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California landlord tenant laws include rent control policies, restrictions, limitations, and other miscellaneous policies. While there are some general guidelines to follow in a California rental agreement, some cities have their regulations.

This is an overview of the California landlord-tenant law, which explains the duties and rights of every party involved in a lease agreement. If you need any additional information, consider talking to a real estate agent or a lawyer.

What Constitutes a Lease Agreement in California?

Generally, a lease agreement involves any oral or written agreement between a landlord and prospective tenants. In this agreement, the landlord is allowing these tenants to inhabit their property in exchange for rent payments.

According to state laws, a landlord must disclose any information that may be important for tenants. This is done to avoid any confusion or mistakes from either party.

Overall, these are the most common things that are disclosed in any rental agreement, according to Californian law:

  • List of parties involved in the rental agreement.
  • Description of the property.
  • Amount of rent, due date, and payment methods.
  • Late fee policy.
  • Lease termination policies.
  • Eviction policies.
  • Security deposit policies.
  • Additional mandatory disclosures (Common utilities, pests, mold, lead-based paint, etc.)

Rights & Responsibilities

Before diving into specifics, it's important to note that both landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities at the time of arranging a rental agreement. This may vary depending on your local county and municipality, but these are the most common cases:

Landlord Rights and Responsibilities

According to the California Civil Code (1940-1954.05), the landlord has the right to collect rent, withhold security deposit return in case of property damages, evictions in case of agreement breaches, and many more.

On the other hand, these real estate laws require landlords to provide a safe and habitable dwelling unit for their tenants; this involves utilities in good repair, safe common areas, pest control measures, and more. If there is any repair request from the tenant, the landlord must respond reasonably. In most cases, this "reasonable time" refers to 30 days since the repair was requested.

If the landlord fails to provide repairs or refuses to do them, the tenant can exercise their rights in the "Repair and Deduct Remedy," in which the tenant is legally allowed to make the repairs themselves and deduct all the costs from the next payments.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities

According to California landlord-tenant laws, tenants have the right to live in safe, habitable rental units, as well as sue the landlord for retaliation, withhold rent for failure to provide essential services, recover attorney's fees, and more.

As for California tenant responsibilities, these are the most common ones found in rental agreements:

  • Keep the rental unit in safe and habitable conditions.
  • Keep themselves and their guests from disturbing the neighbors or other tenants.
  • Make small repairs that the property may need.
  • Pay rent on time.
  • Comply with any additional rental agreement clauses.

Rent Payment Clauses

A California landlord-tenant agreement needs to include details regarding how, when, and where those payments are going to be done. This includes any rules on late fees, bounced check fees, amount of written notice, and more.

Late Payments

If the tenant fails to pay on the day that the payment is due, landlords are legally allowed to charge a late fee only if the amount is reasonable. While California law doesn't state any specific grace periods, a landlord might state one in their agreement document.

Bounced Checks

Landlords are allowed to charge an additional fee for bounced checks. According to California rental laws, these fees are $25 for the first bounced check and $35 for any bounced check that comes after the first.

Rent Withhold

According to the "Repair and Deduct Remedy," tenants are allowed to partially withhold payments if the landlord fails or refuses to make a significant repair on the property.

Rent Increase Amount of Notice

Landlords in California can increase the rent's price once every 12 months. Generally, landlords are required to give at least 30 days' notice to the tenant, but if the increase is greater than 10% of the lowest amount paid during the last 12 months, landlords must give at least a 60-day notice.

When it comes to rent, the tenant must verify that they're appropriate and legal. A landlord cannot raise the rent's price to retaliate or as a discriminatory measure; this allows the tenant to seek legal advice and sue them.

Rent Control Laws

These real estate laws exist to try and solve the California housing crisis. According to the AB-1482 from the California Tenant Protection Act), any rent increase is capped at 5% plus inflation or 10% of the lowest price paid in the last 12 months. These laws started in January 2020, and it's expected to last until January 2030. You can read more about this measure here.

Keep in mind that these measures don't override those in the cities that already have control laws, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Jose.

Security Deposit

According to California landlord-tenant laws, security deposits are not required, but they're recommended to avoid future issues. These deposits may be equal to one month's rent, two months' rent, or three months' rent (For furnished apartments).

Landlords are required to give back security deposits within 21 days of the tenant moving out. The following is a list of the cases in which the landlord may withhold the return of the security deposit:

  • Covering unpaid rent.
  • Cleaning or repairs expenses that come from extreme wear and tear.

If the landlord refuses to return the security deposit within 21 days, they may be penalized. A landlord must not deduct other expenses from the security deposit besides unpaid rent or damage costs.

Landlords who deduct expenses from the security deposit must provide an itemized list of the repairs they did with those funds.

Lease Termination

According to landlord-tenant laws, both parties involved in a rental property agreement may terminate the lease after it reaches its due date. Here is a list of the amount of notice that tenants and landlords must give:

  • Weekly Leases: Seven-day notice.
  • Monthly Leases: 30 days notice.
  • Quarterly Leases: Not specified.
  • Yearly Leases: Not specified.

On the other hand, a tenant may terminate a lease before the due date in the following cases:

  • The tenant is going on active military duty.
  • The rental unit is unhabitable.
  • The landlord is retaliating or harassing the tenant.
  • There was an early termination clause in the agreement.

While tenant rights allow them to terminate a unit lease early, they still may need to pay the entire amount of the term.

Evictions

A landlord may evict their tenant for many reasons; here are the most common ones:

  • Rental property agreement breach.
  • Criminal activity.
  • Failure to pay.

In these cases, the landlord can give a three-day notice to the tenant to either pay or quit. If the agreement wasn't written, a tenant might receive a federal standard up to three months' notice. However, at-will tenants are entitled to at least 30 days' notice or 60 days' notice if they've been renting for more than a year.

See our full guide on the eviction process and laws for California.

eviction process and laws for California

Landlord Rights to Enter Their Property in California

A landlord can enter their private property if they wish. However, they're required to give at least 24 hours notice before entering. If the landlord must enter as an emergency measure, they can enter without notice.

This 24 hours' notice may be given in any way the landlord sees fit. On the other hand, both parties may schedule a visit during business hours to avoid problems.

Mandatory Disclosures

According to landlord-tenant laws for a rental unit, a landlord must provide five mandatory disclosures, such as the ones listed below:

  • Lead-based paint notice for homes built before 1978.
  • Bed bug infestations (Read more about bed bug infestations here).
  • Mold.
  • Past pest control measures.
  • Use of utilities.

Conclusion

Landlord-tenant laws may be confusing if you're renting your unit for the first time, especially in this state, where the real estate law is severely regulated.

If you need more information about these landlord-tenant laws, it's recommended that you speak with a lawyer.

FAQs

Can the locks be changed on the property?

A landlord is not allowed to change the locks of their rental units as a way of evicting a tenant. However, if the tenant was a victim of sexual assault or violence, they may request the landlord to change the locks.

How long can a tenant remain on the property after it has been sold?

A tenant is entitled to stay on a sold rental unit until the lease term ends.

How are tenants protected against discrimination in California?

According to the "Fair Housing Act" laws, a landlord can't discriminate against tenants based on their color, gender, religion, familial status, citizenship status, and more. Discrimination acts include falsely denying the rental unit's availability, canceling the agreement arbitrarily, providing lower privileges to certain tenants, and others.

How are the small claims court in California?

A court of law can hear payment cases involving a maximum amount of $10,000. Keep in mind that a landlord can only file up to two cases each year, and they may not amount to more than $2,500.

Resources

  1. California Landlord-Tenant Law
  2. Rent Control by State
  3. Fair Housing Act
  4. California Civil Code
  5. California Eviction Clauses
David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his two children, he's writing articles here!