It’s often necessary to complete renovations with tenants still in the building. It’s usually not practical to move everyone out and keep a building empty for the duration of the updates, nor is it financially feasible. However, landlords need to ensure they minimize the disruption, as extended renovations can reduce tenant retention and damage long-term relationships.
In California, there are a few laws that landlords need to understand before they begin renovating around their tenants. There are time limits to contend with, as well as obligations to tenants. With smart planning, a landlord can manage apartment renovations with tenants in the building without damaging goodwill or running afoul of the law.
What Landlords Should Know About Renovations with Tenants Onsite
One thing every landlord must remember is that tenants are entitled to the “quiet enjoyment” of their space. That’s not an empty phrase. It’s a legal standard that specifies that “the landlord will not take any action or make any omission which disturbs a tenant’s right to possession and quiet enjoyment of the premises.” A landlord violates this quiet enjoyment when they:
- Unlawfully evict a tenant
- Block a tenant from entering the property
- Allow a third party to block or evict the tenant
- Create a situation that makes the apartment wholly or substantially unusable
The fourth provision is where California landlords will most likely stumble when it comes to completing renovations with tenants on the property. Landlords have a responsibility to keep a property habitable. Typically, the more “necessary” a renovation, the less likely the landlord is to violate the quiet enjoyment covenant. So, as an example, disrupting a tenant to fix a leaking roof for several days is likely necessary and not a violation. Making their only bathroom unusable for a week to replace the tile floor is not and would be considered a violation.
Landlords can avoid problems in completing renovations with tenants still in the building by working with a California contractor who can guarantee a strict timeline.
In any case—apart from emergencies—landlords are expected to give at least 24 hours’ notice before entering an apartment, and they should also restrict in-unit renovations to normal business hours. Exits and fire safety equipment must remain accessible, and all necessary utilities like water and electricity should not be interrupted for more than a few hours at most.
For the most part, landlords can avoid problems in completing renovations with tenants still in the building by working with a California contractor who can guarantee a strict timeline. Tenants don’t mind renovations when there is a clear end in sight, especially when they will improve living conditions in the long run.
Choosing a California Contractor for Completing Timely Renovations
Adhering to a strict timeline for renovations is only possible when working with a reputable contractor that can guarantee their work. That timeline should:
- List all major steps: Breaking down the steps needed to complete a portion of the project is crucial for accurately gauging the timeline. For example, instead of listing “painting the unit” in the quote, a contractor may list the individual steps including taping off the trim, priming, allowing time for the primer to dry, painting, cleanup, and more to ensure every portion of the job has an accompanying and predictable timeframe.
- Block out sections: No contractor does every unit at once. They’ll need to complete the job in sections. A good contractor will provide a listing of steps by section to allow for scheduling and providing tenant notice for weeks in advance.
- Outline utility disruption: If a disruption is expected for a needed utility, the time of the cut off as well as a close estimate of restoration should be clearly outlined.
- Take the time of day into account: Completing a renovation that requires water be turned off at 8 in the morning, when most people are getting ready for work, is a surefire way to irritate tenants. Mindfully scheduled renovations keep tenant activities in mind; i.e., electricity outages occur when tenants are out of the building and at work, loud renovations don’t start until after 9 a.m., etc.
Gauging an accurate timeline is crucial in completing renovations with tenants in the building, as they are the ones facing disruption. Most are amenable to dealing with these distractions as long as there is a clear end in sight. By working with a contractor who provides an accurate and detailed timeline, landlords can stay compliant with legal requirements and keep tenants happy through the entire renovation process.