LANDLORD & TENANT RIGHTS
Statewide Rent Control in California
California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (the Act) implemented statewide rent and eviction control laws that affect most residential tenancies in the state. The Act caps rent increases statewide for qualifying units at 5% plus inflation, or 10% of the lowest gross rental rate charged at any time during the 12 months prior to the increase-whichever is lower. Additionally, landlords can raise rent only once over any 12-month period.
California also allows cities and counties to enact local rent control laws. The Act does not override more restrictive local rent control laws but does override those that are less restrictive. Also, local rent control laws might apply to rental properties that the Act does not cover.
California Rental Application and Tenant Screening Laws
Yes. Landlords in California may charge a nonrefundable application fee that is no greater than their actual out-of-pocket costs for things such as screening services and the reasonable value of time spent by the landlord or an agent in obtaining information about the applicant. The application screening fee cannot exceed $30, adjusted annually with an increase in the Consumer Price Index, beginning on January 1, 1998. (As of 2021, the maximum application fee a California landlord can charge is approximately $52.) Landlords cannot charge an application screening fee if there is no current vacancy. Landlords must also provide applicants with a receipt itemizing the landlord's out-of-pocket expenses and time spent obtaining and processing the application.
It depends. Some counties and cities (Oakland, for example) prohibit landlords from asking about an applicant's criminal history and running a criminal background check.
Even if the city or county where the rental is located does not prohibit landlords from considering applicants' criminal histories, landlords must be careful. When landlords consider applicants' criminal history, they must do so in a consistent, nondiscriminatory manner. If a landlord's practice of considering criminal history has a discriminatory effect—for example, if the landlord asks only applicants of a certain color for criminal history information—the landlord is engaging in illegal discrimination and can be subject to penalties. Also, landlords can reject applicants only for past convictions that are “directly-related” to the application—in other words, convictions that have a negative bearing on a legitimate business concern of the landlord.
California Security Deposit Laws
California landlords can charge no more than two months' rent as a security deposit for unfurnished rentals. For furnished rentals, the maximum security deposit increases to three months' rent. If the tenant is an active service member, the landlord can charge no more than one month's rent for an unfurnished rental and no more than two month's rent for a furnished rental. If the tenant plans to have a waterbed in the rental, the landlord can add one-half month's rent on to the security deposit.
No state law requires landlords to pay interest on security deposits. However, local laws (those passed by a city or county) might require interest.
No. All cleaning fees and pet fees are considered to be part of the security deposit, and the total of any fees—whether they are called pet fees, cleaning fees, or a security deposit—must be no more than the applicable security deposit maximum. These fees are refundable under the same rules that apply to security deposits in general. Note that some landlords might charge an additional pet rent—this is not considered a deposit or pet fee.
California landlords have 21 calendar days (see Cal. Code of Civ. Pro. sections 12 and 12a for help calculating deadlines) after the tenant has vacated the premises to provide the tenant with an itemized statement indicating the amount of and use of the security deposit and to return any remaining portion of the security deposit.
Required Landlord Disclosures in California
Under state law, California landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement), such as whether the gas or electricity in the tenant’s rental also serves other areas and information about toxic mold if the landlord knows that mold on the property exceeds exposure limits or poses a threat to the tenant’s health.
For details on disclosures that California landlords must make, please see Nolo’s article What Disclosures Do Landlords in California Need to Give Tenants?
Small Claims Lawsuits in California
What is the limit a landlord or tenant can sue for in California small claims court?
Individuals can sue in California small claims court up to a dollar amount of $10,000, except that a plaintiff (the party who is suing) cannot file a claim over $2,500 more than twice a year. Businesses cannot sue for more than $5,000 in California small claims court. Until February 1, 2025, small claims courts in California can hear claims for COVID-related rental debt of any amount.
California Late Fees and Other Rent Rules
California law regulates several rent-related issues, including late and bounced-check fees, the amount of notice landlords must give tenants to raise the rent, and how much time a tenant has to pay rent or move before a landlord can file for eviction.
No, California landlords are not required to give tenants a rent payment grace period. Rent is due on the date specified in the lease or rental agreement, and a landlord can consider it late if it is not paid on that date. However, if the lease or rental agreement gives the tenant a grace period for paying rent, the landlord must honor it, and cannot consider rent to be late until after the grace period has passed.
When a tenant is late with rent, the landlord cannot file an eviction suit until the landlord has given the tenant a properly written and served three-day notice to pay rent or quit. The three days does not include Saturdays, Sundays, and other judicial holidays. If the tenant does not pay the rent owed or move out within those three days, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
Yes. California law allows landlords to charge tenants $25 for the first bounced check, and $35 for each additional bounced check.
In some circumstances, yes—California landlords can require their tenants to pay rent in cash only when the tenant has given the landlord a check that bounced or placed a stop payment on a check within the past three months. When a landlord chooses to require cash payment, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice stating that the payment did not go through and informing the tenant that the rent must be paid in cash for a certain period (the period cannot be more than three months). The landlord must also attach a copy of the bad check or other type of instrument to the notice.
Yes, California landlords can charge tenants a fee for paying rent late. However, the late fee must be a reasonable estimate of the cost that the landlord incurs because the rent is late (for example, any interest or collection costs), and the lease or rental agreement must include specific information about late fees.
Yes, but subject to any applicable state and local rent control rules. California has statewide rent control that applies to certain rentals. Cities and counties in California can also enact their own rent control rules. Landlords must comply with these rules regarding how, when, and by how much they can raise the rent.
Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in California
California landlords are legally required to offer and maintain habitable rentals. Tenants may withhold rent, move out without notice, sue the landlord, call state or local health inspectors, or exercise the right to “repair and deduct” if a landlord fails to take care of important repairs, such as a broken heater. For specifics, see California Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent or “Repair and Deduct”.
Yes, California tenants can withhold rent when a landlord doesn't maintain habitable (livable) premises. There must be a true habitability problem that imperils health or safety to justify withholding rent. And, the problem must not have been caused by the tenant or the tenant's guest.
Yes, California tenants can use the repair and deduct remedy in certain circumstances. First, the defect must be a serious one that the tenant has attempted—unsuccessfully—to have the landlord fix. The tenant can then fix the problem (either on their own or by hiring a handyperson) and deduct the cost from rent. However, the tenant cannot spend more than one month's rent on the repair, and the tenant cannot have used the repair and deduct remedy twice already in the past 12 months. The tenant must also adhere to any local rules regarding the repair and deduct remedy.
California Termination and Eviction Rules
State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. For example, a landlord may give a California tenant who has been assigning or subletting without permission an unconditional quit notice that gives the tenant three days to move out before the landlord can file for eviction.
When a California tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to pay rent or quit (move) before the landlord can file an eviction suit. If the tenant does not pay rent or move out within those three days, the landlord can sue.
When a California tenant violates a term of the lease—such as having a pet in violation of a no-pets policy—the landlord must give the tenant a three-day notice to cure (fix the problem) or quit. If the tenant does not fix the problem or move out within those three days, the landlord can sue.
California landlords can give tenants a three-day unconditional quit notice (meaning that the tenant does not have the chance to remedy the problem) when tenants assign or sublet the rental without permission, commit waste or a nuisance, or engage in illegal activity at the rental.
California Rules About Landlords’ Access to Property
In all states, even in the absence of a statute, landlords can enter a rental without giving notice in order to deal with a true emergency (an imminent and serious threat to health, safety, or property); and when the tenant has abandoned the property (left for good). California law also addresses when and how landlords can enter rental property in non-emergency situations.
California landlords must give reasonable notice before entering a rental to inspect or make (non-emergency) repairs. 24 hours is presumed to be reasonable for most matters; 48 hours is presumed reasonable for the initial move-out inspection.
Yes, in California landlords must give written notice before entering a rental for non-emergency matters.
Local Ordinances Affecting California Landlords and Tenants
Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as rent control rules, health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and anti-discrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites —just search for the name of a particular city in California and then do a search when you’re on the site. For example, if you search for the noise ordinance in the City of San Francisco website, you’ll easily find information about what tenants can do regarding noise problems.
Federal Landlord-Tenant Laws and Regulations
Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have enacted laws and regulations that apply to the landlord-tenant relationship in California. These laws and regulations address topics such as discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.
The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 53 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”).
Types of Rentals Not Covered by California Residential Landlord-Tenant Law
Special rules may apply if you rent a “floating home,” such as a houseboat in a marina or a mobile home. You’ll need to do your own legal research and check out state laws such as the Floating Home Residency Law (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 800-800.306) or Mobile Home Residency Law (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 798-799.11).
The Rental Agreement
Your rental agreement can be verbal, written, implied, or a combination of them. You “have a contract” if you pay the rent for the place without anything else. You “have a contract” with the new owner, if the old owner sold it to this new owner. You “have a contract” for the unit after the original lease term expires, in most cases, just by continuing to pay the rent which the landlord accepts. Depending on how the lease is worded, you may have a new lease for the same term [like a new year] or the more common month-to-month tenancy, which happens automatically by law [Civil Code 1945], under the same terms and conditions except for the tenancy being month-to-month. You “have a contract” if you pay the rent by managing the property, do construction work in lieu of rent, are a live-in worker, perform in-home care for the owner [such as an elderly or disabled person who needs in-home 24/7 care], or simply caretake the property for the absentee owner.
Additional Terms Supplied by Law
The law also imposes certain terms into the lease, even though you don’t see them there. One such law concerns your security deposit. The law requires that it be returned to you within 21 days after you leave, minus only certain legal deductions. The law prohibits the landlord from making it non-refundable. Even if they call it a “rental fee” or “cleaning fee”, or “last month’s rent”, it’s still a security deposit under the law. [See Security Deposit, below]
Another law, called the “warranty of habitability” requires your landlord to provide the basics [heat, water, electricity, functioning doors and locks, etc.] as a condition of asking for rent. You have certain remedies provided by law, even if the rental agreement says you don’t. [See Repairs]
Every rental unit must have a “certificate of occupancy” [or its equivalent] issued by the city in order for the unit to be legal. That law is to assure that each rental unit complies with building and zoning laws. If the unit is not legal, and there are plenty of such illegal duplexes, converted garages, and assorted buildings, the landlord cannot demand or accept any rent for that structure.
In rent-controlled cities like Los Angeles, the landlord is also required to register a residential rental unit and charge only a legal rent, before even asking for rent. [See Rent Control, below.] For mobile home park tenants, the Mobile home Residency Law is a collection of extra rights and procedures that protect you. [See Mobile home Park Disputes]
There are special laws such as Health and Safety Code §1597.40, which protects licensed Day Care operations by a tenant against eviction and lease prohibitions against it. This is under a separate public policy encouraging Day Care so that parents may be employed and not stuck on Welfare roles.
The landlord cannot discriminate against children. There was once “adults only” buildings, but now only senior citizen complexes can exclude children. The landlord can restrict the number of people who live in an apartment, however.
The same prohibitions against discrimination for race, religion, sex, and nationality differences exist in rental laws as in other businesses. The Fair Housing Council specializes in those cases and have staff that investigate and even prosecute.
Just because a person leases out a unit or brings an eviction action does not mean that they have a right to do so. There are laws designed to make people get licenses and file certain papers with the government, and the punishment for failing to comply often includes the prohibition to sue for or collect on the resulting arrangement. Tenants are sometimes the beneficiaries of this arrangement.
The failure to register a rent-controlled unit prohibits the landlord from asking for rent or suing to evict the tenant.
Some landlords operate under a “fictitious business name” such as “California Apartments”, identified as such on the rental agreement and rent checks you pay. Who is that? People who use such names are required to file their “d.b.a.” statement with the County Clerk, and publish the notice, and renew it every 5 years. Failure to do so bars their lawsuit – they have no authority to sue until after complying with the filing requirements, under Business and Professions Code Section 17918. See the Find Your Landlord section of this site.
Business and Professions Code [starting Section 10131] requires that people who manage others’ real property [except resident managers] must be licensed real estate brokers, but there are an increasing number of people who aren’t brokers and manage anyway. Sometimes they use a “power of attorney” form, and other times a simply contract authorizing them to do so, but neither of those is enough under the law.
The punishment imposed by the law for those who manage without a license is that the agreements are unenforceable. Plainly put, if one of those persons is managing your property and signed your rental agreement, you owe no rent, and they can’t enforce the agreement. They even lack authority to evict you. Eventually, the owners would have to step in and try to take back possession, but no money.
There are too many variables to discuss in this limited space, but the examples above suffice to advise you that your rights are not limited to the piece of paper you sign. Consult a lawyer for more details that apply to you.
When the landlord rents out their unit to you, they sell you the right to exclusive possession of your unit. The landlord chooses to have the money, rather than exclusive possession, the same as though they sold the property to someone else – they no longer have the right to possession. If the landlord comes into your rental unit, he is a trespasser, the same as any stranger, with one special exception.
Under Civil Code Section 1954, the landlord may enter your rental unit (1) in an emergency, like a fire or broken pipe, or (2) upon reasonable advance notice, and then only to inspect, repair, or show the apartment, during normal business hours. 24 hours is presumed to be reasonable notice, but a shorter time may be reasonable. You do not have to be home when they come, but they are liable for anything stolen or broken during such entry.
The manager who snoops in your apartment because they have a key can be controlled by practical means, even though there is no legal authority to approve or prohibit the practice. Write a letter to the owner, carbon copy to the local police, about the manager’s burglary. Change the locks, or add chain lock to the door, so that the manager’s entry is restricted. You should plan on moving, if the owner does not restrict the manager’s entry, but at least your privacy will be protected.
The law now requires a landlord to provide dead bolt locks on the doors and adequate locks on the windows of a residential rental unit. Civil Code Section 1941.4. Failure to do so violates the “warranty of habitability”, permitting the tenant to move out, repair and deduct, or withhold rent as remedies.
There is occasionally a manager who wants to evict a tenant for refusing to have sex. The California sexual harassment laws now permit a tenant to sue the manager and landlord for sexual harassment, but the law still appears to authorize such an eviction.
Late Fees and Grace Periods
This is an area of landlord-tenant law which most judges now understand to be different for residential tenants. A late fee is typically a flat amount or percentage of the rent that the landlord intends to charge if you don’t pay the rent by a given date. Late fees are built into many contracts to encourage timely payment, but the Legislature recently amended the law to prohibit late fees in residential rental agreements. The law does not punish the landlord for trying to steal it from you.
Late fees are legally described as “liquidated damages provisions”, meaning that an arbitrary amount is chosen as the penalty for breaching a particular promise in the contract – in this case, to pay the rent by the given date. Civil Code Section 1671 provides that a residential rental agreement cannot contain a liquidated damages provision unless it is impossible, or extremely difficult to calculate the exact damages suffered by the breach. If it does, the late fee clause is void and of no legal effect, just like a nonrefundable security deposit clause. Interest, in the range of 30 cents per day, is permissible, however, if the contract so provides.
Landlords will try to justify the late fee by describing the time it takes to make extra calculations, trips to the bank, phone calls, and other varying time spent due to a single late payment. Of course, this is contrived, and the reality is that the management company gets the same amount of money irrespective of any late payment, and any additional work is negligible. The stronger argument is that Civil Code Section 3302 says that the damages for failure to pay an amount is the amount itself, plus interest at the legal rate [1/3650th of the amount per day – about 20 cents]. Therefore, the amount incurred from late payment is not difficult to ascertain; the law defines it.
That’s the legal argument. You might want to print it out in case you have to convince the landlord or judge of your position, and you can use it for reference.
Tactically, you face decisions on when and how to confront the issue. You can sign a lease with the late fee provision, and you haven’t waived your rights by doing so, since the late fee provision is illegal and void. When faced with the demand, you can pay it under protest, or describe the money as an advance payment of rent and avoid the immediate hassle. At a later date, if you are evicted for nonpayment of rent, your prior late fee overpayment has to be given credit, and the 3-day notice is thereby made invalid for demanding more rent than was due [i.e., it demands a month, but you only owe a month minus that earlier late fee payment]. You win the case on a technicality, or at least get a great bargaining position for a settlement on terms favorable to you. If you’re strapped for cash now and can’t pay even the current rent, hope that you get the eviction notice that asks for the rent plus the late fee. The scenario is the same, except that you don’t have to apply past overpayments for credit; the notice is invalid on its face.
There is no official “grace period” for rent payments in the law. Rental agreements typically say that if the rent is not paid by the 5th, a late fee is due. Again, since the late fee is itself illegal, threatening to do an illegal act on a given date does not help the landlord’s case. Functionally, the law provides a type of grace period. If rent is due on the first, the landlord cannot give you a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit until the 2nd. The 2nd is day “zero” of the 3-day notice, so that the last day to pay and satisfy that 3-day notice comes out to be the 5th of the month. If that third day also falls on a legal holiday or weekend, your last day is extended until the next banking day, which can be as late as the 9th.
If your paycheck comes at a time which makes payment on the first difficult, you might suggest to the landlord that you increase your security deposit by a month’s rent, so that you’ll actually being paying a month in advance of the current one. That is, you would pay April sometime in March, but think of it as March rent, even if you paid it March 15th. It would still be early. Interest lost on that money is nothing compared to the hassle you save and the tactical advantage you create for yourself by doing that, at a time when you may need it.
Breaking the Lease
The time may come that you have to “break the lease”. You may have just been transferred in your job to another city, or been laid off, or have to go back east to take care of your parents. Things happen that are more important than your rental agreement, but you don’t want to leave loose ends, either.
A month-to-month tenancy can be terminated by either party giving 30 days’ written notice that the tenancy at X address is terminated 30 days from this notice. However, a tenant who has resided there for at least one year is entitled to a 60-day notice, unless the eviction is for the new buyer of a house or condo to move in [in which case, it’s back to 30 days] [Civil Code 1946.1] A longer lease, like a year or so, is different. The general rule is that you are responsible for all of the rent for the remainder of the lease period, whether you live there or not. Some rental agreements look like leases because they say you don’t get your security deposit back if you don’t stay the full year, but on closer examination, they are just month-to-month agreements with illegal non-refundable security deposit provisions in them. Be sure of what you have.
If you have no legally valid reason for breaking the lease, the landlord is still obligated by law to minimize the impact of your breach by trying to re-lease the unit. The legal term is “mitigating damages.” For example, you leave in month 4 of a year lease. The landlord tries to re-rent it and finds someone to pay the same rate starting month 6. You owe the rest of month 4 and all of month 5, but not thereafter. The landlord cannot collect double rents. In the alternative, the landlord finds someone who will rent your $1000 apartment for $900 starting the day after you leave. You would then owe the $100 difference for the remainder of your lease term. In contrast, if the landlord does not try to re-rent the unit, and you can show that, the landlord gets nothing from you, because of the failure to mitigate damages. In between is the gray area, where the landlord makes minimal efforts to re-rent, or rents at a higher rate than you paid. The judge would have to determine whether this was a mitigation of damages.
If you have no legally valid reason to terminate the lease, your best approach is to put the fact of your leaving in writing to the landlord, and keeping a copy, mentioning that your unit will be available for viewing by prospective tenants under Civil Code 1954 [reasonable advance (like 24 hrs.) notice, business hours only]. You can also put your own ad in the Recycler or equivalent [freebie ads], and have the prospective tenants call you. Write down their names, work and home numbers, and then forward them on to the landlord as replacements. If the landlord claims they couldn’t find anyone, you have a list to contest that, and show their failure to mitigate damages.
A legally valid reason to break your lease is not that you’ve moved out, that your life has changed in some way, that your co-tenant has left, or that you’ve run out of money. A legally valid reason for the termination has to do with the unit, itself. If it burns down in a fire, or is yellow tagged after earthquake damage, obviously the lease ends. However, you can find a legally valid reason for eviction based upon uninhabitable conditions.
Civil Code 1942 authorizes termination of the tenancy [of whatever kind] without notice, upon vacating the unit, where the reason for leaving is uninhabitable conditions. The conditions do not have to be so severe as would entitle you to withhold rent. Rather, they are within the same category [and statute] as repair and deduct remedies. That is, if the condition negatively affects habitability, you can either repair and deduct or just leave.
Most rental units have something wrong with them: missing front door deadbolt locks, missing screens, inadequate trash receptacles, defective electrical outlets, slow drains, etc.. If you have a reason like this, and obviously the worse they are the better the reason is, you can legally terminate the lease, even if coincidentally you got transferred to Chicago. You do need to have given reasonable advance notice, but that can have been oral. If you had mentioned the defect to the manager last month and it still wasn’t fixed, you would want to say that in your letter of termination, so that the record of your reasonable advance notice would be read by the judge. Uninhabitable conditions which the landlord fails to fix in a reasonable time are legally valid reasons to terminate your lease. And yes, pictures and witness would be nice, just in case you need to prove it later.
Sometimes, the landlord will agree to terminate the lease, but for a price. Watch out for the terms. A decent release clause should say that if you pay one month’s rent, they release you entirely from the rest of the lease. Sometimes, however, the management company tells you that you have to pay them some money to be “released”, but will still owe them money for the time until they get the place re-rented; you would be paying the “release” money for nothing, since the rest is all you would owe anyway. Make sure you aren’t giving up your deposit, too. Sometimes they say you’re “released” from the lease, or “don’t worry about it”, and then they hit you with a bill or judgment for the remainder of the lease. If they are sincere about it, they’ll put it in writing.
As an additional precaution, you can sub-lease the unit to someone else. This can create problems because the management might prohibit sub-leasing. However, since they have the obligation to mitigate damages, how do they justify evicting a paying sub-tenant? They get the empty unit but can’t claim that they’ve minimized their losses as to your lease term rent. They shoot themselves in the foot. Sometimes, the subtenant ends up taking over the place, and signing a new lease.
Miscellaneous Special Laws
The Hide-and-Seek Landlord
Discussed above was the requirement that the landlord identify who is the authorized manager, who is the owner, where and how rent is to be paid, and the requirement of giving this information in the lease or posting it. If the rent can’t be personally delivered [like there is no address, or you only have a PO Box or deposit box], the tenant can mail the rent, and it is “paid” on the date it goes into the mailbox, even if the landlord doesn’t get it until later. Mailed rent under those circumstances requires “proof of mailing”, which can be done by certified or registered mail, but also by declaration of proof of service, a witness, or a simultaneously mailed copy to yourself that shows the postmark [which can be the next mail day]. You may want to call the landlord to remind him that you mailed the rent to him under new Civil Code 1962.
If the landlord refuses to identify his or his full agent’s name, address, and phone, when you sue the landlord, you can just mail the summons and complaint [must be registered or certified mail] to the place where you send the rent, and you don’t have to hunt him down, at all. This is important for small claims cases by you, suing to get your security deposit back. You don’t even need a sheriff to serve the papers under those circumstances. For small claims, be sure to mail the Plaintiff’s Claim at least 10 days before the trial date.
Civil Code 1962 also requires any 3-day notice to pay or quit to identify the name, address, phone, and available hours of the person to be paid [or the banking information], and the manner of payment. Most landlords don’t know about this new law and use their old forms which do not contain this information. What happens if they don’t? will be the next question courts decide: either the notice is no good because it lacks that information, or the missing information is only significant if the tenant tried to pay the rent but didn’t know where or how.
Landlord Liability for Criminal Acts of Others
Even if the landlord is not insured for it, the landlord can still be sued and held liable for crimes committed in the apartment complex, such as thefts from the cars, where the landlord has been negligent, such as failing to fix the garage security gate. They often claim they are not liable, but that is a bluff. Also, if the conduct in question was that of the resident manager or other employee hired by the landlord, the landlord is personally responsible to you as though he had done the act. Crime is a habitability issue, under the contract, not just negligence.
They may also appear to deny liability because their insurance “doesn’t cover that”. That’s their problem: they can’t avoid liability by avoiding insurance. If that worked, nobody would buy insurance. Moreover, the fact that you did not have “renter’s insurance” is no excuse for their neglect, nor does it reduce your recovery. See a lawyer about your theft, for the details.
Landlord Liability for Criminal Acts of Others
If you live in a unit where you get the utility bill for service which is also supplied to another unit, a laundry room, or garage, Civil Code Section 1940.9 requires that that landlord tell you about that when you rent the place and make some agreement about the distribution of the service expenses [like you pay 50%]. If the landlord doesn’t do that, you can sue [even in small claims court] for a reimbursement of the portion used outside your unit, whatever that is. [Civil Code Section 1940.9(b)(2)]
Pesticide and Toxic Mold Report
If your landlord uses a regular pest control company, you must receive or there must be posted a notice identifying the pesticides used, their active ingredients, and a notice about possible health effects. [Civil Code Section 1940.8]
Toxic Mold has gained attention. It can lead to serious lung infections, and often results from landlords’ neglect of pipes leaking the walls, leaky roofs, and unsealed [a special coating] walls. New Health and Safety Code 26147 requires the landlord to tell current and prospective tenants about the mold, as well as do something about it as a habitability issue. The standards and treatment methods are not established yet  although this law was enacted in 2001. The important thing is that you write a letter to your landlord about the mold in your apartment and ask that it be removed. That way, he can’t claim he didn’t know about it, should you get sick from the mold.
Termite fumigation requires the tenting of the building for 2-3 days, and for the occupants to be out. Common though this situation is, there is NO LAW about how this should be handled. The temporary exit costs the tenants lodging and restaurant meals, food replacement and substantial time to move clothes, medicine and essentials to the hotel/motel, re-route phone calls and mail, set up alternative transportation and childcare, in addition to having an apartment that can’t be used for those days. If tenants vacate on different days, the early birds are kept out longer. The stay outside the apartment could easily cost more than the month’s rent. If you paid your rent for that month AND have to pay for these extra costs, you could very likely pay double rent for a month of inconvenience.
Fumigation becomes an issue for one of two reasons: either the City Inspectors require it [which is rare] or the landlord is selling or refinancing the building, in which case, you might expect a rent increase in the near future [to pay the higher mortgage]. The lenders and buyers want to see a termite report, and have the place tented if termites are a problem. If the landlord plans to cash in on the building, your landlord will have the money to be able to pay for your temporary relocation and could apply your security deposits as an interim cash flow aid until the loan or sale comes through. Generally, you get no such offers, but only a notice that you’ll have to be out of the property for a few days.
This is NOT the law, but merely a workable strategy: Get your neighbors together when you get this notice and work out a plan. What will it cost you to be out for a few days in room and board [pick a moderately priced hotel in the vicinity], and what if it lasts longer than a couple of days? When would this have to be done? What arrangements will you each have to make to comply? What will the replacement food cost? Come to an agreement and have the things itemized to present to the landlord. Get an agreement from the landlord in writing for each tenant that the landlord will advance $X to each of you in advance solely as compensation for the temporary move, a beginning date when you sign out and get your money, and a definite return date when you can come back in. You should also include that any extra expenses for additional days will be either paid by the landlord immediately as due or come out of future rents as a credit. From the landlord’s perspective, this is an expensive proposition, but he has to understand that he is the one who wants this, he has the money, and his alternative is to delay everything and start eviction proceedings, at even greater expense and disruption to him.
His worst situation is where all but one tenant agrees to leave, because the fumigation will not proceed if even one tenant remains, due to the dangers of the pesticides. Therefore, this is not a time for him to divide and conquer; he must work out a deal with everyone. From your perspective, it might be better to start looking around for a place to move, anyway. If the new landlord comes in, you probably will get a rent increase, and if the place is refinanced, the mortgage will probably be higher as the landlord “pulls out equity” to buy another apartment building, and you’ll get a rent increase. Consequently, don’t be intimidated by the landlord’s threats of eviction. Rather, call in the building inspector to see what else is wrong with the building that might need to be fixed, and would hold up a sale and possible refinancing. By playing “tough guy” with you in this situation, the landlord only hurts himself.
Just because you have been paying your rent doesn’t mean that your landlord has been paying his mortgage. Many people trying to get rich quick in real estate over the past decade have found themselves scrambling to cover the mortgages, often “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. As a result, you may find yourself being evicted by the bank after the foreclosure sale, having done no wrong.
Similarly, you may have been the owner of a home who, through job loss, family illness, or otherwise, found yourself facing foreclosure and eviction from what was once your home. Finally, you may have been the lawful owner who was hoodwinked by real estate con men who had you sign some papers and are now evicting you, when they had promised to help you refinance. In any of these cases, all hope is not lost.
After the “Trustee’s Sale” which concludes the foreclosure, the new owner [which is sometimes the foreclosing bank] cannot legally take possession without then going through the eviction process. As with the other kinds of evictions, the process does take time, during which you can sort out your options. The former owner is entitled to a 3-day notice, and any tenant of the former owner is entitled to 30 days’ notice, before the eviction lawsuit can be filed. If you are such a tenant, but get only a 3-day notice, you have a tactical advantage when you start fighting the eviction. Also, there are remedies for any improprieties in real estate swindles, such as reversing the title in “equity purchases” and raising the fraud as an eviction defense. Your lawyer can explain the details of these approaches and help you decide how best to handle the problem.
For those former owners of what became “over-encumbered” homes [i.e., you owe on it more than it’s worth], you should be aware that the foreclosure does not end your financial plight. To the extent
that the unpaid portion of your mortgage was not satisfied by trustee’s sale of your property, you
were released from a debt – and that is taxable income.
As a result, many former homeowners are forced into bankruptcy to avoid the tax consequences of the foreclosure and truly get a fresh start. If you are contemplating filing bankruptcy, you would want to coordinate that with any other legal actions you may be involved with, including evictions, as well as the timing of the foreclosure sale, for maximum beneficial effect to you. Your attorney can explain how it is done, and help you decide whether or when to file bankruptcy.
Apartment Manager Minimum Wages
Here is the surprise to most resident managers. The typical agreement for resident managers is to have a free or reduced rent apartment in exchange for unlimited hours of work managing the building.
However, the California Industrial Welfare Commission [IWC – California’s labor department] regulates the minimum wage law for apartment managers [part of the “Public Housekeeping Industry”] and requires that resident managers be paid at the prevailing minimum wage for all hours worked, meaning time spent on chores. The current law is presented in IWC Order 5-2001. The exemption for managers and others in an administrative capacity would rarely apply to apartment managers, and then only because they are paid at least double the minimum wage on a 40-hour per week basis. Minimum wage went to $8/hr. effective 1/1/12. Do the math.
If the manager works more than 40 hours per week, the standard time-and-a-half rule applies. Against that minimum wage obligation, the landlord can deduct up to 2/3 of the market rental value of the manager’s apartment However, that deduction cannot be more than $381.20 for a single manager and $563.90 for a couple, and it is only permissible there is a voluntary written agreement to that effect. Without a voluntary written agreement to pay rent, the manager’s apartment is free, without any offset from the wages! Usually, the agreement is oral. And then what?
The manager can sue the landlord for the unpaid wages, plus an extra month “waiting time penalty”, and interest, plus attorney fees and court costs. Managers who face eviction enjoy the benefit of offset and a counter-suit for a substantial amount. It is not unusual for a landlord to owe the manager $20,000 in unpaid back wages.
Application fee: cannot exceed $53.33
Rental agreement required: oral or written (if the term of a lease is one or two years)
When you apply for a place in California, your potential landlord can take the application fee, which will be used for the tenant screening process. They will request the credit report and background check to make sure that you’re a trustworthy prospect. You should know that they are only allowed to take up to a $53.33 screening fee (this amount changes annually and is based on the Consumer Price Index). If the actual screening price is lower, the landlord must give back the difference. Also, in any case, they must provide you with an itemized list of costs and a written receipt.
If the landlord selects you and both of you are ready to strike a deal, you need to sign the lease agreement. It’s required to be a written one if you decide to rent a place for more than one year. An oral agreement can be applied only in case of a month-to-month tenancy.
Pet deposit maximum: not indicated
Security deposit maximum: cannot be more than two (unfurnished) or three (furnished) months’ rent
Return deposit deadline: within 21 days
Security deposit interest: no state-wide statute, but 15 (or so) localities have rent control ordinances that require you to pay interest,
Itemized list of charges & damages: required
Landlord move-out inspection: 48 hours’ notice
Legal reasons to keep security deposit: unpaid rent, damage beyond normal wear and tear, cleaning fees
State laws determine the amount of the security deposit that your landlord can charge you. The security deposit cannot exceed two or three months’ rent.
- Two months — for an unfurnished place
- Three months — for the furnished one
- +1,5 months rent equivalent — if you have a waterbed at your rental
It’s common in some states to obligate a landlord to place the deposit into the interest-bearing account. There is no state-wide statute about that in California, although there are rent control ordinances locally in some cities that require landlords to pay off the interest (for example, Los Angeles).
When you move out, the security deposit should be returned to you within 21 days. Your landlord has legal reasons to keep the deposit based on the itemized list of charges and damages. You also shouldn’t forget about the move-out inspection that must take place with a 48 hours notice.
Note: If your landlord decides to deduct any amount from your deposit, they must notify you in advance.
Security and Comfort
Smoke alarms: yes (in each bedroom or sleeping area)
Rekey requirements: in some cases
Maximum deductible cost of repairs: 1-month rent
Required notice before entry: 24 hour
Entry while a tenant is absent: not allowed
Emergency entry without notice: allowed
Landlords in California are not obligated to change the locks every time a new tenant moves in. The exception is if the tenant is a domestic violence victim and has a court order.
Every bedroom and sleeping area in your new rental unit should have smoke alarms and be in proper working condition. California laws do not state if the batteries should be changed every time a new tenant moves in. It is your obligation as a renter to either change batteries by yourself or notify the landlord when you see that the battery should be changed.
According to the tenant-landlord laws in California, the landlord cannot enter the property without giving a 24-hour notice. Note that your landlord is also not allowed to enter the house while you’re absent and can enter it without notice only during an emergency.
Maximum rent: not indicated
Late fees: allowed
Rent increase: allowed
Right to withhold rent for failure to provide essential services (water, heat, etc.): yes
Tenant’s right to repair and deduct rent: yes
State laws do not set the maximum rent that your landlord may ask. Therefore, the rental pricing is determined by the real demand, and rental custom offers are welcomed here.
However, there are specific rent control policies in place in California. If the landlord decided to increase the rent, they usually do that in between tenants. And, if you occupy the property for longer than a year, the increase is also allowed, but only once a year. Remember that the rent increase notice must always be in writing.
The Tenant Protection Act of 2019, or AB1482, restricts the annual rent increases to 10% or 5% plus an inflation rate, whichever will turn out to be less. However, there are certain exceptions to this law. For instance, the act does not apply to a rental property built in the last 15 years. For those cases, the rent control rules would immediately apply after the building turns older than 15 years.
An additional exemption is granted to condo units and single-family homes, as long as they meet two criteria. It has to be owned by a private person, not a company, trust, or any other corporate entity. Another prerequisite is that it has to be “separately alienable,” which basically means that it can be sold separately as a distinct unit.
Any tenant in California can demand a written receipt for every rent payment. Late fees are allowed but must be reasonable according to the control laws.
If it turns out that your landlord is not responsive to your requests to fix certain issues, you can repair and deduct according to the California laws, but you can only withhold the equivalent of one month’s rent.
There are a few basic rules that you should follow if you decide to repair and deduct in California:
- You can only repair and deduct twice in a 12-month period.
- You must prove that the defect affects your health or safety directly.
- The issue cannot be caused by the tenant, their pet, or family guests.
- Before taking any action, you should provide the landlord with a written notice.
- The landlord should get a reasonable amount of time to repair the defects by themself first.
Notice to terminate lease: 60 days
Eviction notice for not paying rent: 3 days
Eviction notice for lease violation: 3 days to remedy the violations
When a property is put up on sale, there are basic notice rules for the lease termination. In case you have a fixed-term lease, you have the right to stay in your rental until its end. What’s more, renting a place in California, you can request relocation allowance if your new landlord wants you to move out before your lease expires.
As for the month-to-month lease, California is a rare exception, where month-to-month renters should be notified about the termination of their lease 60 days before the expected move-out day if they’ve been living in the same rental unit for a year or more.
Generally, if you have an issue with rental payments, your landlord is allowed to give you a three-day eviction notice. In case of any lease violations from your side, you’ll have the same three days to remedy them. The situation looks different during the COVID-19 pandemic and protects those tenants who are not able to pay their rent because of their difficult financial situation.
AB1482, the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 prohibit landlords from evicting a tenant, even if their fixed-term lease has expired, except for a limited number of “just causes.”
The landlord always had the ability to terminate the lease and evict the tenant for violating the terms, not paying rent on time, eliciting illegal activity, etc. This provision does not change under the new law.
However, previously landlords could choose not to renew a fixed-term lease and evict a tenant with the required advance notice. Under the new rules, the landlord can evict a tenant who occupies the unit only under a certain “just cause.” These encompass causes for which the tenant is at fault and certain cases when the tenant is not at fault.
The no-fault causes include the landlord’s intention to reside in the unit or move in a domestic partner, a spouse, children, or other relatives; significantly renovate or demolish the property; or stop renting out the property for any other reason.
Before the eviction, the property owner has to give the tenant the reason for the eviction in writing, no matter the cause. In case of the no-fault eviction, the landlord must pay the tenant one month’s rent for the relocation expenses.
Properties that are exempt from the rent control are also exempt from eviction control.
Responsibility to cover the roommate’s part of rent: yes
According to the statutes, tenants can sublet the rental, but there should be another agreement executed separately.
Even though subletting is allowed, the original tenant will always be fully responsible for the rental payments.