions from the deposit.
If the tenant does request an inspection, it must be initiated and performed by the landlord two weeks before the tenancy ends. A landlord must give the tenant at least 48 hours' written notice of the inspection for a time that is mutually convenient for all parties. If agreed, the landlord and tenant can waive the 48-hour requirement.
The tenant can request to be present during the inspection. After the inspection, the landlord must give the tenant a written list of apparent tenant-caused defects that need to be repaired.
The only time a landlord is not required to do a preliminary "pre-departure inspection" is when a tenant does not request it or withdraws the original request for the inspection.
A landlord can perform a final inspection after the tenant has moved out and is entitled to use the deposit to correct any itemized defects the tenant did not fix, defects that occurred after the initial inspection or defects that were not identified during the initial inspection because of the presence of the tenant's possessions.
If a court finds that a landlord has retained any portion of the security deposit in bad faith, the court may award the tenant statutory damages of up to twice the amount of the security deposit.
Van Deursen is director of Dispute Resolution Programs for Project Sentinel, a Bay Area nonprofit. Send questions to email@example.com.