In California, rental agreements can either be made through an oral or written agreement. Once made, both the landlord and tenant acquire certain rights and responsibilities as per California law (CA Civil Code 1940-1954.05).
As a landlord, it’s important to familiarize yourself with this legislation in order to run a successful rental investment business. The following is a basic overview of California landlord tenant law.
Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
When a landlord and tenant sign a lease, they enter into an agreement about what rights and responsibilities they have. According to California landlord tenant law, tenants have the right to:
- Live in quiet and peaceful enjoyment.
- Live in a habitable rental unit.
- Be treated fairly without any prejudice on the basis of certain protected classes under local laws.
- Have repairs done within 30 days (or sooner for urgent issues) after notifying the landlord.
- Break the rental agreement without penalty under certain legally acceptable conditions.
- Withhold rent if the landlord violates the rental agreement.
- Due process for eviction if their eviction is necessary.
- Have their security deposit handled in accordance with California law (CA Civil Code §1950.5).
- Be provided certain disclosures through verbal or written notice.
In addition to tenant rights, renters in California have the following list of responsibilities. A California tenant must:
- Keep their rental unit in a clean and sanitary state.
- Pay rent as per the terms specified in the rental agreement.
- Use all the provided fixtures and appliances for their intended purpose.
- Fix any damages that they cause.
- Handle minor repairs and maintenance tasks.
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors.
Landlord Rights and Responsibilities
Rental laws give landlords the following rights. California landlords have the right to:
- Enter a tenant’s rented unit to perform certain obligations.
- Evict tenants who violate terms of the lease agreement.
- Not renew the lease of a tenant after the existing lease ends.
- Draft a lease agreement.
- Screen prospective tenants prior to allowing them to move in.
- Enforce the terms of the lease agreement.
- Request a security deposit in case of damages to the property.
- Raise rent in accordance with California rent control laws (AB 1482).
In addition to their rights, California landlords are also required to fulfill certain responsibilities. A landlord's responsibilities include the following:
- Provide a habitable rental dwelling.
- Respond to repair requests within a reasonable period of time.
- Remove a tenant through a judicial eviction process that isn’t a retaliatory act or based on discrimination, as outlined in the Fair Housing Act.
- Abide by the state’s security deposit laws.
- Abide by the state’s rent control provision as outlined in AB 1482 of the Tenant Protection Act.
- Treat all tenants fairly and equally in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.
- Give tenants 24 hours advance written notice before entering a tenant’s rented unit for legally acceptable reasons.
Landlord Disclosure Requirements
Landlords are required to make certain disclosures to tenants. If the disclosures are not made, renters made have the right to withhold rent. The disclosures must be provided for the following scenarios:
- Any lead-based paint in any rental unit built prior to 1978.
- Provide written information regarding bed bugs using certain language as required by law.
- Documentation on any known mold.
- Any future plans to demolish the property that may affect tenancy.
- Access to information regarding specified registered sex offenders.
- Disclosure on whether the property has ever been used to manufacture methamphetamine.
- Disclosure on any knowledge of the use of asbestos.
- Disclosure on whether the property is located in a known flood zone.
- Information about a death in the unit within the last three years if the death was not HIV/AIDS-related.
Overview of the Landlord Tenant Law in California
Landlords have a responsibility to provide their California tenants with a property that meets the basic habitability codes. This responsibility is primarily governed by CA Civil Code § 1941.2. The following are some items you’re responsible for under the code:
- Provide a functioning HVAC equipment.
- Ensure proper waterproofing of the walls, roof, etc.
- Provide a working gas line.
- Provide working sanitation facilities.
- Ensure smoke detectors are working as they should.
- Provide hot and cold running water.
- Provide floors, stairs and railings that are safe and in good condition.
As already mentioned, you have a maximum of 30 days (or sooner for urgent issues) to respond to repair or maintenance issues. If you don’t, your tenant may be left with no other option but to exercise their legal right.
Legal options include withholding rent, suing you, reporting you to a relevant government agency, or repairing the problem themselves and then deducting the cost from future rent payments.
California Eviction Law
As a landlord in California, you’re empowered to evict your tenant for violating a term of the lease. Common lease violations include:
- Unpaid rent.
- Damage exceeding normal wear and tear.
- Failure by a tenant to move out after the end of the lease.
Other lease violations include committing an illegal act and failing to abide by the rental policies.
California Security Deposit Laws
Do you require tenants to pay security deposits prior to renting your California home? If you do, then you must abide by the statewide security deposit law (CA Civil Code §1950.5). Listed below are some of the rules that landlords must follow according to this law:
- Charge no more than the equivalent of two months’ rent for the security deposit.
- Return the deposit, minus any allowable deductions, within a period of 21 days.
- Only make deductions for allowable reasons.
There are penalties for wrongfully withholding tenant' security deposits. Terms of what constitute allowable reasons to make deductions to the security deposit should be clearly communicated to the tenant.
California Lease Termination Laws
California tenants can legally break their lease early under certain scenarios. Some of the scenarios include the following:
- The tenant is starting active military service.
- The landlord fails to respond to maintenance issues and the unit becomes uninhabitable.
- The lease contains an early termination clause.
- The landlord is harassing the tenant.
In all these cases, a tenant must follow a specified procedure as stated in California landlord tenant laws in order to move out.
California has a rent increase law in place. The statewide rent control rules are outlined under AB 1482 of the Tenant Protection Act. The rent control ordinances cap rental increases on the basis of inflation. Different jurisdictions have different local rent control laws.
Fair Housing Laws in California
California andlords cannot deny a prospective tenant based on their race, color, religion, sex, familial status, nationality, and disability. It is part of the landlord responsibilities to avoid housing discrimination based on protected classes including citizenship status, ancestry, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, income source, and primary language.
If you’re a California landlord who would like help navigating the management of your rental units, contact us today. We make it easy for tenants to pay rent and easy for you to get a high ROI on your rental properties. We have an expert team of professional property managers who can help you maximize your income and achieve peace of mind.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. California housing laws may change and this information may not have been updated at the time you’re reading it. Contact a licensed attorney or landlord tenant lawyers for legitimate legal advice.