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California Landlord-Tenant Laws

California Landlord Tenant LawsThis article is intended to be an online resource for California landlords.  We summarize key California Landlord-Tenant laws that are most applicable to residential rental units.

This article is not qualified legal advice.  Individuals seeking guidance need to work with a legal advisor who is qualified in the jurisdiction.  California Landlord Tenant Laws and statutes may vary from county to county or city to city, this article provides state level laws and statutes. 

Also, laws and statutes are subject to change and may cause sections of this article to be outdated.  We provide links to assist landlords and tenants to the state statute page for further research.

Click here if you are seeking renters insurance in California.

 

Quick Facts for Real Estate Investors Considering California

California landlord-tenant laws are considered Tenant-friendly.

There are 39.5 million residents in California.  Major metropolitan markets in California are:

  1. Los Angeles – Long Beach – Anaheim: Estimated population of 12,150,996, which 43% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $1,786.
  2. San Francisco – Oakland: Estimated population of 3,281,212, which 45% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $1,853.
  3. San Diego: Estimated population of 2,956,746, which 47% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $1,598.
  4. Riverside – San Bernardino: Estimated population of 1,932,666, which 37% of residents are renter occupied.  Average rent is $1,268.

 

Jump to Different California Landlord Tenant Laws

 

 

 

 

SECURITY DEPOSIT LAWS IN CALIFORNIA

 

Does California require security deposits? 

California does not require security deposits.

 

Is a security deposit receipt required in California? 

California does not require landlords to provide a receipt of security deposit.  Although it is good practice to provide a receipt.

 

How much security deposit can a landlord charge in California? 

In California, a landlord can charge two months rent for unfurnished and three months rent for furnished rental units for security deposit.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1950.5)

 

Storage Requirements for Security Deposits in California: 

No Statute.

 

 

Can security deposits be commingled with other assets in California? 

No Statute.

 

Do landlords have to pay interest on security deposits in California? 

Landlords are not required but most of the large cities have their own policies to pay interest on security deposits. 

 

When must a landlord return the deposit by in California? 

In California,  landlords have 21 days to return the security deposit.  According to (California Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(q))

 

When can a landlord in California withhold security deposit?

At the end of a lease, the landlord is required to return the tenant’s security deposit.  However, landlords may withhold all or portions of a tenant’s security deposit if:

  • Damage in excess of normal wear and tear
  • Unpaid rent
  • Clean unit if dirty; only allowed to charge for cleaning services that meet the pre-move-in cleanliness standard 

Landlords must include a list with the remaining security deposit. (California Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 (4)(a))

 

 

Nonrefundable fees: 

Landlords are not allowed to charge non-refundable fees.

 

Pet Deposits and Additional Fees:

California has pet deposit.statutes.  Security deposits and pet deposits combined cannot exceed the two month’s rent for unfurnished or three months rent for furnished dwellings.

 

Require written description / itemized list of damages and charges?

Landlords are required to provide an itemized list.  For deductions that exceed $126 for repairs and cleaning costs, landlords must provide written itemized list and receipts of damages. (California Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 (4)(a))

 

What happens to California landlords that fail to comply returning the security deposit?

When landlords in California fail to comply with state law (California Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 (l)), they can be penalized twice times the amount of security deposit plus actual damages.  According to the penalty statue listed at (California Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 (l)).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RENTAL AGREEMENT LAWS IN CALIFORNIA

 

Rental agreements required in California:

Tenancies 12 months or longer in California require a rental agreement.  If tenancy is less, it is still encouraged to create a written rental agreement.  Leases that require a security deposit or non-refundable fees must have a written agreement regardless of duration.

If you need a lease, Burbz offers an online California rental lease agreement.

 

What are the required lease provisions in California?

California requires certain provisions to be included in the lease agreement.  Besides both the landlord and tenant names, the landlord should also list:

  • Lead-based paint
  • Periodic Pest Control Treatments
  • Asbestos
  • Carcinogenic Material, if previously held on premises
  • Methamphetamine Contamination
  • Demolition Permit
  • Military Base or Explosives
  • Death in the Rental Unit
  • Condominium Conversion Project
  • Basic Rules Governing Security Deposits
  • The Inventory Checklist
  • Renter’s Insurance
  • Rent Control

 

It is also strongly recommended to include these provisions:

  • Term of the Lease
  • Amount of Rent
  • Rent due date
  • Security Deposit Amount and its coverage
  • Responsible parties for utilities
  • Responsible party for maintenance
  • Define reasonable amount for late fees and assessment date
  • Policy on subleasing
  • Liable party for utility expenses
  • Penalties for late rent payments
  • Landlord’s responsibilities
  • Tenant’s responsibilities
  • Pet policies
  • Security Deposit
  • Cleaning Fees
  • Other fees

 

 

 

What are the rental agreement notice requirements in California: 

Fixed-End or Year-to-Year: No notice is required since the lease agreement expires upon the completion date. For tenants who have lived more than a year on premise require a 60 day notice.  Unless a clause is added into the lease agreement.

Month-to-Month: At least 30 days or more from lease expiration. (California Civ. Code §§ 1946)

Week-to-Week: 30 days for landlords and 7 days for tenants or more from lease expiration.

 

What happens when the tenant remains without consent after the rental agreement expires or terminates?

No Statute.

 

 

Does the lease automatically renew in California? 

Leases terminate upon expiration, unless stated in the lease.

 

Rent Increase Notice:

30 days if less than 10% and 60 days for increases larger than 10%. (California Civ. Code §§ 827(b)(2 & 3))

 

Rent Grace Period for Residential:

Tenants have no grace period before rent is considered late and fees may be charged.

 

Rent Grace Period for Manufactured Homes:

No grace period.

 

 

Prepaid Rent:

Maximum landlords can demand is no more than one month’s rent for the first month’s rent.  (California – A Guide to Residential Tenants and Landlords – Section 7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

LATE FEES AND LIMITS IN CALIFORNIA

Late Fees for Residential:

No expressed limit but must be a reasonable amount. (California – A Guide to Residential Tenants and Landlords – Section 30)

 

Late Fees for Manufactured Homes:

No expressed limit but must be a reasonable amount. (California – A Guide to Residential Tenants and Landlords – Section 30)

 

 

 

Limits to late fees in California:

Must be a reasonable amount allowed that obey all rent control laws and must be specified in the lease agreement.

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA LEASE TERMINATIONS / NOTICES TO QUIT

 

In California, lease agreements between landlords and tenants can be terminated.  Read our blog for landlords about handling early lease terminations.  Here are the cause and effects:

 

What is the Pay or Quit for Nonpayment requirement in California?

California requires three days to remedy or quit.  Landlords can begin the process the following day once rent is deemed late. (California Code of Procedure §§ 1161(2))

 

How many days must a landlord allow before terminating for a Lease Violation?

If the tenant breaches the Lease Agreement besides unpaid rent, California requires landlords to provide 3 days to remedy or quit. (California Code of Procedure §§ 1161(3) & (4)))

 

 

California allows immediate lease termination if the tenant is responsible for:

No Statute.

.

 

 

 

How many days when terminating for illegal drug-related activities?

Tenants using, possessing or selling illegal drugs on premises can have their lease terminated with 3 days notice

 

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA LAWS ON REPAIRS

 

California tenants are legally allowed to make repairs and deduct the cost from rent.  However, the following protocol must be followed before doing so:

How many days must the tenant give for non-emergency repairs? 

Tenants must provide reasonable amount of time.  If the landlord fails to address the problem, the tenant may fix the problem if it is less than cost of one month’s rent and allowed to use this remedy to only twice in a 12-month period.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1942(a))

 

Can tenant without rent for landlords’ failure to provide essential services (i.e. water, heat, etc.)?

Yes.

 

 

If the landlord fails to take necessary action, then the tenants can legally:

Tenants typically attempt the “repair and deduct” remedy option when repairs are less than a month’s rent amount.  However, tenants can decide to abandon property if the repairs cost more than a month’s rent and the landlord has failed to correct within reasonable time.

When tenants sue their landlord, the judge will determine the repair value deducted from rent.  This option does not necessary allow tenants to skip all of their rent payment

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA LANDLORD RESPONSIBILITIES

What must the landlord provide in good and working order?

California defines certain responsibilities for landlords, including:

  • Must comply with all applicable building codes affecting health and safety
  • Must keep all common areas in a clean and safe condition
  • Must supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water, at all times.
  • Must maintain facilities and appliances in good and working order, including:
  • Safe working electricity, heating, ventilating, plumbing & sanitary, elevators and appliances
  • Dwelling has access to running water and reasonable amounts of heat and hot water.  Landlords can still have tenants pay for utilities.
  • Provide deadbolt locks and security devices on windows and doors

 

Do landlords have to provide appliances and services?

No Statute.

 

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA TENANT LAWS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Tenant must maintain a fit and habitable premise and is prohibited from intentionally or negligently damaging or removing any part of the premise.  Cannot partake in drug-related activities, unlawful businesses or disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the neighbors.  

 

 

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA EVICTION LAWS

 

California requires a landlord to file a eviction lawsuit to evict a tenant. (California RCW §§ 59.12.030(3))

 

 

Landlords may evict tenants for the following:

  • Not paying rent•  Not paying rent
  • Violation of Lease / breach of contract
  • Damaging rental unit or property
  • Interfering and interrupting other tenants enjoyment
  • Unlawful actions on premises
  • Committing domestic violence or stalking against tenant
  • Illegal drug activities on premises
  • Illegal dog-fighting or cockfighting on premises
  • Unlawfully possessing weapons or ammunition

 

 

Can landlords do a ‘self help’ eviction?

In California, it is illegal for landlords to attempt to evict a tenant not through a court order.

Are landlords allowed to lock out tenants by changing locks?

Landlords cannot change locks. (California Civ. Code §§ 789.3b(1)))

Are landlords allowed to turn off utilities?

Landlords cannot turn off utilities. (California Civ. Code §§ 789.3(a))

Tenants may not be evicted for non-payment of rent if:

No Statute.

 

Do landlords have to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages when re-renting the rental unit?

Landlords are required to minimize the damages a tenant pays when the lease has been terminated from expiration, notice or eviction.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1951.2)

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA LAWS ON RETALIATION

 

California laws state a landlord cannot terminate a lease, refuse a lease renewal or raise rents when:

 

  • Tenant submitted a complaint to government agency for building or health code violation
  • Tenant has sent written complaints to the landlords about repairs or bed bug infestation
  • Tenant has filed a lawsuit or began arbitration due to the condition of rental unit
  • Tenant has complained to government agency for inspection
  • Attempts to and/or establishes, or participates in a tenant organization

If a landlord responds negatively within six months, it is assumed to be retaliation.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1942.5)

 

 

 

 

LAWS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

 

A landlord cannot discriminate against prospective tenants or tenants because they have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape or stalking.

 

Verify Claim:

A landlord is allowed to verify claim of Domestic Violence. (California Civ. Code §§ 1941.51941.6 and 1941.7)

 

 

Can a tenant terminate the least if they are a victim of domestic violence: 

California state law says a tenant with proof of Domestic Violence status is allowed with 14 days notice and proof of victim status or request for the lease to be amended and evict the abuser to terminate the lease without penalty.

 

 

Who is responsible for Recovery of Losses: 

No Statute.

 

 

Must Landlords Change Locks:

If requested by a victim of Domestic Violence, a landlord must change within 24 hours the locks.  Cost of the lock is at the tenant’s expense.  The tenants can change locks themselves but must provide a set of keys and follow state procedure.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1941.5)

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA LAWS FOR LOCKS AND LANDLORDS

 

Are landlords requested to change locks before new tenants:

No Statute.  Before new tenants moves in, landlords are not required to change the locks.  It is always recommended to do so.

 

 

Are landlords required to install any specific security device:

Landlords are required to provide or install security devices.

  • Operating deadbolt locks on main entry doors
  • Operating locks on windows

 

 

Do landlords have to change locks for domestic violence victims:

If requested by a victim of Domestic Violence, a landlord must change within 24 hours the locks.  Cost of the lock is at the tenant’s expense.  The tenants can change locks themselves but must provide a set of keys and follow state procedure. (California Civ. Code §§ 1941.5)

 

 

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA PET LAWS & PET POLICIES

California Landlord-Tenant Laws does have any specific pet laws.  Landlords are legally allowed to create their own pet policies and requirements.  Including tolerance for breeds, size, types, and more.  Read our guide to pet policies.

 

 

Any limitations on pets that landlords can impose?

Landlords cannot legally do the following:

  • Require tenants to declaw or devocalize pets
  • Cannot advertise in negatively to applicants with clawed or vocalized pets to discourage their interest

 

 

What are the max pet deposits in California:

Landlords may not charge a pet deposit that exceeds two months of rent combined with security and pet deposits.

 

 

 

 

DO LANDLORDS IN CALIFORNIA NEED A RENTAL LICENSE?

 

According to California Landlord-Tenant Laws, landlords do not need a rental license in California.

Landlords and owner of a residential rental property do not need to register the property.  Local cities may have different requirements, we recommend you research the local city specific laws.

 

 

 

 

 

NOTICE OF ENTRY LAWS IN CALIFORNIA

Do landlords in California have to provide notice of entry? 

California does not require landlords to provide any notice.  However, it is recommended that landlords provide 24 hours’ notice for normal circumstances entry.    This includes:

  • Non-emergency maintenance and repairs
  • Improvements to property
  • Inspections
  • Showing prospective tenants, contractors, mortgagees or buyers.

 

When can a landlord enter without notice:

According to (California RCW §§ 59.18.150), landlords may enter:

  • Emergencies
  • If tenant is present and consents to entry at the time
  • If premises appear to be empty and abandoned; and rent has not been paid

 

 

 

Can landlords enter for non-emergency maintenance and repairs?

Yes.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1954(a)(2))

 

 

Can landlords enter for showings?

Yes. (California Civ. Code §§ 1954(a)(2))

 

 

 

 

Can landlords enter for emergencies without notice?

Yes. (California Civ. Code §§ 1954(a)(e)(1))

 

 

Can landlords enter during Tenant’s extended absence?

Yes. (California Civ. Code §§ 1954(a)(e)(3))

 

 

Can landlords enter for pesticide use?

No statute. 

 

 

 

 

CALIFORNIA SUBLEASE AND ASSIGNMENT PROVISIONS

Is subleasing permitted?

Yes  (California Code of Procedure §§ 1161(3))

 

 

Do you need the landlord consent?

Yes  (California Code of Procedure §§ 1161(4))

 

 

Can the LL / lease prohibit subletting?

Yes  (California Code of Procedure §§ 1161(4))

 

 

 

 

TENANT ABANDONED PROPERTY IN CALIFORNIA

 

California Landlord-Tenant Laws does specific procedures that landlords must follow when tenants leave belongings.  This may be from evictions or moving out at the expiration of lease.

 

How long must landlords hold Tenant’s personal property?

Landlords must hold onto the tenants personal belongings 15 to 18 days once the sale notice has been sent. 

 

How long notice must landlords give if law enforcement has legally locked them out?

Landlords must provide notice and hold the property for 15 days when personally delivered or, if mailed, 18 days and must use the form found at Code 1984.  (California Code of Procedure §§ 1983)  Landlords can then sell or dispose of the tenant’s personal property if the tenant has not contacted the landlord.

 

Can the landlords sell property to pay for outstanding debts?

No Statute.  Only states to pay off storing costs.

 

What happens to excess proceeds?

Landlords must pay into the treasury of the county within 30 days of the date of sale.  (California Code of Procedure §§ 1988(c))

 

How long must landlords keep records of the sale for?

No Statute.

 

Landlord must store the tenant’s abandoned property where:

Tenant’s possessions must be kept in a place of ‘safekeeping’.

 

 

 

Are the landlords liable for damage?

Landlords are not responsible for damages, unless landlord damages it on purpose or handles it negligently.

 

 

 

 

REQUIRED RENTAL AGREEMENT DISCLOSURES FOR CALIFORNIA LEASES

 

California Landlord-Tenant Laws requires the following be included with all Rental Agreement Disclosures:

 

Lead Paint Disclosure:  Yes.  Federal law requires every landlord to disclose known information on lead-based paint and hazards.  Landlords must provide this EPA-approved pamphlet.

Mold:  Must provide the Mold Information from State Department of Health Services. (Health & Safety Code §§ 26147 and California Civ. Code §§ 1941.7)

Bed Bugs: Yes (California Civ. Code §§ 1954.602)

Copy of Lease:  Must provide within 15 days of tenant executing the lease agreement.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))

Utilities:  Landlord must define and disclose utility responsibility for unit and property.  As well, how the utilities are split among other tenants in a multi-family unit.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1940.9)

Demolishment:  If a landlord intends to demolish a rental unit and applying for a permit, a written notice to prospective tenants must be disclosed prior to accepting any money.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1940.6)

Military Base or Explosives:  Must disclose any former ordnances in the neighborhood from weapons or artillery.  (California Civ. Code §§ 1940.7)

Death in the Rental Unit:  If a prior tenant died in the rental unit within the last three years, the landlord must disclose.  Landlords do not need to disclose of death by AIDS.

Condominium Conversion Project:  For apartment buildings with 5 or more units that will be converted to condominiums, landlords must disclose and notify tenants of this project.

Flood Hazard:  Landlords must inform the tenants if the property is located in a special flood hazard area or an area of potential flooding.

Pest Control:  Landlords must notify tenants if there is an existing contract with a pest control company.  The notification must disclose the type of pests hired to control as well as the pesticides utilized.

Methamphetamine Contamination:  When a property has been deemed contaminated with chemicals for the production of meth, landlords must provide all future tenants a notice indicating the health inspectors notice.

Megan’s Law:  Landlords are required to provide a written notice from the California Department of Justice with information about registered sex offenders.  This exact legal language must be included:

Notice: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offender’s criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and ZIP Code in which he or she resides.

 

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES

California Civ Code §§ 1940 – 1954 – Title 5: Hiring of Real Property

California Civ Code §§ 1961 – 1962.7 – Title 5: Chapter 4: Identification of Property Owners

California Civ Code §§ 1980 – 1991 – Title 5: Chapter 5: Disposition of Personal Property Remaining on Tremises

California Health and Safety Code – Table of Contents

A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities (PDF)

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – California

California HUD – Tenant Rights, Laws, & Protections

California EPA Residential Environmental Hazard Guide

California Department of Insurance

California Guide to Home Owners Insurance

California Department of Real Estate

 

The California Association of Housing Authorities

Public Housing Authorities in California — HUD

Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles

Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles

Housing Authority of the County of Riverside

Housing Authority of the County of San Bernadino

 

Apartment Owners Association of California, Inc.

Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles

California Association of REALTORS®

California Apartment Association

California Rental Housing Association

San Francisco Apartment Association

Nor Cal Rental Property Association

 

 

San Francisco Tenants Union

Oakland Tenants Union

Los Angeles Tenants Union

Pasadena Tenants Union

Tenants Together

Housing Rights Center

Tenants Legal Center

 

 

CALIFORNIA RELATED COURT INFO & LINKS

California Small Claims Court Limits:

10,000 is the limit for small claims court.  Landlords are not allowed to file suits that exceed $2,500 more than twice per year. (California Code of Procedure §§ 116.110 to 116.950)

California Courts – Judicial Branch – Small Claims 

 

California Eviction Cases Allowed in Small Claims:

No.

Small Claims Court Guide(PDF)

California Department of Consumer Affairs – Small Claims

State Bar of California – Small Claims

California State Courts

California Attorney General

State Bar of California

California Law Help

 

 

 

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