Residential Landlord Alert: Statute Imposes New Duties Effective July 1, 1998

Beginning July 1, 1998, residential landlords must comply with Civil Code section 1941.3. This new statute requires a residential landlord to:

The statute specifies the manner in which the deadbolt locks are to be installed, indicates whether existing deadbolt locks will comply with the statute, either permanently or temporarily, and describes what is to be done in those situations where a deadbolt cannot be installed. It also creates a statutory exemption for certain windows based upon their location.

Civil Code section 1941.3 imposes a duty on a tenant notify the landlord of inoperable deadbolt locks and window locking devices in a dwelling unit. Unless the landlord has actual notice, or receives notice, of a deficiency, no liability for a violation of this statute can be imposed on the landlord.

Finally, Section 1941.3 provides significant remedies to a tenant in the event a landlord fails to comply with the new statute. These remedies include, among other things, the right to raise the violation as an affirmative defense in an unlawful detainer proceeding and the ability to install the deadbolt locks and locking devices and then deduct the cost of such installation from the rent due on the dwelling unit. Actual money damages, plus costs and attorney’s fees also may be assessed against a landlord.

Additionally, a failure to comply with Section 1941.3 may entitle a tenant to bring actions against the landlord based upon negligence and/or a breach of the warranty of habitability as well. Such actions, if successful, could result in monetary awards against the landlord, reductions in the rent which can be charged for the dwelling unit, and other adverse consequences.

To avoid liability under new Civil Code section 1941.3, all residential landlords should immediately conduct a walk-through inspection of their rental units to ensure compliance with the statute. If you would like further information about the requirements of Section 1941.3, please give us a call.

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