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Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com



I’ve rented the same apartment from Citi Properties for 6 years. Up until about 6 months ago, they kept the building tidy, had an on-site manager, and did monthly bug inspections. Now they’re trying to sell the building and they have gotten rid of all that stuff. The only thing they do now is “inspect” each unit once a month. Here’s what they post on my door once a month:

Citi Properties, LLC
2099 Market Street
S.F., CA 94114

January 22nd, 2010

24 Hour Notice of Entry
(Civil Code Section 1954)

To: all occupants

There will be a building inspection of all units and the common area’s on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 at 11:00AM. If you have any questions, please contact Jorge Castillo at 415-308-0908.

Thank you for your cooperation.

First, they only did this every year or two, now they’re doing it once a month. Second, what are they inspecting for? And more importantly: do they really have a right to come into my home once a month? It’s always during the day of a weekday, so I can’t be home to see what’s going on. But one time my toilet seat was left up. It didn’t bother me, but it did peak my interest. Whenever I call the number listed I get vague answers and a promise to call back, which doesn’t happen. Any insight would be gladly appreciated.

Good question. What are they inspecting for? First, I hope you understand who you’re dealing with. A Citi by any other name just stinks. These guys ought to know better by now. They probably do but, as we all know, they just don’t give a rat’s ass about the law. The reason they are inspecting your unit is simple–they’re looking for a reason to evict you because, in their eyes, you’ve lived there too long and your rent is too low. They’re looking for your bong!

California Civil Code 1954 states that a landlord can only enter your unit:
(1) In case of emergency.
(2) To make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors or to make a tenant requested move-out inspection.
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order.

Except in the case of an emergency or abandonment, the landlord must give you a 24-hour written notice that includes the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. As you can see, the example notice you provided is defective because it does not in include the purpose of the entry. Routine inspections violate California law.

You should read, The Unnecessary Conflict in Landlord Entries, by J. Wallace Oman, a respected tenant attorney here in San Francisco. In the article he points out that landlords have no inherent right to inspection:

“Under old common-law doctrines, when the parties enter into a rental agreement, the landlord grants a right of “exclusive possession” to the tenant against everyone, including the property owner. The landlord additionally promises the tenant “quiet enjoyment”; the term guarantees that the landlord will not permit or do anything that interferes with the tenant’s peace and quiet in the rental unit.”

He also proposes effective methods to deal with entries during the sale of a building.

For a lighter (more outraged?) take on the subject, check out my blog entry from last year, Even Dracula Had to Have an Invite Before He Could Enter.

You and all of the tenants in the building should write a letter to the management citing the law and letting them know that you’re not going to put up with monthly entries any longer. You should also remind them that California Civil Code 1940.2(a)(4)states that it is unlawful for a landlord to commit a significant and intentional violation of section1954 for the purpose of influencing a tenant to vacate a dwelling. And that it provides for civil penalties of up to $2,000.00 per violation.

You and all of the tenants should also contact CitiStop the tenacious tenants’ organizers who helped bring down the Lembi empire.

While you’re at it, point out to the geniuses at Citi…whatever that you don’t need an apostrophe to pluralize a word.

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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  • Wil

    The quoted notice says nothing about a “routine inspection,” it just says the units and common areas are being inspected. Like they would be if, for instance, the bankrupt landlord was trying to sell or refinance the building (or fix it up in preparation for same). Which is totally legal under 1954(2). Nothing in the law says the landlord is required to tell the tenant WHY they’re doing it, it just has to be for an allowable purpose.

    That said, if I were the tenant in this case I would ask for a justification.

  • Wil

    The quoted notice says nothing about a “routine inspection,” it just says the units and common areas are being inspected. Like they would be if, for instance, the bankrupt landlord was trying to sell or refinance the building (or fix it up in preparation for same). Which is totally legal under 1954(2). Nothing in the law says the landlord is required to tell the tenant WHY they’re doing it, it just has to be for an allowable purpose.

    That said, if I were the tenant in this case I would ask for a justification.

  • Eve Batey

    But, once a month? That’s what the tenant says, they they’re being inspected monthly. That sounds pretty “routine” to me.

  • Eve Batey

    But, once a month? That’s what the tenant says, they they’re being inspected monthly. That sounds pretty “routine” to me.

  • Dave Crow

    Thanks Eve, as you know, I can get surly when it comes to questions like this.

    Civil Code section 1954(d)(1) provides in part: “The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry” The notice does not state a purpose and is therefore, a de facto routine inspection. Add once a month and you’re certainly there.

    And what about stating the purpose don’t you get Wil?

    In this case, considering the shiti notice, you don’t ask them why, you tell ’em to take a hike. You call the cops if they persist based on this notice.

  • Dave Crow

    Thanks Eve, as you know, I can get surly when it comes to questions like this.

    Civil Code section 1954(d)(1) provides in part: “The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry” The notice does not state a purpose and is therefore, a de facto routine inspection. Add once a month and you’re certainly there.

    And what about stating the purpose don’t you get Wil?

    In this case, considering the shiti notice, you don’t ask them why, you tell ’em to take a hike. You call the cops if they persist based on this notice.

  • Dr. Orion

    I have an otherwise reasonable landlord. I rent a house with a completely fenced private yard. I have TWO yes 2 pot plants I AM a medical marijuana patient. My disability is visible. Im also a professional psychologist with a license to protect and i know im not breaking the law. The landlord, with my permission brought a workman over to repair a shed. since i knew he’d see the plants amidst the tomatoes and strawberries i decided to tell him in advance about them and my medical clearance. No further mention was made, and the shed was repaired. I decided to move the plants anyway – since i’ve had them stolen in past – and now a workman has seen them. so they are not on my property now but – before the landlord knew that, he wanted to see my medical papers, claiming that his WIFE is concerend – she works in a police station and doesn’t want MY activities to reflect badly on HER..well, of course if she doesn’t blab about it – how would anyone even know?

    That besides the point – my question is – does he – or anyone, individual citizen, have the right to demand to see my medical papers? I believe i have privacy rights as a citizen AND as a patient. I also have a prescription for vicodin – and have that in the house – but he’s not demanding to see my medical records on THAT,,,both substances are illegal without medical clearance, both are covered under medical record privacy laws. Or am i wrong?

    In addition = just bcs he owns the house, does not mean its his business – nor his or his wifes responsibility – what i DO in it…im not destroying the property, nor disturbing the peace…its MY private yard and if i garden naked or grow pot in that garden (within the limit) – is not his or anyone’s business. Or am i wrong?

    I believe i can only be compelled to show any such papers by court order – or maybe if i want to avoid arrest in some circumstances it would be smart and appropriate to show medical clearance – but – just bcs he owns the house?

    Im wanting to be clear on my rights here, if you can direct me to someone who can answer these questions?

    Thank you,

  • Dr. Orion

    I have an otherwise reasonable landlord. I rent a house with a completely fenced private yard. I have TWO yes 2 pot plants I AM a medical marijuana patient. My disability is visible. Im also a professional psychologist with a license to protect and i know im not breaking the law. The landlord, with my permission brought a workman over to repair a shed. since i knew he’d see the plants amidst the tomatoes and strawberries i decided to tell him in advance about them and my medical clearance. No further mention was made, and the shed was repaired. I decided to move the plants anyway – since i’ve had them stolen in past – and now a workman has seen them. so they are not on my property now but – before the landlord knew that, he wanted to see my medical papers, claiming that his WIFE is concerend – she works in a police station and doesn’t want MY activities to reflect badly on HER..well, of course if she doesn’t blab about it – how would anyone even know?

    That besides the point – my question is – does he – or anyone, individual citizen, have the right to demand to see my medical papers? I believe i have privacy rights as a citizen AND as a patient. I also have a prescription for vicodin – and have that in the house – but he’s not demanding to see my medical records on THAT,,,both substances are illegal without medical clearance, both are covered under medical record privacy laws. Or am i wrong?

    In addition = just bcs he owns the house, does not mean its his business – nor his or his wifes responsibility – what i DO in it…im not destroying the property, nor disturbing the peace…its MY private yard and if i garden naked or grow pot in that garden (within the limit) – is not his or anyone’s business. Or am i wrong?

    I believe i can only be compelled to show any such papers by court order – or maybe if i want to avoid arrest in some circumstances it would be smart and appropriate to show medical clearance – but – just bcs he owns the house?

    Im wanting to be clear on my rights here, if you can direct me to someone who can answer these questions?

    Thank you,