Clean & Sanitary: The Most Basic Multifamily Maintenance Standard

The State Civil Code is clear that “clean and sanitary” premises is a responsibility shared by both landlords and tenants. The tenant must keep her reasonably clean, of course, and the landlord, according to the law, must keep the common areas “in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.” As many tenants know that is not the case when basic maintenance goes wanting.

Property maintenance is provided by the landlord in exchange for rent. But some management companies will skimp on certain aspects of basic maintenance: building systems age; water damage is painted-over; and landscaping goes without care.

Of all the corners to cut, regular cleaning is one that is most disturbing to tenants because dirt will collect in the hallways. Windows will become caked with soot. Debris sweeps into common areas from the outside. And as tenants at this property on Reeves maintained by Essential Management, bugs can accumulate behind window screens.

Bugs accumulate in the windows
Bugs accumulate behind the screen of this Essential Management property on Reeves Drive.

This kind of degradation of the premises makes tenants feel bad about their choice in rental housing. It is also against the law.

Building management must clean the property because state law requires it to be kept clean and sanitary. Civil Code ยง1941.1 describes the conditions for a ‘tenantable’ dwelling’ (which is understood to mean fit for human habitation):

Building, grounds, and appurtenances at the time of the commencement of the lease or rental agreement, and all areas under control of the landlord, kept in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.

Now, it shouldn’t take multiple reminders from various tenants to prod a management company to meet that basic responsibility. But that’s been the case at 212 Reeves where it’s been months since the last cleaning.

Alas, in Beverly Hills there is no local habitability standard so this condition does not violate the Municipal Code. But we are advocating for one so that tenants don’t have to take up basic cleaning responsibilities ourselves.