Understanding the 120 Day Notice to Tenants

A real estate broker recently sent me this question on behalf of one of his agents:
“I have a property manager who has an agent selling one of his rentals and she is saying that they can enter a property at anytime they want to do inspections because they served a notice that they can do this anytime in the next 120 days with out any further notice. Can an agent give a blanket notice to a tenant saying that we reserve the right to inspect the property at anytime within the next 120 days? I have never heard of such a notice”.

He is not alone in his confusion. It all relates to California Civil Code Section 1954 also known as the Landlord’s Right to Enter and Tenant’s Right to Privacy. As you can expect these two Rights are often in conflict. Sec. 1954 was enacted in 1975 and was amended several times over the years. But the full scope of the law remains little known. It was created to provide guidance for landlords and in fact the first sentence of the law reads:

(a) A landlord may enter the dwelling unit only in the following cases:”
(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 an inspection
(3) When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises.
(4) Pursuant to court order

Many agents and landlords are aware that the law allows them to enter the premises upon 24 hours written notice to the tenant to show the property to prospective purchasers, tenants, or to make necessary and agreed upon repairs. This is actually in Sec. 1954(D)(1) which requires the landlord to give the tenant reasonable written notice of intent to enter and only during normal business hours. The Section goes on to define “reasonable” as 24 hours. Of course, the parties can agree to something different.

What is little known is Sec. 1954(D)(2) which reads:
“(2) If the purpose of the entry is to exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, the notice may be given orally, in person or by telephone, if the landlord or his or her agent has notified the tenant in writing within 120 days of the oral notice that the property is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the tenant orally for the purpose described above. Twenty-four hours is presumed reasonable notice in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The notice shall include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry. At the time of entry, the landlord or agent shall leave written evidence of the entry inside the unit.”

Be aware also that Sec. 1954(c) states: “The landlord may not abuse the right of access or use it to harass the tenant.”

So, bottom-line for sellers, agents, and property managers is, once you give the tenant a 120 day notice that the property is for sale, then you may give a 24 hour notice of a showing orally or by phone. If the 120 day notice has not been given, then you must give the tenant a written 24 hour notice before you can enter.

BPE Law has been assisting our clients with their real estate, business, estate planning, and other legal needs ever since we started doing business nearly 20 years ago. We’re active in the communities in which we live and in protecting and expanding our clients’ opportunities for business and real estate ownership … and providing assistance when they’re challenged. If you have questions concerning your estate plans, real estate, business, or any other legal matter, give us a call at (916) 966-2260 or e-mail me at sjbeede@bpelaw.com. Our flat fee consult for new clients may get you the answers you need for the questions you have.

The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.