Locks in Increased Protection for Tenants
by Robert S.
Griswold, CRE, CPM, ARM
Renters should feel a lot safer in the
comfort of their own apartments by
A state law that takes effect July 1 is designed to
increase security in
all rental housing.
A new section in the state's Civil Code requires property
owners to upgrade or install deadbolt locks and window
In an interesting twist, tenants, as well as their
obligations under this law.
They will be responsible for notifying the owner or the
owner's agent when
locks or window security devices break or otherwise
Unlike many other areas of landlord liability, owners
will not be
responsible for violations of this new code section
unless they fail to
correct the violation within a "reasonable"
time after being alerted to the
The law -- California Civil Code Section 1941.3(a) --
will require owners
of rental property or their agents to install and
maintain an operable
deadbolt lock on each swinging entry door of a dwelling
unit. If they don't
comply and someone breaks in and either steals something
or hurts someone, owners are open to a lawsuit.
The deadbolt lock must be installed in conformance with
specifications and must comply with applicable state and
including provisions for fire and safety and
accessibility for the
Nuts and bolts
When in the locked position, the bolt must extend at
thirteen-sixteenths of an inch beyond the strike edge of
the door and
protrude into the doorjamb.
Main entry doors that currently have deadbolts of at
least one-half inch in
length will satisfy the new law. Also meeting the new law
locks with a thumb-turn deadbolt having a strike plate
attached to the
doorjamb and a latch bolt that is held in a vertical
position by either a
guard bolt, a plunger or an auxiliary mechanism.
Also acceptable are any existing lock or security device
approved by an appropriate state or local government
However, all such deadbolts and/or locking devices must
be replaced with
the thirteen-sixteenths-inch throw deadbolts as soon as
they require repair
If an existing door cannot be equipped with the required
deadbolt lock, the
property owner or agent must install a metal strap
horizontally across the
midsection of the door. In that case, the doorjamb must
also be modified to
accommodate the 13/16-inch deadbolt.
The new code also requires property owners or managers of
properties to install locking mechanisms that comply with
and safety codes on all gates and doors in common areas
that provide access to dwelling units.
However, this applies only to complexes that had locked
gates before Jan.
1, 1998. Owners don't have to add a locked gate where
No later than July 1, property owners must also install
operable window security or locking devices for all
windows that open --
with certain exceptions.
Exempted are horizontal sliding doors (typically glass
or casement windows and all windows more than 12 feet
vertically or 6 feet horizontally from the ground, a roof
or any platform.
There are a few exclusions to the new requirements, such
as any building
that has been designated as historically significant or
managed, directly or indirectly, and controlled by the
Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on interim basis.
Tenants are now required to notify property owners or
their agents of any
deficiency in a locking device rather than leave it up to
them to discover
It is imperative that owners promptly respond to any
notices of inoperable
locks as well as make routine inspections of the
common-area gates and
doors. Owners or their agents also should thoroughly
inspect all door and
window locking mechanisms in unit interiors before new
tenants move in.
The law is unclear as to how much time property owners
have to fix
defective locking devices once a tenant gives verbal or
Landlords and tenants have debated for years similar
tenant/landlord law such as the definition of
"ordinary wear and tear"
concerning the disposition of security deposits.
Robert Griswold and the Real Estate
Today! radio show strongly support the intent and the letter of all federal and
state fair housing laws. As a reminder to all owners and managers of real
estate, note that all real estate advertised is subject to the Federal Fair
Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise "any preference,
limitation, discrimination because of race, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex,
physical disability, or familial status, or intention to make any such
preference, limitation or discrimination." Additional state and/or local
fair housing laws may also apply. Be sure to inform all persons that all
dwellings offered or advertised are on an equal opportunity basis.
Revised and Updated -
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Robert S. Griswold, CRE, CPM, CCIM,
PCAM, GRI, ARM
Griswold Corporate Center
Griswold Real Estate Management, Inc.
5703 Oberlin Drive, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92121-1743
Phone: (858) 597-6100
Fax: (858) 597-6161
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All Rights Reserved.