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California Landlord-Tenant Law and Regulations

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California Landlord-Tenant Laws: An Overview

  • California landlord-tenant laws, also referred to as California rental laws, are the regulations that govern the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in the state. 
  • These laws cover various aspects, including rent control, security deposits, lease agreements, eviction procedures, and habitability standards. 
  • Understanding California landlord-tenant laws is crucial for both parties to ensure a fair and lawful rental relationship while protecting their rights and interests.

California Rental Laws: FAQs

Are there rent laws in California?

There are rent control laws in some California cities that restrict or prohibit rental increases, support rent control, and can even make the eviction process more problematic. Each city’s regulations are different.

May I charge an application fee, a late rent charge, or a returned payment fee?

As per California landlord-tenant laws and regulations, the application fee cannot be more than the landlord’s actual out-of-pocket costs, and can never be more than $49.50 per applicant. Additionally, landlords must provide rental applicants with an itemized accounting of the landlord’s screening expenses.

Technically a late fee cannot be predetermined but there is an exception when it is difficult to assess the actual cost. But keep in mind when determining a late fee, that it must be reasonably related to the actual costs a landlord may incur as a result of the tenant’s late payment.

Returned payment charges must not be more than $25 for the first check and a service fee of up to $35 for each subsequent check to that same payee. Reasonable costs should always be kept in mind when instituting any charges.

Are there any special considerations regarding security deposits in California?

Many states have limits and requirements regarding security deposits, and California is no exception. A landlord may not demand or receive security in excess of an amount equal to two months’ rent in the case of an unfurnished residential property, and an amount equal to three months’ rent in the case of a furnished residential property. Security deposits are considered refundable and include pet, lock, key, carpet, etc., and in combination, none of these may exceed the amounts stated above.

California landlord-tenant law mandates that a landlord notify a tenant in writing of the option of having an initial inspection two weeks before terminating a rental agreement or lease in order to identify problems (and possible deductions from the security deposit) and be given a chance to rectify them and avoid the deduction. Failure of the landlord to do this may void the opportunity to collect damages.

Do I have to pay interest on the security deposit?

Some jurisdictions such as San Francisco and Berkeley require interest to be paid to the tenant. Generally, this is based on the CPI and is paid annually. Landlords should check with either their attorney or the local jurisdiction for exact requirements.

How much time do I have to return the security deposit after my tenant has moved?

Landlords have twenty-one days to either return the full security deposit or account for any deductions with the balance if any remain. Stated deductions must apply to property damage beyond normal wear and tear. It’s very important for a landlord to read and understand the detailed procedures set forth in Civil Code Section 1950.5. This information may be seen in the booklet: California Landlord-Tenant Law Guide.

What seems to be a common concern regarding security deposits?

Landlords often try to overreach, claiming deductions for items that are characterized by the court (when a tenant sues for the return of a security deposit) as normal wear and tear. This situation is preventable by reasonably assessing each deduction, including proof of damage, repair, receipts, and pictures.

How can I terminate a California lease?

A fixed-term lease starts and ends on specific dates. In this circumstance, a lease simply ends on the date specified within the lease. A periodic lease continues from term to term (i.e. month to month). Periodic leases remain in place until either a landlord or a tenant gives the other notice of at least the length of each term (i.e. month to month leases would require one month’s notice). In cases where the situation is based on subsidized housing, generally, a ninety-day notice is required; however, we suggest contacting the housing agency for exact requirements. For properties that are under eviction control regulation, the landlord must have “just cause” to terminate the residential tenancy. Again, it is important to consult an attorney or your local state agency.

Are there circumstances where I am required to release a tenant from a lease?

There are many circumstances such as military relocation or entrance of service that require specific procedures on both landlord and tenant in order to “break a lease” in a lawful manner. Individuals involved as a direct victims or a child of a victim of domestic abuse may also be released from a tenancy provided specific procedures are followed.

When a tenant, tenant’s occupant, or visitor is involved with certain criminal activities, a landlord, owner, and the tenant all will be provided notice from the authorities and that landlord must file for eviction of that tenant using such notice as evidence.

My tenant is still living in the rental unit after the lease has been terminated. What do I do?

If a tenant continues their residence after the expiration or termination of the lease agreement, without consent or permission from the landlord, the landlord may start the eviction proceedings through court and recover any rent or damages.  If the rental property is located within an eviction-controlled jurisdiction, the landlord should either consult with an attorney or contact the local housing agency for exact requirements.

How much notice is required in order to evict my tenant?

In accordance with landlord-tenant law California, a 3-day written notice is required before a landlord may file an eviction action in court. However, notices may differ based on the situation.

(1) If the situation is concerning non-payment of rent, the notice must specify the amount owed in rent only. The total may not include any other fees such as late charges, interest, or damages. This notice will give the tenant three days to pay or quit.

(2) If the reason for eviction pertains to other violations, a 3-Day Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit may be filed. Landlords may use this type of notice if the tenant breaks the lease or rental agreement and the problem can be fixed. For example, if the tenant is subletting the unit, not keeping the unit clean, or some other violation of the agreement, the notice will ask the tenant to correct the violation within three days or vacate.

(3) A 3-Day Notice to Quit may be used if there have been ongoing problems with a tenant who causes or allows a “nuisance” on the rental property, or is using the property for criminal activity. A 3-Day Notice to Quit may also be used if a tenant’s behavior threatens the safety and health of other residents/general public or if waste is committed that lowers the value of the property significantly. This notice is more of a warning and does not require a tenant to remediate.

As soon as the three-day period passes and the tenant remains in non-compliance, the landlord may file a suit for eviction. Rental properties located in areas that practice rent or eviction control, may have different requirements. Landlords should check with their local housing agency to ensure compliance.

Notices should be personally delivered to the tenant. If the tenant is absent from his or her place of residence, the landlord may leave a copy with some person of suitable age and discretion. Notices may also be mailed, preferably certified, and a return receipt requested to the tenant at his or her place of residence. If the whereabouts of the tenant is unknown, the landlord may affix a copy in a conspicuous place on the property.

I sent the eviction notice to my tenant and it was ignored. What do I do next?

The landlord may go to the local courthouse and file with the court clerk the necessary documents to begin an unlawful detainer lawsuit. This is when a hearing is held at which the parties can present evidence and explain their situation. If the court decides in favor of the landlord, the court will issue a writ of possession. The writ of possession authorizes the sheriff to force the tenant to vacate the premises. The tenant has five days from the date that the writ is served to leave willingly. If the tenant does not vacate by the end of the fifth day, the writ of possession allows the sheriff to physically remove the tenant and confiscate any personal property that is left in the rental unit. A landlord may not take possession until this is completed.

How long does the eviction process take?

Generally, the process for eviction takes approximately two to eight weeks. However, this depends on many factors such as what type of case it is and whether or not the tenant chooses to defend.

How do I tell if my tenant has “skipped” out of the property?

It is considered abandonment when a tenant moves without the proper notice. The California landlord-tenant statutes it does not define the term “abandonment” although, there are clues to look for. It is a good idea to take some pictures and document your findings so that you will have proof for court, just in case.

What happens if my tenant files for bankruptcy?

Unfortunately, all rent collection and eviction efforts must stop, however, there are situations where a court will grant relief. It is important for a landlord to consult with an attorney immediately.

Do I need to be licensed or registered in order to be a landlord?

Many jurisdictions require a business license. Some localities, like Berkeley, require registration of the rental unit with the local rent board. All first-time landlords should check with their local court or housing agency to verify requirements.

What a landlord cannot do in California?

In California, landlords have certain obligations and restrictions they must adhere to. Understanding what a landlord cannot do is crucial. Firstly, a landlord cannot discriminate against tenants based on factors like race, religion, or disability. Secondly, they cannot retaliate against tenants for exercising their legal rights. Moreover, landlords cannot enter rental units without proper notice, withhold necessary repairs, or increase rent excessively. Familiarizing oneself with these regulations ensures a fair and lawful landlord-tenant relationship in California.

What are the renter’s rights in California?

If a landlord neglects to address significant repairs, such as a broken furnace, tenants may withhold rent, vacate the property without giving notice, sue the landlord, contact state or municipal health inspectors, or exercise the right to “fix and deduct.”

What can the tenants sue their landlord for in California?

Tenants can sue the landlord for the following reasons –

  • Tenants can sue the landlord for a Negligence Claim
  • Holding Their Security Deposit Illegally
  • Violating California Security Deposit Laws
  • Housing Discrimination 
  • Illegal Lease Agreement Clauses
  • Refusing to Pay for Repair Costs
  • Allowing the Tenant’s Unit to Become Uninhabitable
  • Failing to Disclose Hazards, and 
  • Refusing to Pay for Repair Costs
What are the landlord-tenant laws in California?

As per California rental laws, landlords in California are obligated by law to provide and maintain livable rentals. Tenants have several options if a landlord ignores major repairs, like a broken furnace, including the option to “repair and deduct,” withhold rent, quit the rental without giving notice, sue the landlord, and notify local or state health inspectors.

In California, what is required of a landlord by law?

According to the California Civil Code, property owners are required to make sure that a property is in a habitable and safe condition for possible tenants. These prerequisites include having functional plumbing, gas, and electrical systems as well as installing suitable locks and security measures.

Can a landlord terminate a month-to-month lease without cause in California in 2022?

Depending on the sort of lease that a landlord and tenant have, different restrictions apply. A landlord may end a month-to-month tenancy by giving a tenant a 60-day (for tenancies lasting more than a year) or a 30-day (for those lasting less) written notice.

Can a landlord just kick the tenant out in California?

In California, a landlord can only legally remove a tenant after filing and winning an unlawful detainer action. Even if the landlord prevails in the eviction action, a sheriff must be used to carry out the eviction.

What is the quickest the tenant can be evicted in California?

The eviction process can start on the fourth day after a tenant is given a three-day notice to pay rent or leave. A three-day notice to vacate is also delivered if they are engaging in criminal behavior.

What repairs are landlords responsible for in California?
  • Fix electrical, gas, heating, and plumbing issues.
  • Keep the area around your unit pest-free, secure, and clear of filthy things like rats and roaches.
  • Give out enough garbage cans.
  • Resolve any water leaks coming from the walls, doors, or windows.
Can a tenant refuse entry to his/her landlord in California?

Even with the landlord excluded, tenants have the right to sole possession of the space they rent. A tenant’s unit cannot be openly entered by owners, landlords, property managers, or the landlord’s agents whenever they want and for any reason.

In California, how much advance notice must a landlord provide a renter before they vacate?

A 30-day notice to quit is used when landlords want to terminate month-to-month leases or longer-term agreements if the tenant has lived there for less than a year. The landlord is required to give a 60-day notice to vacate the letter if the tenant has occupied the property for 12 months or more.

Can a tenant sue a landlord for emotional distress in California?

In a word, yeah. Every American citizen has the right to bring a civil lawsuit against someone they believe has wronged them.

What is considered landlord harassment in California?

If done with the intent to harass the tenant, the following actions by the landlord are forbidden: removing services from the contract (housing services). avoiding necessary repairs. without giving an appropriate warning, entering the apartment.

How long may a tenant remain in California after the lease has ended?

Depending on how long you’ve been renting and if you live in subsidized housing, the landlord must provide you a 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day notice to vacate if your lease ends. Only 30 days notice is required from the landlord if you’ve been a tenant for less than a year.

Can a landlord evict you in 3 days in California?

For a tenant who does not pay up on late rent payments within the three-day notice period, landlords in the state of California may issue a Three-Day Notice authorizing them to begin the eviction process by filing the Unlawful Detainer in court.

How is a Lease Agreement Defined in California?

A lease agreement often refers to any verbal or written agreement between a landlord and potential renters. By way of this arrangement, the landlord is granting these renters permission to live on his or her property in return for rent payments.

All information that can be crucial for renters must be disclosed by a landlord in accordance with California rental laws. By doing this, both parties are protected from confusion and blunders.

These are the general terms that are typically mentioned in every rental agreement:

  • List of parties to the rental contract.
  • Details about the property
  • Rent amount, payment options, and due date.
  • late payment fees.
  • Rules for breaking a lease.
  • eviction regulations.
  • Rules for security deposits.
  • Mandatory disclosures in addition (Common utilities, pests, mold, lead-based paint, etc.)
Under what circumstances does a landlord in California have the responsibility to cover the cost of a hotel room for a tenant?

In California, landlords may be required to provide temporary accommodation, such as a hotel room, for tenants under certain circumstances. If a rental unit becomes uninhabitable due to repairs, maintenance, or other reasons beyond the tenant’s control, the landlord may be responsible for covering the cost of alternative lodging. This requirement ensures tenant safety and well-being during the necessary repairs or remediation period.

California Landlord Rights

  • California landlords have the right to set and collect rent from tenants according to agreed-upon terms.
  • They have the right to enforce lease agreements and rental policies, including rules on late payments, property maintenance, and noise disturbances.
  • Landlords can legally evict tenants who violate lease terms, engage in illegal activities, or fail to pay rent.
  • They have the right to enter the rental property for inspections, repairs, and emergencies, provided they give proper notice to the tenant.
  • Landlords can deduct unpaid rent, damages, and cleaning fees from the security deposit after the tenant moves out.
  • They have the right to terminate a tenancy with proper notice if they intend to sell the property or move in themselves.
  • Landlords can withhold rental references or report unpaid rent to credit bureaus if tenants breach their contractual obligations.
  • They have the right to pursue legal action against tenants for unpaid rent, property damage, or violations of lease terms.

Eviction Laws in California

Here are the most frequent reasons why a landlord might evict a tenant:

  • Breach of the rental agreement
  • Refusal to pay
  • Unlawful behavior

In these circumstances, the landlord has the right to offer the tenant a three-day notice to pay the rent or leave. A renter might be given a federal minimum of up to three months’ notice if the agreement wasn’t in writing. However, tenants who are evicted at will must give at least 30 days’ notice or 60 days’ notice if they have been residing in the same place for more than a year.

A landlord can evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, violating the lease agreement, or engaging in illegal activity on the rental property. The eviction process must follow specific steps outlined by state law, including serving the tenant with a notice, filing a complaint in court, and obtaining a court order for eviction. In some cases, tenants may have the right to contest the eviction and raise defenses, such as the landlord failing to make necessary repairs.

Disclosure: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord-tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.

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3 years ago

My daughter moved in with me in July 2019. We personally agreed for her to pay $400.00 per a month. I am asking her to move out. I need to have my mom move in so I can take care of her. How do I go about doing this?

2 years ago

My husband and I are looking at a property that’s for sale. We want to move into it, but the current owner has a tenant in it and just renewed the lease 3 months ago. Do we have any rights to break the lease? Everything I read implies we have to honor the lease.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x