Rental Roundtable
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Real Estate Today

Trip Coincides with Inspection

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Robert S. Griswold | Steven R. Kellman | Ted Smith
13-October-2002 Sunday

This column on issues confronting renters and landlords is written by Counselor of Real Estate and Certified Property Manager Robert Griswold, host of Real Estate Today! with Robert Griswold (9 a.m. Saturdays on AM1130 - KSDO radio, or on the Internet at, and by attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenants' Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a law firm representing landlords.

QUESTION: For 21 years, I have always returned tenants' security deposits well within the legal time limit (now 21 days). But I have a major 3 1/2 -week European trip coming up soon, and a tenant just gave me notice that he will give up his apartment the day after I depart.

I will not be able to check the apartment and return his security deposit within 21 days and I'm not confident in any of my friends to check the unit carefully in my absence, or provide the accounting of any charges. Is there any provision in the law that can help me this one time?

ANSWER: Smith: As the landlord's attorney, I completely understand your dilemma. The security deposit law states that the accounting and refund, if any, must be given within 21 days from the tenant's date of departure from the premises.

Unfortunately, however, there is no exception to the law that would grant you an extension under these circumstances. Why don't you have a trusted friend inspect the apartment and arrange for the repairs and cleaning? Keep all receipts for materials and labor. Take photographs. Before proceeding with the disposition statement as required by law, have your friend give you a call. Talk about it for a few minutes and discuss what deductions you are going to make from the deposit.

Together, you should be able to work it out. Your friend can then mail the accounting statement and the deposit balance to the last known address by normal mail within the 21-day deadline.

If the tenant has a problem with your deductions, you'll be back from vacation and able to deal with it at that time.

Kellman: The law requires the accounting and/or refund of the deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out. Ted correctly points out that there are no extensions allowed based on vacations. I also agree with Ted that you could certainly get a friend to handle the matter, but that could create some big problems for you, your friend and the tenant.

If your friend is not knowledgeable in property management laws, he/she could make costly mistakes that you will be liable for. This may be a good time to try out the services of a professional property manager, at least for this situation.

You can pay a manager for time and effort handling this move. Also, they could get the place rerented before you return. That should be worth more than the fee they would charge. Coming home to a newly rented unit and with the prior tenants matter resolved beats coming home to a small claims lawsuit anytime.

Give the friend the boot

Question: I have a month-to-month rental agreement, but I also have a roommate who constantly has violent fights with her boyfriend. We called the police on him a couple of times and she put a restraining order on him as well.

At about 1:30 a.m. today, I saw him go through the window to her bedroom and leave the same way at about 8:30 a.m.

I don't have any written agreement with my roommate and I am the only tenant on the rental agreement. I want to give her three-day eviction notice, if that is legal. I haven't had peace of mind since she became my roommate.

Griswold: Unfortunately, you do not have the same options as a landlord does when it comes to getting rid of a bad tenant. In your case you only have a verbal agreement with a problem roommate so you need to work with them to get them to move voluntarily.

Since you are on a month-to-month tenancy, you could give your landlord your 30-day notice to vacate and just move out and find another place to live. Since your roommate is not on the rental agreement they would have a difficult time avoiding an eviction if they attempted to stay after you leave.

You could also explain the situation to your landlord and actually request the landlord to serve you with a 30-day notice. The landlord may be willing to cooperate or they may tell you that it is your problem and insist that you fulfill the terms of your rental agreement or terminate the rental agreement on your own.

How often is enough?

Question: I have managed hundreds of houses over the past decade and have for the most part had no problem agreeing with my tenants how much of their security deposit we should use for cleaning and repairs, if any. But the one disagreement that comes up the most is painting the interior.

The Fair Housing Web site says if the tenancy has been two years or longer, the tenant is not responsible for any painting. I feel this is ridiculous. If you lived in a house for 10 years, would you expect to have to paint five times?

If a tenant lives in the house for only one year, I feel it should not need painting. I have always used five years as a painting life and have prorated based on that number.

Smith: As a landlord attorney, I understand your frustration. California's statement of law on the issue is too general and not much help. Determining "ordinary wear and tear" or "reasonable" cleaning in a given case can be troublesome.

I advise clients to let common sense be the guide. I can tell you that your five-year average life is a reasonable proposal and that there is no state law which, generally speaking, denies landlords painting charges after two years.

IF YOU'RE A TENANT OR LANDLORD, the authors stand ready to answer your questions in this column, although letters cannot be answered individually. Write them at: Rental Roundtable, Homes Section, San Diego Union-Tribune, P.O. Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191. Or you may e-mail them at

Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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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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