California Landlord Tenant Laws

Written by on April 22, 2013

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


Security Deposit:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: Two months’ rent for unfurnished dwellings; 3 months’ 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: (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. 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 one 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 percent of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months. 60 days if rent increase is more than 10 percent 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 one month’s pre-paid rent (first month’s rent) plus two or three months’ 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 one month’s rent, and tenant cannot use this remedy more than twice in a 12-month period. (Civ. Code §§ 1942)
  • Landlord Allowed 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 seven 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 30-day notice no later than 120 days after opening 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: Three days (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2))
  • Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: Three 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 13 hours, specifically from 5-11 AM and 3-10 PM.
  • Move-In Condition: Landlord is not required to provide a Move-In Condition Checklist for the Tenants to complete. However, 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, 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 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 where smoking is prohibited. (Civ. Code §§ 1947.5)
  • Proof of Domestic Violence Status: Landlord is entitled to proof/documentation of domestic violence 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 and 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 a tenancy based upon the fact that tenant or a member of tenant’s 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 (six months) after any of the prior tenant actions. (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5) It will also be considered retaliation if the landlord acts negatively within six 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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640 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • KJ

    Hello, I am a California Landlord. I have been told that I am allowed to charge a “reasonable” fee per hour to repair things wrong in my rental due to the tenants (ie damaged screen door- time spend to re-screen it). Could you tell me where I can find the CA code to site stating I am allowed to charge for my time? The tenants have moved out and I would like to add this as part of the itemization of the security deposit refund. I plan to charge $15 an hour. Thank you for your time!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi KJ, I’ve never seen that rule, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

      I’ve always though that charging a reasonable fee for a landlord’s time is a slippery slope and could get a landlord in trouble. The only time I recommend it is if there is a baseline – due to a side profession. For example, if you happen to also be a professional carpenter, and have a set price list, then you could legitimately price out a fix.

      Other than that, I think it’s just cleaner to hire a pro and bill it to the tenants.


      Nice try but you are not allowed to bill for your time . Your the landlord! As Lucas said, if your were a trades-person or licensed contractor or if you hired them to do the work you could deduct but need to have proof of these expenses. Whoever told you this is misinformed. And how you determine your entitled to $15 per hour is also curious. Why not $30 per hour?


      CORRECTION. My error. You are allowed to bill for your time as landlord if you or your employees made the repairs and yes it is has to be reasonable. If you scroll up on his page to security deposits and click on the link HANDBOOK it will open up CA GOV Consumer Affairs where the info is. So how much time does it take to a fix a screen?

  • Jacky

    I am a California landlord who has never had to file a claim (23 years) against their insurance company. . . until now. The tenants’ refrigerator sprung a leak, flooding the dining room laminate flooring and part of the living room carpeting. I know our homeowners policy covers it, but there is still the deductible. Since this “unfortunate accident” was the fault of the tenant, is it their responsibility to pay the deductible? Is it legal in the state of California to charge them for the deductible?

    Thank you


      Legally they are not held to pay your deductible as your policy requires you to do so. An option is small claims court but as you state it was an “unfortunate accident” and they may counter it was an old/defective refrigerator or an accident. This is why you have insurance.

      • Jacky

        To Mary Rimachi. . . . . . Even if the defective refrigerator belongs to the tenants? I could see where we would be responsible if it were a refrigerator that belonged to the rental.

        • MARY RIMACHI

          If it is theirs then I would refer you to the advice Lucas provided. FYI. Small Claims Court is a real pain.So ask yourself is the amount of the deductible worth the time, gas, paperwork, court fees you must pay, and aggravation? AND even if you win who is to say you will get paid? If you do not then you need to go through the Enforcement of Judgment phase which is even more paper work., process servers etc. How much is your deductible?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jacky,

      I’m not a lawyer, but just an experienced a landlord.

      If I were in your shoes, I would ask the tenants to pay for everything… simply because the damage was caused by something that the tenant brought into the property.

      If they have rental insurance, it should be the first company to pay for everything. Since the tenants caused the damage, their insurance should be the company to take the hit.

      If they don’t have rental insurance, your home owner’s insurance will cover the damages to your property. As a landlord, I would then ask the renter’s to reimburse me for the deductible. Though they tenants have no legal obligation to the home insurance company, I believe they have a moral responsibility to reimburse you. I believe a logical judge would agree with me, if you had to take them to small claims court.

      Good luck, this is a great example of why a landlord should always require a tenant to get renter’s insurance. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

      • Jacky

        Thank you for your input. We require our renters to carry renters insurance and remind them that we need a current copy in our files. They say they contacted their insurance company and were told “it would fall under the landlord’s policy.” I will give their insurance company a call on Monday and have a little chat.

        I went to assess the damages today. They readily admit that it was their refrigerator water dispenser that was running, so I am wondering if they told their insurance company that it was their refrigerator and not one supplied by the landlord/rental.

        • Lucas Hall

          Good idea. If they still play hardball, you can just give the renter’s insurance info to your insurance company and your insurer will have one of their lawyers give them a call. That works like a charm.

  • Jacky

    Here’s the outcome. . . . . . Our insurance company said that even though it was their refrigerator that caused the damage, it is still our responsibility to fix the house with our landlord policy and deductible. Go figure!! They cause all the damage and we get to pay for their errors. I know that’s why we have insurance, but it still doesn’t seem fair. Oh Well!!

    Thanks for all the good advice. I really appreciated your time . . . . . . we’ll talk again at another time.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jacky

      Well, at least you have a solid answer! Best of luck to you!

    • David

      I’m not an attorney but I’m an insurance professional who works in the legal field. So far, everyone is right EXCEPT they didn’t go far enough. The property damage is to the building, so it’s the landlord’s policy that should cover it. Renter’s insurance does not cover property damage to the building. However, with regards to the deductible, the landlord can claim that from the tenant. The tenant should forward that claim to his/her insurance company. The claim for the reimbursement of the landlord’s deductible is the personal liability of the tenant, so the tenant’s renter’s insurance should pay because renter’s insurance covers third party liability risks. If the renter’s insurance has a deductible (unlikely on the liability side of the policy) then the renter has to repay that to the insurance company.
      Also, though it’s highly unlikely given the amounts at issue, the landlord’s insurer could claim the amount it pays for the property damage from the renter, who (because it’s now a third party liability claim) would also forward that to his/her insurer, who should reimburse the landlord’s insurer.

      • Lucas Hall

        Great answer David! Thanks for your input!

      • Jacky

        Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate your input. We are scheduled to meet with our insurance adjuster and the restoration company next week Tuesday. I will bring it to our adjusters’ attention. It just so happens, our adjuster is handling both landlord and renter claims since we share the same insurance company.

        Shall keep you informed as to what transpires.

        Thank you once again. . . . . . . . . . .

      • Jacky

        You stated:
        “However, with regards to the deductible, the landlord can claim that from the tenant. The tenant should forward that claim to his/her insurance company. The claim for the reimbursement of the landlord’s deductible is the personal liability of the tenant, so the tenant’s renter’s insurance should pay because renter’s insurance covers third party liability risks”.

        Just how do I go about filing a claim against my tenants? Do I write a letter to them (that they can ignore), do I go through my insurance company or do I get a lawyer, or, or or? Not really sure how to confront this situation because I have never filed a claim before! Can you help me with this?

        Thank you. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

        • MARY RIMACHI

          Go 2 GOOGLE type in JUDICIALL COUNCIL FORMS. When it opens click SELECT FORMS, scroll down to SMALL CLAIMS, click it, then download the following: SC-100 & SC-104 and SC-100a for your instructions. Small Claims in CA is relatively simple but be sure to read the instructions. NO SUMMONS is required and you can mail the COMPLAINT or personally serve it on the defendant. Read the Clerk’s Self-Help Page for guidance.

        • Jacky

          I did as you stated. I have all the pertinent items to this claim filled in as some do not apply. Just hand deliver so they can forward it to their insurance company. No Summons. . . no filing in small claims? Right? Just fill out the “Proof of Service” and keep it on file. No signature from the receiving party/tenant?

          Thank you for your time Mary. I appreciate your help!

        • MARY RIMACHI

          The forms you got are not given to the insurer but filed with the clerk of court in the city you live in. What court you file in depends on your zip code. Go 2 GOOGLE and type in filing court locator and Superior Court for the county you live in. It will request your zip and then type it in and then submit and it will give you the court to file in. It indicates what type of cases get filed in what courts FAMILY LAW PPROBATE SMALL CLAIMS ETC. The is a filing fee (60.00) I think unless you cannot afford it in which case go back to the site you downloaded your SC FORMS and download FW-001 & FW-003 to get a fee waiver. After you file with the clerk they set your court date.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Jacky,

          Just contact their insurance company directly via phone. Hopefully you have a copy of their policy, from when they showed proof, otherwise you just have to ask them for the name of the company and their policy number.

          If they still refuse to provide that info, you’ll just have to withhold it from their deposit, or take them to small claims.

          A professional insurance agent would better be able to help you than I.

        • David

          Jacky – at this point there’s no need to involve small claims court or legal forms at all. Normally, you would just write a letter to the tenant saying that you hold them responsible for the amount you are out of pocket for the loss (the amount of your deductible) and ask them either to pay it to you direct, or if they prefer, notify their own insurance company. It really is the tenant’s choice whether to go through insurance or just pay it themselves.
          In this case, you said the adjuster was the same as for your claim so you could tell him or her what you plan to do, and see if you can short cut the process. If the insurance adjuster says “no,” send the letter to the tenant. If you haven’t heard back from the tenant in two weeks, tell them you will file in small claims if you don’t hear from them within one additional week.
          Good luck!!

  • Mary Furnish

    I am wondering what a reasonable fee would be for a tenant that smokes in a unit (stated clearly in the lease agreement that smoking is prohibited inside the unit).
    Also if it is stated in the lease agreement that smoking is prohibited everywhere (inside the unit as well as outside within property lines) how much can I reasonably charge for cigarette butts being left in the yard?


      Was the lease prohibiting smoking signed/entered into on or before 01/2012 or after? And if you have a lease prohibiting smoking but are collecting $$, reasonable or otherwise, permitting smoking, why the provision prohibiting smoking? And then there are ?? about children on the premises, other tenants exposed to smoke, elderly tenants, etc. Not enough info to respond but I will say this, if you are acting contrary to the lease provision you agreed to you are exposing yourself later to trouble if you ever have a problem with an eviction or other legal issues. Why have a lease if you do not adhere to its terms. Simply stated you are telling the tenant no smoking UNLESS you pay me $$ to do so. Some COURTS WOULD DEFINE THIS AS EXTORTION.

      • Mary Furnish

        Not acting contrary to the lease agreement. I clearly stated in my question that smoking is not permitted. The lease just didn’t lay out a consequence for violating the no smoking clause.
        Thanks for the reply, but I went and pulled the lease agreement from the California Association of Realtors to get the wording right on my future lease agreements stating that they forfeit their security deposit if they smoke where is clearly states they cannot. As for the tenant that smoked against the rental agreement, I will charge whatever cleaning fees necessary to eliminate the odor.

        • MARY RIMACHI

          Yes your was question was specific on the no smoking condition and yes your comment is specific on the fact the 1st lease had no consequences associated with smoking. You state you were going to create a financial penalty on the tenant for smoking based on a new lease you expect them to enter into at this time. I would direct you back to my original question on the date your 1st lease was entered into and I would also tell you if you intend not to return their security deposit/partial based on their smoking and the deficiency of the 1st lease then you better reconsider what it is you are doing.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mary,

      If your lease prohibits smoking, but fails to mention the consequence, then you can’t just make up a dollar amount on the spot. It’s a best practice to document all fines in the lease, or in an addendum. For example, when you check into a hotel, most of them tell you that “all rooms are non-smoking, and if you smoke, there will be a $500 cleaning fee”, and then they make you sign acknowledgement.

      At this point, if the smoking is causing a lease violation, then your only recourse is terminate the lease with proper notice.

      If you don’t want to lose your tenant, then you could just wait until the end of the lease, and hire a professional cleaning company to decontaminate the entire unit of smoke residue, and deduct it from the deposit money. Then, if there is any extra costs, you could sue the tenant for the damages. The only problem with this is that you may incur more costs than you are able to recoup.

      • Mary

        Thanks Lucas.
        I know my only recourse on the current tenant is to deduct cleaning from their deposit. I have changed my lease agreements for future tenants to say my units are non-smoking and if the clause is violated they forfeit their deposit (from California Association of Realtors rental agreement). I was curious if I could put a monetary damage value on future lease agreements if a tenant violates the no smoking clause – the forfeit of deposit works for me. I had never had this issue before, and I guess I posted before fully researching.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Mary,

          As one landlord to another, I highly suggest you NEVER say that a violation causes the full forfeiture of a deposit. Technically, a deposit can only be used for damages. Damages can always be monetized.

          For example, lets say that another tenant breaks the smoking rule, and the cleaning remediation only costs you $500, however the entire deposit was $1000. Therefore, your damages were only half the deposit. If you keep the full deposit, the tenant could sue you for wrongful withholding of the other half, and seek 2x the amount. Then you would end up with nothing.

          It’s always better to assign a dollar amount to each violation. If you prohibit smoking in the lease, you should also say, “there will be a $500 fine for each instance of smoking on the property”. Wherever you list something that is prohibited, you should always describe the consequence.

          NEVER keep more of the deposit than what you actually have expenses and receipts for. You cannot just keep the whole deposit until you have receipts that add up to the full amount. It will bit you in the tail every time. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l))

          Sure, you can use the deposit for unpaid fines (like smoking fines), unpaid rent, or actual property damage, but you can’t keep any money that you can’t account for on paper.

  • JoAnne W

    In California, can three adults and four children legally reside in a three bedroom home? The children are 3, 2, 1 and a new born. I am trying desperately to find a home for my son, his wife and their four small children. I have encountered difficulty renting them a property with me as the financially responsible party. So, we are considering me living with them so I can pay the rent. Times are tough and one must do what one must do. I would be grateful for any info you can offer or suggestions on how to find a place to live. Thank you very much! JoAnne

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi JoAnne,

      That’s so wonderful that you are trying to help them out. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the occupancy rules are in your county. You might want to call the local housing office to see what the occupancy rules are. Though a landlord cannot discriminate based on the size of your family, he/she must follow occupancy limits.

      Good Luck!

  • yvonne

    hi im tenant five years I’ve been living here and we have had problems lately with a new tenant and the owners always give them reason then we can do if the owner trys to kicks out

  • Scott Yenni

    Hello. I am trying to find out if a fire extinguisher is required by code in rentals in California. I have a tenant saying it is required by code and I am happy to provide one and I will regardless. But I do not know of a code requiring it. This is outside city limits. Thanks for your answer.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Scott,

      I’m not sure. I didn’t see anything in the statutes re: fire extinguishers. However, it probably depends on the type of unit. I willing to bet that multi-unit buildings, like apartment buildings, are required to have them in the hallways. But I have no idea about single family homes.

      Fire alarms, absolutely. Fire extinguishers, I don’t know.

      If I were in your shoes, I’d go to Costco, and buy a 2 pack for $30, and be done with it.

  • Lori

    Ok. So I was renting a unit in the back of my house and come to find out the unit is illegal. So in order to get the tenant to leave I have to pay a relocation fee that I cannot afford. I feel that the tenant is doing things to force me to pay the amount. She has numerous people living there in the house that go in and out. They also leave the lights on which has sky rocketed my bill. I don’t know what to do. On top of all that, I’m on the verge of losing my home. I think I can save it, but with the relocation amount and the bills and everything else, I’m likely to lose everything. Any suggestions?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lori,

      Is someone forcing you to stop using it as a rental? If it’s the county or city, then you might be able to use that as a reason to terminate the lease – depending on how your lease is worded. Further, if she is allowing other people to live there, then that is a breach of contract, and you could terminate the lease for that violation, with adequate notice, if she doesn’t remedy it.

      Besides talking with a lawyer, you might want to just be honest with the tenant, and explain that you can’t pay for relocation on top of losing the rental income. Perhaps you’ll receive some sympathy and the tenant will just move out.

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer but rather just an experienced landlord. Please don’t consider this to be legal advice.


      1. What city do you reside? 2. Did you get an official notice of violation? 3. You may have options that allow you to avoid relocation costs. Relocation costs in Los Angeles are set @ max $19K. If you are referring to a back house on the same lot then the cost to legalize THIS WOULD BE SUBSTANTIALLLY LOWER! If an official violation notice was issued then it is worded for you to do specific things to legalize the unit: For Example, obtain a Certificate of Occupancy and/or demolish or . If the Order does not specify the tenants be moved or unit vacated then this is some good news as your only required to comply with the order as it reads. Re-post and provide more info such as… Is the unit in the back separate from the general house, does it have a separate kitchen and bathroom, separate plumbing/sewer line, is is a single story, is the main house a SFD and what year is the front and back units (date these were built). Plug in your zip code for the property too.

  • Kayla D

    I’ve lived in my current apartment for 8 years. Never had issues with my refrigerator until recently. I spent 3 days at my parents home. Came back today to a refrigerator full of bad food. The food in the freezer was warm and very defrosted. Can I request a reimbursement for my food having gone bad (cash, gift card, rent deduction, etc)? I’ve lost 2 weeks worth of food!!!!!! Its also a Saturday so I don’t know how to go about the problem (wait til Monday or call tonight as an er call). Thank you.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Kayla,

      Do you have (or were you responsible) for getting renter’s insurance? If so, this would probably cover your lost food.

      I suggest calling your landlord immediately, so they can coordinate the repair. A good landlord would want to know about the issue immediately.

      This kind of repair is common when a fridge hits 7-10 years old. If you don’t have renter’s insurance (or weren’t required to get it), then you could definitely ask your to compensate you. But they may say no. There’s no law that regulates this, and when disagreements happen, one party usually has to file a small claims suit to settle their differences.

  • Jacky

    You mentioned to Lori. . . “if she is allowing other people to live there, then that is a breach of contract, and you could terminate the lease for that violation, with adequate notice, if she doesn’t remedy it.”

    Just what is considered adequate notice?

    Couldn’t they do a great deal of damage before moving out?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jacky,

      Typically speaking, only the people on the lease are allowed to reside in the unit. If the tenant is allowing others to live there, then that’s breaking the contract.

      For all lease violations, a landlord can terminate the lease with 3 days notice. However if the tenant remedies the violation (kicks out the non-tenants in this case), within 3 days, the lease is not terminated.
      (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(3))

      If the tenant is mad enough, he or she might intentionally do damage to the property before leaving. This is destruction of property, plain-and-simple, and is considered a crime. At that point, a landlord could use the security deposit to cover the damages, and then sue the tenant for the remaining balance.

  • Rita

    I live in a dweling that I rented on a two-year lease five years ago. I have been on a month-to-month for the last three years. I am about to give 40 days notice of moving.

    Is the landlord responsible to paint and re-carpet as normal wear and tear after five years? I am trying to find out what the landlord can legally charge me for at move-out. I will be professionally cleaning and shampooing carpet before I go. I thought that landlord must pay to paint after four years, so I would not be charged for this. My parents said re-carpeting must be done every five years. Is this true?

    I am reviewing my lease and notice I signed the lease but my landlord never did. Does this change their responsibility to me or mine to them at all?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Rita,

      There’s no set limit on the lifespan of carpet. It all depends on the make, weave, durability, quality, and backing of the carpet which determines if it will last 3 years, or 10 years. Feel free to search through the statutes linked above. If you find anything, let me know and I’ll add it to this page.

      A landlord is not forced to replace carpet or repaint ever. But a smart landlord would do it regularly to maintain a high quality unit, and to attract high quality tenants.

      You’d have to talk to a lawyer to determine if a partially signed lease voids it. If you signed two copies, there’s a chance that your landlord has a copy with two signatures. Further, often times, technicalities like this are frowned upon in court, especially if both parties have been operating under the agreement for years.

      Here’s an excerpt from the CA guide on deposits:
      “One common method of calculating the deduction for replacement prorates the total cost of replacement so that the tenant pays only for the remaining useful life of the item that the tenant has damaged or destroyed. For example, suppose a tenant has damaged beyond repair an eight-year-old carpet that had a life expectancy of ten years, and that a replacement carpet of similar quality would cost $1,000. The landlord could properly charge only $200 for the two years’ worth of life (use) that would have remained if the tenant had not damaged the carpet.”

      Keep in mind, I’m NOT a lawyer. I’m just an experienced landlord, so this should not be considered legal advice. It’s just my non-legal opinion.

  • Ian

    I am in the process of leasing my house to a new tenant on August 1. I received two qualified applicants, and made an offer to one of them at the listed price of $1095/mo. They said they had to think about it. The other applicant has since contacted me and said she would pay $1200/mo. Can I call the first party and say that there is a competing offer (and offer them the chance to match), or am I stuck with the original offer? Nothing has been signed. I am not trying to make a profit here– the mortgage is more than $1200. I am simply trying to minimize the bleeding in my monthly expenditures.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ian,

      I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know what the law says on this. However, if the offer has not been excepted yet, I believe you can rescind the offer. As with real estate sales, nothing is final until both parties have signed it.

      If I were you, I would tell the first party that a better offer as come in, and the previous offer is no longer on the table. I would still give them priority, but that the price as now gone up. This time, I would only give them a few hours to think about it and make sure they are aware of the deadline.

      If I didn’t hear back, I would start moving forward with the other tenant.

      Since a lease signing often takes a few more days, once one of them says “yes, I’ll take it”, you should say, “come drop off a deposit today, if you want me to take it off the market.”

      Price increases are always tricky because you risk losing both tenants during the negotiation. It’s possible that the first party will say “no thanks”, and then when you go back to the second party, you find out that they’ve moved on.

  • Danielle

    My husband and I have been renting a single family home for over a year now. We just extended our lease in May for another 12 months. When we first moved in, this house could have been considered uninhabitable. Animal feces were everywhere on the property, and all over the garage. A couple of days after moving in we started having a BIG ant and cockroach problem. They were taking over our house! The maintenance guy came out and sprayed here and there with stuff you can buy at Lowes, but that didn’t stop the infestations. Eventually the property management company sent out a professional who sprayed outside and inside of our house. This was just a year ago. Since we are back in the summer months I was afraid that the same thing was going to happen again this year. I called to see if we could have a preventative spray, only to be told that it wasn’t their problem, that if we have an issue we could take care of it ourselves. We woke up today, to almost the same infestation that we had last year. I have been told that there is a California State law that claims the landlord has to eliminate pests if the property is uninhabitable as a result of their presence? As a tenant, what are my rights when it comes to a situation like this? Thank you in advance for any help!

    • Lucas Hall


      Thanks for your questions. There are a couple of unknowns in your situation. Yes, the landlord is responsible for making the property habitable, however, not all pest situations create inhabitability.

      Further, now that you’ve been there for a year, the landlord could claim that it’s been pest free for a year, and that you must have done something to change that. However, you have a strong argument that the ants were already there, and they were never really eliminated.

      Check your lease to see what it says about pest control, and who is liable, and when.

      Unless the ants are overwhelming and not able to be killed by a professional pest control company, I doubt the county (or a judge) will allow you to declare the property inhabitable. More likely, a county official will tell you to call a pest control company. The real question is, who’s going to pay for it?

      If you and the landlord can’t agree to the responsibility of it, you’d have to settle it in court. But if the management team is playing hardball, my suggestion is to hire pest control yourself to exterminate the ant – which is the most important thing as this point.

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

  • Natalie osuna

    My boyfriends parents moved to Mexico in February 2014 for a job opportunity his dad was offered. We took over their mortgage & got a roommate to rent out a room, seeing that it is just him & I in a 5 br home & for the extra help temporarily. Well, his parents are now coming back in September & will be taking over their house. We had our tenant sign a lease for 12 months. What type of consequence are we potentially looking at seeing that we need to cut his lease short.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Natalie,

      Usually, you can’t terminate a lease unless the tenant is violating it somehow, or the lease allows for situations such as this. If the lease doesn’t say anything about terminating it because the the owners want to move back in, then you don’t really have a right to kick out the tenant. Some cities have other rules – such as San Francisco – which give landlord more rights. So, check with your county.

      Generally speaking, the only way to terminate a lease early without just cause is to get the tenant to leave voluntarily. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Perhaps he/she was wanting to move anyway. Other times, you have to offer the tenant some money, in order to buy them out. However, if you just try to terminate it, you could get in trouble with the law.

      For a definite answer, I suggest talking to a licensed attorney in your area, who will better be able to explain your rights.


      The 1st question is does your boyfriend have the legal authority to enter into a lease. There is a distinction between taking over the mortgage and taking over the property. IF not then this lease is void and you could be subject to disgorgement of the rents they paid you/boyfriend under the B & P Code.

  • Maria

    I gave my landlord a 30 days notice that I would not be renewing the lease, expected date to move is the 30th but my new place will not be ready until the 13th I asked landlord if I could stay an additional 13 days he said yes but I would have to pay a full months rent not a pro rated amount, is this legal of him I’m in Rancho Cucamonga, CA?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Maria,

      Your landlord is basically saying that he’s not interested in renting the place to you at a daily rate. His minimum lease term is 1 month, take it or leave it.

      I’m not a lawyer, nor do I live in California, however I’ve never seen a statute that prevents (or forces) a landlord to offer a daily rental. Landlords have the freedom to offer whatever type of lease they want.

      In my cities, paying for a full month of a rental will still be cheaper than paying for 13 days of a hotel. Consider your options carefully. Good luck!

  • Linda Rae

    We own a home in San Clemente with tenants on a month to month basis. We put the house up for sale and promptly gave the tenants 60-days notice to vacate. They found a new home and moved out earlier than the 60-day period without giving me their 30-days notice to leave, leaving prior to the completion of the 60-days period.
    Are they responsible for rent up to 30 days from when they notified me they were leaving? Or, are they responsible for rent thru the 60-days? Or were they ableto move at anytime within the 60-days without notice?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Linda,

      According to Civ. Code §§ 1946, either party is only required to give 30 days notice. So, as soon as they notified you that they were leaving, or you confirmed that they’ve officially moved out (whichever comes first), that’s when the clock would start – but not to exceed the 60 days that you gave them.

      If a landlord gives 60 days notice, and the next day, the tenants gave 30 days notice, then they would only be responsible for 30 days – since that is all that is required by law. The tenants wouldn’t have to pay rent after 30 days, unless they didn’t move out. Does that make sense?

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer nor should you consider this legal advice. Please double check with a local attorney to understand these statutes better.

  • Linda Rae

    I have a question regarding the home we are in process of purchasing here in California.
    We have an accepted offer and placed a good faith deposit of $10,000 which is now in escrow.
    We recently completed our buyers inspection and are attempting negotiating with the sellers on a few items. The difficulty we have is that we are not separately represented by an agent, we are going thru the listing agent only.
    When I first discussed with him what we wanted to ask for in our buyers credits addendum, he said that if he went to the sellers with that request, they would just put the house back on the market.
    I am confused.
    I thought once there is an accepted offer, the seller could not back out unless we didn’t meet the contingencies of the deal. I thought they could just say no, but not that they could pull out of the deal due to a request they didn’t want to meet.
    The tiem we wanted to modify was that they wanted to ‘rent back’ the house for 3 weeks for $1. We now are not comfortable with this and don’t want them to remain in as tenants, for free basically, for that long.
    What are your thoughts please.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Linda,

      Each Real estate sales contract is so unique. Typically you are right, if you have an inspection contingency, and find issues for them to fix or pay you, then you can backout if they don’t follow through. They can’t back out just because you’re asking for credits, if you contract allows for it.

      Rent back deals are even trickier, but they have no incentive to leave after settlement is complete. You eventually might have to go through eviction court to remove the. The rent back clauses are different from inspection contingencies, and you’d have to talk to a lawyer or a different agent to get better clarification.

      I hope that helps. Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer or agent, and this is not legal advice. I’m just a landlord who has bought a few houses in my time.

  • Nader

    Hi Lucas,
    I am a landlord and received an application from a tenant who had filed a Bankruptcy last year. Her income and her past year rental history is consistent.
    How do you rate a BK on a tenant’s credit worthiness? On one hand it shows that this person was financially irresponsible but on the other hand you know that she can not file BK for the next 6 years. Please let me know your thoughts about the BK and its ramifications.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Nader,

      I’ve never been in that situation so I might not be the best person to ask. I do know that people have lots of valid reasons for filing bankruptcy. Sometimes medical debt, divorce, or identity theft can all be events that someone can’t recovery from – at no fault of their own. So it would really depend on the type of debf and the situation for me to decide if I could trust them. The most important factor is “are they willing and able to pay rent”.

      Have you read my free guide on tenant screening? I think it will help you while you are in this phase.

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