California Landlord Tenant Laws

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State Flag of CaliforniaThis article summarizes some key California Landlord-Tenant laws applicable to residential rental units.

We’ve used the Official State Statutes and other online sources cited below to research this information and it should be a good starting point in learning about the law.

With that said, our summary is not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for qualified legal advice. Laws and statutes are always subject to change, and may even vary from county to county or city to city.

You are responsible for performing your own research and complying with all laws applicable to your unique situation.

If you have legal questions or concerns, we recommend consulting with the appropriate government agencies and/or a qualified lawyer in your area. Your local or state bar association may have a referral service that can help you find a lawyer with experience in landlord-tenant law.

This research and information is current as of April 22, 2013

Official Rules and Regulations

Details:

Security Deposit:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: 2 month’s rent for unfurnished dwellings; 3 month’s rent if furnished dwellings. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 and 1940.5g).
  • Security Deposit Interest: No state-wide statute, but 15 (or so) localities have rent control ordinances that require you to pay interest, including Los Angeles (reference).
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: No Statute
  • Pet Deposits and Additional Non-Refundable Fees: Not Allowed (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5m)
  • Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 21 days (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g)
  • Security Deposit can be withheld for: (handbook)
    • For unpaid rent;
    • For cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in;
    • For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests; and
    • If the lease or rental agreement allows it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear.
  • Require Written Description / Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes. Landlord is also required to give advanced notice of deductions prior to the actual withholding.  Receipts and documentation not needed to accompany the itemized list of repairs if repairs and cleaning cost less than $125. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A)
  • Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No Statute
  • Failure to Comply: A bad faith claim or retention by a landlord may subject the landlord to statutory damages of up to twice the amount of the security, in addition to actual damages. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l))

Lease, Rent & Fees:

  • Rent is Due: Unless there is a contract to the contrary, and the lease is for less than 1 year, rent is due at the end of the month.  Most leases state that rent is due at the beginning of the month. (Civ. Code §§ 1947) and (Civ. Code §§ 1962)
  • Rent Increase Notice: 30 days if rent increase is less than 10% of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months.  60 days if rent increase is more than 10% of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months. (Civ. Code §§ 827(b)(2-3))
  • Late Fees: Allowed, but they must be “reasonable”, and obey rent control laws, and are only enforceable if specified in the lease. (handbook)
  • Prepaid Rent: Landlord is allowed to collect 1-month’s pre-paid rent (first month’s rent) + 2 or 3 month’s security deposit (handbook)
  • Returned Check Fees: Equal to the actual bank fee.  Or, landlord can charge a flat “service” fee which is $25 for the first occurrence, and $35 for each occurrence thereafter (handbook)
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, because the property is under the “implied warranty of habitability” (handbook)
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, but not more than the cost of 1 month’s rent, and tenant cannot use this remedy more than twice in a 12-month period (Civ. Code §§ 1942)
  • Landlord Allow to Recover Court and Attorney’s Fees: Yes (Civ. Code §§ 789.3d)
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Rerent: Yes (Civ. Code §§ 1951.2)

Notices and Entry:

  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in LeaseNo notice is needed as the lease simply expires. I recommend giving 60 days notice anyway.
  • Notice to Terminate Any Periodic Lease of a Year or More – If ALL tenants have lived there longer than a year, the landlord is required to give 60 days notice. (handbook)
  • Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Month-to-Month: Landlord is required to give 30 days notice.  Tenant is required to give 30 days notice. (Civ. Code §§ 1946)
  • Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Week-to-week: Landlord is required to give 30 days notice.  Tenant is required to give 7 days notice. (handbook)
  • Notice to Terminate Lease due to Sale of Property: 30 days notice if ALL of the following are true: (Civ. Code §§ 1946.1) (handbook)
    1. The landlord has contracted to sell the rental unit to another person who intends to occupy it for at least a year after the tenancy ends.
    2. The landlord must have opened escrow with a licensed escrow agent or real estate broker, and
    3. The landlord must have given you the 30-day notice no later than 120 days after opening the escrow, and
    4. The landlord must not previously have given you a 30-day or 60-day notice, and
    5. The rental unit must be one that can be sold separately from any other dwelling unit. (For example, a house or a condominium can be sold separately from another dwelling unit.)
  • Notice of date/time of Move-Out Inspection: 48 Hours (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(f))
  • Eviction Notice for Nonpayment: 3 days (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2))
  • Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: 3 days to remedy lease violation or landlord can file eviction (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(3)).  Landlord can also terminate the lease for subletting without permission or illegal activity on the premise. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(4))
  • Required Notice before Entry: 24 Hours (Civ. Code §§ 1954a)
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (non-emergency): 24 Hours (Civ. Code §§ 1954a)
  • Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Yes (Civ. Code §§ 1954b)
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: No (Civ. Code §§ 1954)
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No Statute
  • Lockouts Allowed: No (Civ. Code §§ 789.3b(1))
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No (Civ. Code §§ 789.3a)

Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Landlord Must Accept First Qualified Applicant – The 2012 Fair Housing Handbook of California says on page 24 “The landlord should take the time to check out the information and make a selection based on the first qualified applicant(s).“, although there is no statute to support this.  It’s recommended but not law.
  • Copy of Lease: Provide a copy of the rental agreement or lease to the tenant within 15 days of its execution by the tenant. (Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))
  • Utilities:  Landlord must disclose if utilities that service tenant’s unit also service other areas (such as common foyers), and disclose the manner in which costs will be fairly divided up. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.9) Landlord must also provide a formula for dividing up utilities when utilities are split among multiple tenants.
  • San Francisco Utilities: Landlords must provide heat that can maintain a room temperature of 68 degrees. This level of heat must be provided for at least thirteen hours, specifically from 5:00 – 11:00 AM and 3:00 – 10:00 PM.
  • Move-In Condition: Landlord is not required to provide a Move-In Condition Checklist for the Tenants to complete.  Although, it is recommended and extremely helpful should you ever go to court over physical damages to the dwelling.
  • Mold: Landlord must disclose, prior to lease signing, the knowledge of any mold in the dwelling that exceeds safety limits, or poses a health concern.  Landlord must distribute  a State Department of Health Services consumer handbook (Health & Safety Code §§ 26147)
  • Demolishment: If a landlord, or agent, has applied for a permit to demolish a rental unit, the landlord must provide written notice to prospective tenants before accepting any money. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.6)
  • Ordinances: Landlord must disclose the locations of former ordinances in the neighborhood (Civ. Code §§ 1940.7)
  • Sexual Offenders: Landlords are required to include the following language in the lease:
     “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.” (Civ. Code §§ 2079.10a)
  • Pests Disclosures:  At lease signing, Landlord must disclose any pests control contracts or disclosures received by pest control companies.  If the premise is being treated for pests, landlord must disclose the pesticides used and their active ingredients, and any warnings associated with them.  (Civ. Code §§ 1940.8, and Business and Professional Code §§ 8538)
  • Smoking:  If the landlord limits or prohibits smoking, landlord must include a clause that specifies the areas on or in the premise that smoking is prohibited. (Civ. Code §§ 1947.5)
  • Proof of Domestic Violence Status: Landlord is entitled to proof/documentation of domestic violent status of the tenant if the tenant claims they are a victim. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5, 1941.6, 1941.7)
  • Locks: Landlords must change the locks if requested by a domestic violence victim and proof of court order is given.  (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5 & 1941.6)
  • Special Treatment:  A victim may terminate a lease with 30 days notice, and proof of victim status. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.7) A landlord cannot end or refuse to renew your tenancy based upon the fact that you or a member of your household is a victim of a documented act of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161.3)
  • Abandoned Property: The rules are lengthy and specific, please read Civ. Code §§ 1965, 1980 to 1991
  • Retaliation: Landlord must not terminate or refuse to renew a lease to a tenant who has filed an official complaint to a Government Authority, been involved in a tenant’s organization, or exercised a legal right.  Courts will assume “retaliation” by landlord if negative action is taken on the tenant within 180 days (6 months) after any of the prior tenant actions. (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5) It will also be considered retaliation if the landlord acts negatively within 6 months after any of the following:
    • Using the repair and deduct remedy, or telling the landlord that the tenant will use the repair and deduct remedy.
    • Complaining about the condition of the rental unit to the landlord, or to an appropriate public agency after giving the landlord notice.
    • Filing a lawsuit or beginning arbitration based on the condition of the rental unit.
    • Causing an appropriate public agency to inspect the rental unit or to issue a citation to the landlord.

Court Related:

Business Licenses:

  • Business License required: No state-wide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements.  Check with your local governing authority.
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Discussion...

  1. I have reported my landlord-roommate’s violent behavior to the DA in this part of CA a couple months ago and now he’s threatening to remove my garage stored property (been there for over a year as provided for in the lease) or charge me $100 per month after imposing a max rent increase of $80 month. Under what circumstances can he do this? and what is my recourse? We’re on a month to month now. He’s asked for a new 1 year lease removing the storage space in the garage but I’m declining to sign. Thanks

    • Hi Bee,
      Check the links in the article about regarding “retaliation”, read the statute carefully, and then talk to a lawyer. I’m not sure if asking you to sign a longer lease could be considered retaliation because that’s usually a good thing. The rent increase might also be considered “reasonable”.

      You’re in a bad situation because he technically can’t retaliate against you for 6 months, but after the, he can terminate your monthly lease with 30 days notice.

      Also, in CA, I didn’t think there was a limit for rent increase amounts. Where are you getting $80 as a max increase?

      Your situation is tricky because you are arguing over a storage unit, which technically is not a dwelling. He might be able to modify the lease to no include unit, simply because it’s not considered your dwelling. A lawyer would know better than I.

      If he tries to evict you by moving your stuff, or locking you out, then you can take him to court and would win your damages and maybe the right to stay (although you probably wouldn’t want to stay)

  2. Janice P Ellis says:

    I posted a comment a few days ago about the fact that my property owner is no longer offering 12 month lease terms with lease renewals. I have since discovered that that’s not quite true though.

    Last year, the property owner did extensive exterior improvements to the property. At least, I THOUGHT the improvements were limited to the exterior only. What I have since discovered is that the property owner has also totally upgraded each apartment unit as they were vacated. Now, only 12 month leases are only being offered to tenants in upgraded units. Because the unit I live in has not being upgraded, my only options are to vacate the unit for two weeks while it is being upgraded, then have my monthly rent go up about 400.00 a month, or move into an upgraded unit that is currently vacant and have my rent go up about 400.00 a month. If I choose to stay in my current unit without an upgrade, the longest least term option I’m being offered is 4 months.

    I’ve lived in this complex for 24 years, so am paying substantially less than the market rate. As far as I’m concerned though, I’ve been a good tenant and neighbor and the property owners have enjoyed uninterrupted cash flow from my tenancy for the past 24 years, which has got to mean something.

    I’m not stupid – I get that this shortened least term is just a way to try to get me to move so they can do about $1,500 in upgrades to the unit, then rent out the unit for at least 500.00 a month more than I’m paying. It’s all about the money, I get that. My question is – can a property owner offer 12 month lease terms to certain tenants, but only 4 month terms to other tenants in the same complex??? What they’re doing just doesn’t seem legal to me.

    • Absolutely. The PM can offer terms unique to each unit. I don’t believe they are doing anything wrong, albeit unfortunate for you. They are trying to improve all the units so they can get market rate. Obviously, the quicker they can complete these upgrades, the more quickly they can collect a higher rent. I’m surprised they are offering you a renewal at your lower rent amount at all. Some landlords would simply take your unit off the market to renovate and force you to move at the end of your lease.

  3. Elissa Gaynor says:

    I signed a rather typical 12-month lease in January 2012 that became month-to-month after the 12 months (ie, as of March 2014, I have been month-to-month for 15 months. My landlord has notified me the rent is increasing next month (less than 10%) AND I have to sign a 12-month lease, with no option for a month-to-month lease. Can he force me to change to a 12-month lease like that (ie, provide no option for month-to-month at all)?
    Thanks.

    • Hi Elissa

      Yes, they can. However, check with your city to see if they have a local rule.

      Typically, if your lease is naturally expiring, your landlord can offer whatever renewal terms they want, or nothing at all.

  4. I signed s contact to rent a room and moved in. It has been several days since move in and now he wants everyone to sign an agreement for house rules. He is now telling us no visitors, no access to anything but the kitchen and bathroom. He doesn’t live in the house but keeps an empty room he calls his. What can I do if I don’t agree with his rules?

    • Hi Cherri,

      If your lease says anything about following the house rules, then you’re going to have to do it. If it’s mute on the matter, then you’re in a tough spot. If you don’t sign it, his only recourse is to evict you, but I’m not sure if he would succeed, because you aren’t breaking the lease nor do you have any unpaid rent.

      So even if you don’t HAVE TO sign it, it may want to, just so you don’t have an angry landlord or a uphill legal battle ahead of you.

  5. Hi Lucas
    I recently moved out of a complex a little after a year and when I left, they charged me for touch up painting to the walls, carpet cleaning and cleaning the unit. I got barely any of my deposit back. I am in CA. I looked into the laws and it seems this falls under Normal Wear and Tear. They carpets were very clean and I use to steam them myself. Also I took their paint and touched up the walls myself, so there was minimal spots to be fixed. Do I have way to fight this?

    • Hi Stacy,

      You are correct that they can’t charge you for normal wear and tear. I think you have grounds to fight this. I always suggest that renters take lots of photos of a unit when they move out, so the condition is documented in case this happens.

      Your first step would be try to negotiate with the property manager, but if they don’t budge, your only recourse is to take them to small claims court. The judge will ask for proof that you cleaned it and left it in good shape, or proof from the manager that you damaged it. Either way, someone has to have proof.

      According to Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l), the manager can be subject to 2x the deposit amount withheld if he is found guilty of wrongful withholding. It’s a nice fact to know so you can use it as leverage.

      If I were you, I would fight this. Contact the local court and ask them how to start a small claims case.

  6. Hi,
    I rent a place in LA where I have a right to have heat. Although the owner initially agreed to install heat, when her electrician quoted her, she balked at the price. I begged her to please install it and she said the only way I could have the heat there was if I paid the 225 for the installation. I believe it was properly illegal for her to make me pay for it but I was desperate to get the heat and agreed. But when the city did an inspection a few months later, they cited the heater job because it was not put in properly or permitted. Instead of permitting it and getting it up to code she just removed the heater all together (without my knowledge– as I wasn’t home when they did it). I called the inspector and he confirmed that he “okayed the heater removal on the re-inspection only because he wasn’t aware that I now had no heat. He told me my only recourse at this point is to call the city of LA and file a complaint against her & request heat. My question is this: Can I withhold the $225.00 (from my rent) that she made me pay for an improperly installed heater that she removed without my knowledge? Because I tried to do just that and now she gave me a 3 day pay or quit.

  7. We rent a studio apartment on the beach. On the beach front there is a large step of grass in front of several units that have small patios off their units. There are no fences around any part of this grass area or patios. Is this grass area part of the common area of the apartments that as a renter I can sit on to watch the ocean?

    • Hi Nan,

      You’d have to ask the manager of your building. Common areas are specifically mentioned in the building rules and reg documents or the bylaws (if a condo building).

      No two buildings are alike and you should be allowed to see the rules for yourself. Don’t just trust someone who may or may not know (like the people living in the 1st floor units near the grass). Talk to a manager.

      • Thanks Lucas. This is an apartment rental. I will get a copy of the lease to check for specifics. If nothing is mentioned in the lease, what determines common area usage?

        • Hi Nan,

          Even apartment buildings have set boundaries on private and common areas. This may not be specified in the lease, but the managing company (or leasing office) would be able to tell you.

  8. Hi,
    First of all, I wanted to thank you for you insight you provided me with on my previous posting, it was extremely helpful and may have saved me from possible evection. I can not tell you how difficult and time consuming it has been to try to get a few simple answers from the L.A. Housing Department. I am so impressed by your generosity– to give free advice to perfect strangers– you are a one in a million. I may even have to stop making attorney jokes.

    At this point, I feel I have no choice but to consult with an attorney about taking legal action against the owner for a myriad of infractions. According to my math I think I may be owned approx. ten – fifteen thousand dollars. But I am not an attorney. I have found a few places that provide legal advice to low income people but it sometimes requires hours of standing in lines for a few simple questions & no guarantee they will get to you. Besides, I do not quite fit into that catagory, I have a decent income but it is inconsistent– and am really struggling to save enough to buy my first place and yes, become a landlord myself, only a super cool one. (–:

    I am hoping to find a tenant/landlord attorney, willing to give me a 30-minute free consolation to help me decide whether my case is worth fighting, and if it should be fought in small claims (which I know limits the amount) or civil court. I am very prepared with an organized binder filled with emails, voice messages, witness statements and photographs of all of the infractions. Either way, if I do have a case, the attorney would then make money. I realize that you can’t have an attorney in Small Claims Court but if I went that route, I’d be willing to pay him or her to help me prep for court & also give him a cut of what I am awarded. I won’t bother suing, unless an attorney agrees that I have a very strong case. How would you suggest I find an attorney in Los Angeles, willing to give me 30 minutes?

    Thanks again,

    –Jules

    • Hi Jules

      I’m glad I was able to help earlier and I wish I could help you further, but I’m not an attorney. I’m an experienced landlord who has studied the statues but don’t claim to give legal advice.

      My suggestion would be to check with the CA state bar association. They have a free lawyer referral service to help match you with a lawyer in your area. You should check it out: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/MemberSearch/FindLegalHelp

      Best of luck to you!

  9. Christopher K says:

    My partner and I have been renting from my mother for 15 years, and have never been late on the rent. She added us in a trust that this home was to become our after her death. Now at 90 years old, she can’t remember WHAT she said, and is intending on “selling the house”. We put $38,000 into a kitchen remodel, and she told us she would reimburse us, yet she’s only given us $5,000 and then decided to “see her lawyer and rewrite the ‘irrevocable trust’. I understand the a ‘irrevocable trust is only good for 7 years”, and that time frame has come and now she want to “kick us out”. Do we have ANY recourse? There is also a lot of “coersion” from my sister on this matter, and I believe that my mom is being undually influenced by my sister to do this.

    Are we screwed on this? Or do we have ANY legal recourse?

    • Hi Christopher,

      I wish I could help but your situation crosses over into multiple area of law. I’m not a lawyer and you’d really need to talk to an estate attorney to get the issue with the Trust figured out. Could you contact the law firm that helped her set it up in the first place?

      From a landlord perspective, if you are a tenant, then she can only kick you out if your lease is up or if you violate the lease somehow. The amount of required time for such notice is listed in the article above.

      If you feel that your sister is using your mother and taking advantage of her to squeeze you out, then you need to hire a lawyer to help you defend yourself.

      I wish I could be more help. Good luck! Check the CA bar lawyer referral service to find a lawyer. http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/MemberSearch/FindLegalHelp

  10. Hi Mr. Hall
    My name is Robert. I stay in L.A in a Tax Credit Apartment. My rent was 228 and February 5 I received notice that rent would go up to over $900. 2 big question, 1st is this possible specially because I just did my annual Recertification at end of year and that’s pretty steep over 400%. I was also told by management that only way rent could ever go up substantially was if I made over 36k a year witch I don’t! Also I read that I’m entitled to 60 day notice if it’s over a 10percent increase. Feb 5 was date I got notice that rent would change 4-1-14.. Not 60 days. Thank you in advance Robert

    • Hi Robert,

      CA Civ. Code §§ 827(b)(2-3) does say that 60 days notice is required if the rent increase is over 10%. If I were you, I would go back to your property manager and show them the statute/law. However, the only thing it would accomplish is that it would delay the rent increase until 4/4/2014.

      I don’t know how the Tax Credit system works in L.A. You’d have to research the local government websites, or call the city housing office. I suppose it’s possible that if you didn’t re-certify in time, then you can lose your status, but I don’t know for sure. You’ll have to get help from the city to fight your landlord on the rent increase.

      Since there is no limit on the amount that rent can increase, your landlord can decide to price it at market rate, assuming that you are not sanctioned anymore by the Tax Credit. But check with the city about your status and what your rights are.

      Good Luck!

  11. I signed a fixed term lease for six-months with tenants who have refused to vacate the house after termination of the lease. It was mutually agreed that the lease would terminate after six months for the following reasons: they were in the process of buying a new house (they bought it) and I was going to be away temporarily (I returned). I am moving back to this area and need the house back as soon as possible but the tenants want to stay longer. I am considering filing unlawful detainer suit to evict them (it will cost upwards of $2000) and wonder if other options are also available to me? Thank you in advance, Tom.

    • Hi Tom,

      An eviction lawsuit would be the proper way to go, but it would be best if you can get them to leave on their own, and quickly. You’re not allowed to harass them, or lock them out, but you can have civilized conversations with them.

      If you are still on speaking terms, I suggest scheduling a time to meet with them at the property and explain the next steps. I outline the process here: http://www.landlordology.com/tenant-eviction/

      CA Civ. Code §§ 789.3d says that you are allowed to recover your attorney’s fees from the tenant. So, perhaps you can motivate your tenants with that. If they know that you are going to ruin their record, credit, and it’s going to cost them 2k+, they might decide to move out within a few days. The eviction process will take weeks at minimum.

      If you are desperate, you can always entice them with cash to move out by XX date. Even though that seems like rewarding bad behavior, you would be amazed at how many tenants will move out in 24 hours for $250 and an agreement that you will not sue them (aka a get out of jail free card). As soon as they turn in the keys, inspect the unit for damages, then hand them a check and change the locks immediately.

      Good Luck! May the odds be ever in your favor :)

  12. Seana E says:

    I have lived in my apartment complex for just over 4 years, about a year and half in I moved from a one to two bedroom unit. Two days after moving units I tried to vacuum and the carpet came completely up from the floor. I notified the property manager at the time, he had the carpet man look and I was told “yeah, that carpet is shot there is nothing we can do about it”. At the time I was getting a divorce, etc and just dealt with it as I couldn’t afford to move again. About nine months later we got a new property manager, I wrote him a letter/email explaining what happened and that the carpets were getting worse. That property manager never even acknowledged or responded to my request. A few months later we got another new manager, I wrote this one a letter explaining and provided pictures and copies of my prior requests. During this time the upstairs neighbors (have lived here about a year longer than me) got their carpets replaced, carpets that they damaged. The manager came back to me and said they would replace my carpets but i had to remove all my belongings for a minimum of three days. Nothing can be in the common area or returned until the carpet was set. I have to rent a uhaul truck or a storage container to put all of my belongings in at my cost. However, the upstairs neighbors were allowed to have their stuff in the common area, and they were allowed to move stuff from one room to the next while the installation took place over one day. The did not have to remove their belongings for one day let alone three. There have been many instances where the manager is just rude and talks down to me. I honestly think he doesnt respect women and he treats me this way because there is no man in my house, even the wife from upstairs (whose carpet was replaced believes this). There were no questions, they were not required to give pictures or rewrite their request as i was and I believe it is because her husband spoke with him. Now he has raised out rent, again the upstairs unit has been the same price mine was as they are identical units. My rent has been increased by $75 and yet their rent was only raised $25. Is there anything I can do other than move?

    • Hi Seana,

      If your assumptions are correct, I think that could be considered illegal discrimination. You can (and should) file a complaint with the local authority.
      Here is a CA website that will help you. http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/discrimination.shtml

      Keep in mind, doing this will probably anger the manager, and though you are sanctioned for 6 months (any negative response within 6 months will be considered “retaliation”), he can simply choose to not renew your lease the next time it expires (after 6 months). So, filing a complaint may save you from a rent increase, but might eventually cause you to lose the apartment.

  13. Bill Wade says:

    My landlord-roommate continually engages in verbal confrontations that include name calling etc., when I’m having my breakfast. Along with my 30day “vacating” I’ve given him written notice to stop this behavior but he is ignoring it and just being an ass%#@. In February I filed a complaint with the DA after his more violent physical behavior, trying to barge into my room. Is there anything one can do with respect to this verbal bullying?

    • Hi Bill

      Unfortunately, you can’t force someone to change their character or behavior. They have to do it themselves – you can’t change their heart. If I were in your situation, I would file police reports every time it escalated beyond verbal abuse, and move out as quickly as I could.

      It would be useless to try and fight fire with fire, because it will likely enrage him further. Avoid him whenever possible, and stay calm during your interactions. Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

      • Thanks for the reminder on the Christian values. Much appreciated. My 30 day notice to vacate will be crossing into the rent cycle I was paying by on the 15th of this month. He has a month “security” (wording from lease) deposit to cover the half month’s rent that will be due then. I presume he’s required to return the unused half less cleaning costs after 21 days.

        • Yes, the landlord is allowed to use your deposit for any unpaid rent or actual damages. However, you aren’t supposed to use the deposit intentionally as rent.

          Technically, you need to pay a half month of rent, so that your landlord has a full month of security at all times.

          If you have a savvy landlord, he could sue you for the 15 days of unpaid rent, and then figure out how to keep your full deposit for breach of contract – or at least hold it up while he takes you to court.

          By doing it your way, you might lose the entire deposit. Otherwise, he’s required to give back any unused deposit within 21 days.

          Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, and you’ll need to talk to licensed attorney in your area to get legal advice.

  14. Michael says:

    My wife and I are both 70 and are living on our Social Security payments. After losing our home in the mortgage crisis in 2008, we rented a single-family home, and have lived in that home since then (almost six years). In mid-February, we received a notice from the property manager that the home’s owners have decided to sell it, and that they are terminating our tenancy as of April 30th (normal 60-day notice). We’ve been packing and looking at rentals ever since, and because of the extremely tight rental market in this area (Grass Valley, CA) at the present time, we haven’t been able to find anything at all that’s equivalent to what we’re currently renting, and almost nothing that’s suitable for our needs. Almost everything we’ve seen is either too small or has some other defect that makes it unsuitable for us (steep stairs, no garage, small bedrooms, etc.). We did apply for two homes we found that were suitable, but with all the competition from other applicants, we weren’t chosen by the property managers and/or owners.

    We asked the property manager to contact the owners to ask for a temporary extension to our tenancy so we have more time to find something suitable to rent, but the owners refused. If we don’t find something suitable to rent within the next week, there won’t be enough time left to arrange everything by the end of the month so we can move out by the required date. (All the property managers we’ve contacted accept applications for at least a week before processing any of them, and there’s no guarantee we’d be chosen for the rental we apply for either.)

    Is there anything we can do to resolve this? We can’t move out if we have no place to move to, and we can’t afford to put our belongings in storage. We have no assets that we can convert to cash and no other income except our Social Security, which amounts to just over $3000 per month for the two of us.

    What happens if we pay another month’s rent on time and stay past the end of the month? I know the owners can start eviction proceedings. Will our ability to rent be ruined if this happens but we are able to move out before the eviction is finalized? We are at our wits ends about this, and I’m beginning to wonder if we can survive this situation at all. I’m already fighting off thoughts of suicide because of this.

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your question. It’s nice to meet you, although I wish it were under better circumstances. I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Please know that you’re not alone in this and there are multiple organizations who can help you, such as emotional counselors, or Tenant advocate groups.

      Check out the Human Rights Fair Housing Commission based out of Sacramento. They have a Landlord/Tenant hotline (916) 874-6903, which could probably give you more specific info in re: Grass Valley.

      If you find yourself going to a dark place mentally, and you are thinking about hurting yourself, please reach out for help. Sacramento has a 24 hour hotline at (916) 732-3637 and (916) 368-3111.

      For low-income legal help, check our the CA State Bar referral service at http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/MemberSearch/FindLegalHelp, or at http://lawhelpca.org/find-legal-help/directory/area

      Also, one of my good friends, Al Williamson is an experienced landlord (also not a lawyer) in Sacramento, and he might know of some other great local organizations for you to find help. You can find him here: http://www.leadinglandlord.com

      I’ll try to answer your question as best I can. But before I make some suggestions, just know that I am not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. I’m an experienced landlord, but don’t claim to know the laws specific to your locality.

      You didn’t mention whether or not you were in a fixed term lease (a lease with a set end date), or a periodic lease (one that goes month-to-month or year-to-year without an end date). I’m assuming you are in a periodic lease. However, if you were in a fixed term lease, the landlord wouldn’t normally be able to terminate the lease just because they sell the house (unless there is a clause in the lease that allows them to do so). In a fixed lease, the lease would transfer and you simply become the tenants of the new owners.

      Assuming the landlord is legally terminating your tenancy, I want to let you know that your situation is more common that you realize. Again, you are not alone, and there are legitimate steps you can take to get through this.

      First of all, you can try to give your landlord an additional month of rent, but it won’t necessarily grant you another month to tenancy. You’d have to get it in writing, or at least a verbal acknowledgement (with witnesses) that he is allowing you to stay. Don’t just assume that if you mail another check, that you get to stay there.

      Also know that your landlord cannot shut off your utilities or lock you out. He/she cannot come into the home and move your stuff out or force you out in any way. You have rights. The only person that can do this is the Sheriff, and only under formal eviction order from the courts.

      You have to assume that they will file for eviction if you don’t move out, but the eviction process can take weeks or even months. Yes, an eviction will make it really hard for you to rent anywhere else, if the future landlord does a background check, but it’s better than leaving without anywhere to go.

      You need to take care of your basic needs; food, water, and SHELTER. When my grandmother was struggling to pay her mortgage, I encouraged her to pay her electric and gas bill first, then the mortgage company second. Legally, you can stay in the property until the Sheriff shows up at your door. There will be consequences, but at least you have a roof over your head.

      Please keep trying to find another place to live, and even explore other ideas like city sponsored low-income housing.

      If push comes to shove, your landlord might just accept another month’s rent if you keep dangling it in front of his face. After all, it’s better for the landlord than going through an eviction and losing a month of rent anyway without any compensation.

      There are professionals out there to help you. Check into the links above. Good Luck Michael. I wish you the best. You’ll get through it my friend.

  15. BRANDON says:

    Hello, I recently had my renters leave my condo and during the inspection I noticed dog hair throughout the home. I asked if they had a dog and she stated they don’t “own” a dog, but would watch a relative’s dog from time to time. The amount of dog hair found was more than a visit here and there. They also replaced the carpet in a room without my consent and it does not match what is currently in the home. There are animal scratches on the patio door and other minor things (nail holes, dents, etc.) The rental agreement clearly states “NO PETS” and “NO ALTERATIONS”. Please let me know the steps I can take to get this issue resolved and CA state laws I can use in case I have to go to small claims court. Thank you!

    • Hi Brandon,

      If they allowed pets to enter the property (even if they were just pet-sitting) or made alterations (like unapproved carpet), then they are violating the lease. You have the right to correct the issue at their expense.

      If I were you, I would replace the carpet with the correct style, and repair any damage to moulding caused by the animals – then take it out of their security deposit. I would then take them to small claims court for any excess expenses the deposit didn’t cover.

      I would also hire a professional carpet cleaning company to clean the unreplaced carpet – because of the pet hair – and make them pay for it.

      BE SURE TO TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES AND VIDEOS. If you go to court, you’ll need evidence.

  16. Brigitta says:

    Hello! So I have a lease which ends in June. We recently bought a home and would like to move out a month early. We have offered to find a qualified new tenant for the property, but our landlord (mgmnt company) said no matter what, they are charging us $1500 as a leasing fee – or as they put it:
    “We charge a flat fee of $1,500.00 dollars if we source (listing, marketing, tours, screening, lease draft/execution, collection of move in funds, final walk through, etc.) a new tenant. We retain the exclusive right to market the property through our 100+ syndicated websites, including Craigslist. There is an adjusted flat fee of $1000.00 if you refer us directly to a qualified tenant, we will arrange and conduct the tours, screenings, lease draft/execution, collection of move in funds, final walk through, etc. We expect this process to take approximately 10 days, we will commence the listing immediately upon receipt of your written acceptance.”
    My question is: is this legal in California? It seems like such an exorbitant amount of money to want to charge especially since one month later, they’ll have to do it anyway.

    • Hi Brigitta,

      It sounds like they are just following the lease agreement to the letter (I’m assuming there is verbiage in the lease about this). Whether they do it 6 months before the end of the your lease, or 6 days, it still is before the end of your lease.

      I think you’re going to have to make a decision between paying their crazy fee, or just pay for last month of the lease, and move out whenever. If I were you, I would just pay for the last month of rent, and let the lease naturally expire. That will allow you to move your stuff casually to the new home (CONGRATS on buying a place!).

      If you stir up trouble with the leasing office, who knows what kind of mess you’ll get into. I wouldn’t put it past them to charge you $1,500, and then still charge you for the 1 month of rent if they can’t find a qualified tenant in time.

  17. Hi,
    I have some questions out of curiousity. We recently moved out of a place due to a terrible property manager.

    Is a property manager considered a landlord and are they under the same rules?

    When we first moved into the place, it was filthy. There were marks all over the walls, the toilet seats were broken, the yard was covered in dog poo.

    The former tenants got raided (according to neighbors) and doors were kicked in, so none of the bedroom doors would shut right, the door frames were busted and there were holes in the walls where the doorknobs hit. The door into the garage was completely busted, we had no way to close or lock it. The wind was constantly blowing it open. The wire mesh on the security door was ripped upwards at the bottom with sharp edges pointing inwards to the house.

    We have a daughter who was one year old at the time we moved in. I was worried she was going to cut herself on the security or to fall off the step outside the garage door.

    We voiced our concerns to the property manager when we did the walk through before moving in to which he replied “We don’t fix anything until AFTER people move in.”

    After we moved in it took MONTHS to get the security door and garage door repair (nothing else got repaired). When I went in to pay the second months rent I voiced my concerns about the security door and he replied “The security door is NOT my priority right now”. I then went on to say that I was worried our daughter would cut herself on it.

    A couple weeks later someone came with a new security door, but it still took another month to get the other door.

    I now know that we could have withheld rent until the doors were fixed, but isn’t it law to have those things fixed BEFORE tenants moved in?

    We then had issues with him trying to evict us over grandmas perscribed companion dog. We fought that case, but it came down to they would allow us to have the companion dog only if we got rid of the other dog (which we paid deposit for) for they would only allow us to have one pet.

    We chose to find a babysitter for the companion dog until our 6 month lease ran out, then we moved.

    Our 30 day notice ended on the 6th of April to which he instructed us to drop off the keys at the office and he would go do the walk-through by himself, then send the deposit in the mail.

    I thought the tenants were supposed to be there for the walk-through. And doesn’t he have to give us notice of when he will do it?

    We also know from former neighbors that when they moved out and they got their check for their deposit in the mail, there was money missing. When they called to see why, he claimed the place was filthy and he had to pay someone $200 to come clean it. He did not give them notice that he was talking that money out, nor did he show them any receipts.

    Therefore, I’m quite sure he is going to try the same trick on us. I hand-scrubbed the floors, counters and bathrooms in that place, I can say for a fact that we left it far cleaner than it was when we moved in. I even cleaned the black marks that were on the walls when we moved in. We had the carpets perfessionally cleaned and gave him the receipt. There is absolutely no reason to take any money out of our deposit.

    Anyways, sorry this got long winded. We have moved out so I don’t think we can do anything about how he handled the repairs, but I’m curious on the laws on that for future reference.

    Thank you for your time.
    -Sara

    • Hi Sara,

      Thanks for your reply. Most of the answers to your question can be described in the article above including:

      Notice of date/time of Move-Out Inspection: 48 Hours (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(f))

      Require Written Description / Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes. Landlord is also required to give advanced notice of deductions prior to the actual withholding. Receipts and documentation not needed to accompany the itemized list of repairs if repairs and cleaning cost less than $125. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A)

      As for the condition of the apartment, the landlord and property manager must provide a habitable premise. That mean making repairs that effect habitability. The ability to sufficiently lock the doors would be a critical security issue.

      The landlord and the manager have the same role and the same rules apply to both. The biggest difference is that the landlord is often times the property owner, whereas a property manager is rarely the owner.

      It sounds like the manager is horrible, and he gives decent landlords like me, a bad name. If he tries to pull a fast one on you, you should definitely consider taking him to small claims court.

      Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l) says something along the lines of “A bad faith claim or retention of the security deposit by a landlord may subject the landlord to statutory damages of up to twice the amount of the security, in addition to actual damages.”

      Did you catch that? 2x the damages!

  18. Good afternoon,
    I am on a month to month lease. I have signed a new lease at a new house and given my apartment complex 30 day written notice.
    My question is can they continue charging me a month to month few for not having a year lease once I give my 30 notice? AKA I get charged $50 every month due to the fact I am month to month and not a year lease. My last month are they allowed to charge me the $50?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Colleen,

      Month-to-month leases are typically more expensive for the tenant. Sometimes this comes in the form of surcharges – like your $50 fee. You are paying extra to have the convenience of the month-to-month fee.

      I would imagine that if you sign a year lease, your month-to-month surcharge will go away. If they are calling it something else – like an admin fee, then you’d have to talk with them about it – and find out why you are paying it.

      Maybe I misunderstood you, but I hope that helps.

  19. I have a difficult tenant who is desperate to renew the lease. If agreed to by the tenant, can I legally add an early termination clause for me? I really don’t want to release to him but the only way I would consider it is if I alone could back out of the lease if I wanted. I would give him 60 days notice of termination of the lease. This is CA and I’m concerned that this isn’t legal and would not be enforceable! Please advise! Thank you.

    • Hi Diane,

      My suggestion would be to NOT sign a lease longer than you are comfortable with. If your “comfort limit” is 60 days, then sign a 60 day lease, and then renew it again in 60 days if you want (or not). So the worst case scenario is that you have to put up with him for 60 days.

      If your tenant doesn’t like it, then they move out. The renewal period is the only opportunity you have reset the scales in your favor – don’t let it pass you by.

      If your not comfortable with that, then I suppose you could sign a lease for a year (or whatever) and write a clause in it saying that you can terminate it with 60 days notice at any time for no reason at all. However, if your tenant takes you to court over it, the judge might think that the lease is too heavily weighted in or favor, and penalize you.

  20. I was just served a 3 days notice to quit or pay rent, i offered to pay it with a credit card but this complex does not have the technology to accept cc payment. Can they still go through with an eviction if I have offered to pay with a cc?

    • Hi Jenn,
      There’s no law that says the apartment complex has to accept credit cards. You need to find another way to pay rent. You could always go to the bank that issued your credit card and get a cash advance. However I would not recommended it unless it was a last resort because cash advances cost a hefty fee.

  21. Hi, I find myself in a difficult situation and I need your legal advice. I rent my home to my brother and his girlfriend in California. They have two daughters who are 6 and 3 and she has a 17 year old daughter who will be turning 18 next month who also lives in the property. Since he is my brother I didn’t have them sign a lease contract and their method payment is cash as they do not have a bank account. They have lived in the property for 11 month now and always pay me on time but recently my brothers girlfriend decided to let her 25 year old son come live their without my consent. This is 4 adults and two children living in a two bedroom condo. My brother had an issue with his girlfriends son today because he is lazy and does not want to work or pay any bills. The 24 year old did not like the fact that my brother questioned him about getting a job and he got very aggressive and went to the garage where he sleeps and got an axe and threaten my brother with it. The girlfriend got very upset and defended her son and kicked my brother out of the house and threaten to no pay me rent if he didnt leave. My brother didnt call the cops on the kid because he didnt want to make things worst or make his girlfriend suffer from it. My brother left the home and is now living with my parents and the girlfriend stayed with their two daughters and her almost 18 year old daughter. By the looks of it my brother and his girlfriend are not in good terms and I no longer want her occupying my property and do not want her son who is very unstable and threaten my brother with a weapon in front of my nieces. I need to rent the home right away but she is threatening to stay and pay no rent. What are my legal rights? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Hi Roxy,

      First of all, I can’t give you legal advice. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I claim to understand the law. I’m just an experienced landlord who researched CA law and put together this article.

      Second, ALWAYS sign lease.

      Third, it sounds like you’ll have to go through the normal eviction process if they don’t leave on their own accord. In CA, you can give a “3-day Notice to Quit” if they violate the lease (you have none) or don’t pay rent when it is due. See the statutes above.

      Further, if they are on a verbal month-to-month agreement, then you can provide 30 days notice to terminate for any reason. If they don’t move out, then you can start the eviction process too.

      Eviction Notice for Nonpayment: 3 days (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2))
      Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: 3 days to remedy lease violation or landlord can file eviction (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(3)). Landlord can also terminate the lease for subletting without permission or illegal activity on the premise. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(4))

      Check with your local county/city about the eviction procedures. They should be able to guide you through the process. A general overview can be found here: http://www.landlordology.com/tenant-eviction/

      Good luck! You need to get them out of there, and formal eviction is your only way to force them. If you can, it’s always better to have them move voluntarily. Sometimes, you can entice them with money. For example, you could offer them $100 or more if they move out within XX days. This can be expensive for you, but often times they will move out within 1-2 weeks. Eviction can take 3-8 weeks.

      If you want legal advice, I suggest finding a lawyer in your area.

  22. Is the property manager allowed to charge a fee if you get locked out of your apartment? mines posted a paper by the building entrance saying the penalty fee would be $75

    • Absolutely. If you get locked out, you will have to ask them to let you in. The $75 fee goes towards the inconvenience you caused and provides motivation to ensure you have your keys before leaving your apartment.

  23. My lease will end on May 31st. I was notified by my landlord that the rent will be going up (from $1450 to $1500). In the notification they also wrote, “In addition to any rent increase, a month to month fee of $250 will apply unless a lease renewal is signed.” Is it legal to charge a “month to month fee”? If so, is there a limit on the fee? I’d prefer to be month-to-month but $250 seems extremely high!

    • Hi Brandon,

      A monthly price is usually more expensive than a fixed-term price. A month-to-month lease is more flexible and convenient for the tenant, and provides less security for the landlord, and therefore, it should cost more.

      My month-to-month leases are sometimes $500 more per month. I lived in an apartment complex that charged $1,000 more per month. So, in my opinion, $250 is reasonable for your situation.

      To avoid the surcharge, could you sign a 2, 3, or 4 month lease? Maybe it won’t be as expensive…

  24. Hi Lucus,
    First I want to say thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us all I’ll learned alot from you!
    Anyway…I want to know how much am I allowed to raise my tenant’s rent? She’s paying only $725 a month for a one bedroom and the rent for the neighborhood is normally between $900-$1100+ it’s in southern CA. Also how much notice would I also be required to give her? I inherited her and the condo, so she has had a real nice run for almost 9 years and my Dad hardly has ever raised her rent! I want to keep her cause she is a good tenant, so good that I’m getting her unit new carpet. My Dad never had landlord insurance and so now that I’ve had to get that I need her to pay more rent? How would you handle this? Oh, by the way she is on a month to month agreed on it verbally with my Dad and I have no application or any info at all? She didn’t pay a security deposit either? I don’t wanna rock the boat and have her move. She was referred by a friend of his and so should I just leave things the way they are, what ain’t broke don’t fix it? What would you do if you were me?

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