Rental Roundtable
Data and Info.

Real Estate Today

New Law 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 security devices.

In an interesting twist, tenants, as well as their landlords, have
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 become inoperable.

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 the manufacturer's
specifications and must comply with applicable state and local codes,
including provisions for fire and safety and accessibility for the

Nuts and bolts

When in the locked position, the bolt must extend at least
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 are existing
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 inspected and
approved by an appropriate state or local government agency.

However, all such deadbolts and/or locking devices must be replaced with
the thirteen-sixteenths-inch throw deadbolts as soon as they require repair
or replacement.

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 multifamily
properties to install locking mechanisms that comply with applicable fire
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 none existed.

No later than July 1, property owners must also install and maintain
operable window security or locking devices for all windows that open --
with certain exceptions.

Exempted are horizontal sliding doors (typically glass sliders), louvered
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 any building
managed, directly or indirectly, and controlled by the California
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 written

Landlords and tenants have debated for years similar ambiguities in
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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