California Rental Laws

Written by on April 22, 2013

State Flag of CaliforniaThis article summarizes some key California rental 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: 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 $126. (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)
  • Payment Methods: Landlord must allow at least one form of payment that is neither cash nor electronic funds transfer, unless tenant has had an insuffienct funds payment, or stopped payment on a money order. Then the landlord can require payments to be paid in cash. (Civ. Code §§ 1947.3(1-2))
  • 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)
  • Application Fees: The maximum fee is adjusted each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index since January 1, 1998. In 2012, the maximum allowable fee is $44.51 (Civ. Code §§ 1950.6(b)). Use Cozy to avoid charging application fees because the tenant pays for the credit report directly.
  • 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). I recommend using Cozy to collect rent online to nearly eradicate late payments.
  • 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 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 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 a lease, increase rent, decrease services, cause a lessee to quit involuntarily, or bring an action to recover possession 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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1,264 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Cheryl

    My neighbor and I each rent a small home on ½ acre in rural Sonoma County. Our landlord listed the property for sale without giving us notice, but we allowed realtors to show the house with oral notification. Without notice from the landlord, the for sale sign came down, and a contractor (that both tenants knew) showed up to do renovations in order to secure a loan. The landlord has never notified or spoken to either of us about what is going on. Everything we have heard is through the contractor. We assume because the landlord is aware we know the contractor, that he wasn’t compelled to notify us. For four months we have endured the construction process, inside and outside – noise, mess, strangers working in our homes and using our toilets, inspectors, etc. During this time a PG&E employee found illegal electrical connections made years ago by the landlord, and took our meters leaving us without power and water. Mine was not returned for 12 days. Do I have a right to withhold rent?

    • Cort

      At the time, you definitely should have withheld rent, as water and power are the two “no nos” in CA tenant law. Your landlord is liable for that. In fact for that long without water and power, it’s so egregious you could probably even seek damages. Also, you are supposed to be given 24 hours notice each time someone showed up at your apartment without your knowledge, theoretically that’s a hit to your landlord for each time someone showed up without warning.
      You also have a right to what is called “quiet enjoyment” , and it doesn’t sound like you were getting that. CA tenant law is posted online via government website, you really need to check it out. In my experience, most landlords aren’t actually aware of the laws because they aren’t usually challenged. Filing a small claims case is only $80 and the landlord can’t retaliate becauseof it. What will help is if you have any kind of proof, even if it’s a witness or two. That will help maximize what you win. f

  • judi

    i am moving in 3 days & I’m under the gun & there are boxes everywhere. The landlord keeps bringing people over to show the place with only an hour or so of notice . He has not been accommodating which is the reason I am moving. Can I refuse to let him show my place until I have vacated?

    • Cort

      He’s supposed to give you 24 hours notice. To my knowledge you can’t refuse, but he’s supposed to give you 24 hours notice. To do under that he puts himself at risk for damages to you.

  • Mary Skipworth

    I need to know if there is a difference between a Termination of Lease & Eviction? We have gotten a Termination of Lease and are wondering how this will affect us trying to get into another home.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mary,

      Generally speaking, the termination of the lease is the date that the tenant is not legally allowed to occupy the property. The eviction date is the date that the police show up to remove the tenant who has lost the right to live there, but refuses to leave.

      A lease termination doesn’t go on your record. If you don’t leave by the date in the termination notice (assuming it is a lawful termination), then the landlord will file an eviction case in court. That judgement will go on your record, and will likely make it difficult to rent elsewhere.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Ventura Manzanares

    I’m 62, on social security. What percentage of my income can a landlord charge for rent?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ventura,

      I’m not really sure. It probably depends on your local laws and the type of housing you are in. Generally speaking, the price of a unit depends on it’s qualities rather than the tenant who lives there. If you are in a rent control area, it still doesn’t matter what your age is, but rather, they track the rent increases regardless of who lives there. But it’s possible that you are participating in some sort of subsidy program – which I know very little about.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t be more help. Have you considered talking to a free or discounted legal provider.

  • Steph

    After 13 years my landlord gave us notice that they decided to sell the property we were renting. We had a good relationship throughout the years, I was surprised when I only received $250 of my $1650 security deposit back. The owners don’t live in the area & they had their Real Estate agent do the walk through. There was no indication that there were any problems or areas of concern after the walk through. There was an 3×5 area of the laminate floor that was slightly warped, we do not know when or how this happened. The area that was warped was in the corner of the room, where there was only a lamp and a decorative stand that held blankets, in other words not an area we walked in or would notice the warping. The laminate is the type that is glued together so a piece or area cannot be replaced, they deducted 1/2 of the cost of the replacement flooring from our security deposit. The flooring was original to the home and is 19 years old. We do not feel this is reasonable, any advice?

    • Sythnia Moore

      If I’m correct you may be owed money back I would request the original invoice for the flooring and remind the real estate company that you would like proof of a warranty on the flooring because they can only charge you a prorated amount: for example let say on your 11th year they put the flooring in and it has a 10 year warranty and they paid 3000 well they can prorate the amount and charge you for the damage but since you been in that unit for 13 years I doubt that there is any warranty left the flooring and it doesn’t warrant them taking $1400. I would take them to court if they do not return the remainder of deposit.

      Disclaimer: Please note this is my personal opinion and no way shape or form am I providing legal advice nor am I a Attorney; please contact a Attorney for advice.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Steph,

      Thanks for the question. It’s great to meet you.

      Yes, I have an opinion. I don’t think you should have paid for ANY of the laminate flooring if it was 19 years old. I suppose it depends on the quality of the flooring.

      Generally speaking, a landlord is only allowed to charge for the years of expected life that were stolen from the flooring by the misuse of the tenant. A tenant is never responsible for normal wear and tear. High-quality laminate will last 15-30 years. Low quality flooring will last 5-10 years.

      In the best case scenario, lets say this flooring has a expected life of 30 years. After 19 years, the landlord has gotten 2/3s of it’s life out of it. If it was worn beyond repair, then you essentially stole 11 years of life from the landlord. Therefore, you’d have to compensate him for those 11 years. Essentially, you’d have to pay for 1/3 of the cost of the new (similar) flooring.

      However, if the flooring only had an expected life of 15 years, and it was 19 years old, then you wouldn’t be responsible for any of the cost. Does that make sense?

      I did a related podcast episode on similar carpet issues: http://www.landlordology.com/ask-lucas/010-carpet-damage/

      If I were in your shoes, I’d probably push back a little harder – claiming that the laminate had used up it’s useful life, and that I refuse to pay for the replacement. Then, you just have to decide how far you want to take it. Is it worth going to small claims over?

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Terry A.

    Hi Lucas,
    I haven’t written to you in a while. However, I noticed new comments stopped coming in on my e-mail on a daily basis. Does the subscription only work for a certain amount of time? I’m writing hoping I’ll continue to receive comments as they come in. Love your blog and have learned a lot from your advice.
    Thank you.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Terry!

      Great to hear from you again. I’m showing that you are still subscribed to this thread. We had a hiccup for a few weeks where we tried a different email system for notifications, but that’s been resolved.

      Can you check your spam or promotions folders in your email account? Perhaps the notifications are going there.

      Cheers!

  • Nancy Hernandez

    The keys were left with the “pathological liar” landlord. I received a call this morning and am told that they are going to rekey the entrance doors because the keys were never given to the landlord. I told them yes they were after you inspected the apartment he locked the main screen door. I was then told oh that is because he had that key but not the door key. I said he is a liar, lazy, never did anything he was required to do and okay rekey the main door, but he has the keys to the sceen door, and the main door because we gave him the keys. If he has the screen door why does he not have the main door? Anyway, what should I do?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Nancy,

      Whenever there is a monetary dispute, the only way to force the hand of a liar is to go to small claims court and win your case. Although you have to prove that you gave him the keys. He sounds like quite a character.

  • Laura

    My landlord is selling the building where I rent one of the 2 duplexes. It’s in a rent control area of Los Angeles. I’ve been there for over 10 years and I’m on a month to month lease. I share the place with a 64 years old friend who is not in the lease Knut has lived here for 3 or 4 years.
    What are our rights? Can we get relocation assistance? If so, how much should we get? And do we need an attorney ? The real estate agent who told us about the building is being put up for sale, said ” it would be better to show it empty”, but never mentioned any compensation. Can you help us?
    Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Laura

      I’m not really sure. The relocation assistance program is very specific and you may qualify – but I don’t know enough about it to say one way or the other. I suggest doing some research on the program, and then contacting a free/discounted legal aid provider.

      Here’s a useful site I found: http://www.hrc-la.org/doc.asp?id=36

      • Mary Rimachi

        YOU and any other tenant is entitled to up to $17K per household not person from the owner or new owner. And this must be paid b4 you vacate, IF YOU VACATE you will not be eligible do do not leave the unit and if they threaten to evict you let them and when you go to court the court will tell them the same as you are under the protections of the LARSO. ALSO, you need to contact the LAHD first and file a complaint with them and they will notify owners of your rights. After you file a complaint they are prohibited by law from Evicting you for 12 months under state law until the matter is resolved or if you are evicted for cause. ANY NO CAUSE EVICTION IN LOS ANGELES UNDER THE LARSO REQUIRES RELOCATION ASSISTANCE, PERIOD. DO NOT VACATE THE UNIT AS THEY MUST PAY YOU THE $$$ B4 YOU VACATE OTHERWISE THEY ARE PROHIBITED BY LAW FROM EVICTING YOU. WELCOME TO THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES.

  • Cecilia

    I am seeking housing in Fontana CA I recently apply at a mobile home place in Ontario and charged us $10 for each person over the age of 18 in my family which was only my husband and myself … The lady then said she had 4 applications sitting there to check the credit to see if they qualified I know I have good credit my questions is isn’t supposed to be an application at a time or is it legal to collect various applications and money for credit check at once I thought it was an application at a time can I do something about it ?

  • Linda Marshall

    Tenant is not in possession of the premises due to the condo not move-in ready! Landlord has repaired most of the issues but as of yesterday, May 4th still lacking a hole in the wall, removal of former tenant’s patio furniture, bathroom cabinet door broken off at hinge! Landlord mentioned to daughter looking her up on her Facebook page after she has been approved for rental! Flirting, making comments! If Landlord has not repaired items mentioned above is this enough grounds to terminate lease agreement? Landlord said May 3rd, 2015 condo is ready to move-in!
    Lease Agreement states if Landlord unable to deliver possession within 5 calendar days, tenant may terminate this Agreement. My daughter is not comfortable moving in & having to deal with this Landlord for 12 months! She’s been emailing since the comments were made! What should we do?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Linda,

      It’s important to distinguish minor repairs from those that affect habitability. In my opinion, none of the items you mentioned would prevent someone from living in the unit. Yes, they all need to get fixed, but it’s not like the unit is without water, or doesn’t have electricity.

      My point is that the items you mentioned wouldn’t actually prevent the tenant from moving in. I know it’s not as flawless as you would like, but it doesn’t prevent someone from living there. The place is still habitable, and your daughter may just have to put up with the landlord making these repairs for the next week.

      Look at it this way, if you abandon the lease, and the landlord takes you to court – how are you going to validate that the unit was “uninhabitable”? If you list these items, the judge will likely dismiss your case, make you pay for all the rent and the landlord’s legal fees.

      My non-legal suggestion is to move-in, document these issues on the move-in inspection sheet, take lots of pictures, and then ask the landlord to make the repairs ASAP.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • SoCAL

    My tenant has sold some of the furniture that came with the rental and used it for his rent. It is MY furniture to begin with.

    How do I even start to address this?

    • Synthia Moore

      Hi Socal,
      I hope you have a inventory list of the items that were in the unit prior to his move in, pictures and proof of purchase; because this could easily turn into he said she said when it comes to proving who owns the furniture in the unit (especially since your tenant was shady to sell the furniture in the first place). I would give your tenant a notice to inspect the unit and than take another inventory of the items that came with the unit and than give him a notice of demand to compensate you back for any missing items in the unit( unfortunately you will only be able to charge him fmv what the items would currently be worth). I would hope he complies with your request and than I would send him packing and for future residents I would put a disclaimer in that all items in the unit are your sole property and are not to be removed from the unit.

      Disclaimer: Please note this is my personal opinion nor am I a Attorney; please contact a Attorney for Legal advice

      • SoCAL

        Yes, thank you. I have pictures of everything and it is spelled out in the agreement as well.

        We have actually listed the house this week and are just going to be done with it (hopefully) but if it does not sell, we have a property management company to take over since this is just makes me too angry to deal with thieves and liars.

        The really sad thing, they were friends of ours for over a decade and needed a house to rent. No good deed goes unpunished right?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi SoCal

      So basically, the tenant stole your stuff.

      If that happened to me, I’d charge him for the missing items (assign fair market value), and if he refused to pay for it, then I would withhold the debt from his security deposit after he moves out, and send him an invoice for the difference. If he still didn’t pay it, then I’d take him to small claims court for the debt.

      • SoCAL

        Thank you.

        The amount of the furniture exceeds his security deposit so I am pretty sure I will end up taking him to small claims court. There is a list of what is mine and I do have pictures.

        The kicker is he probably paid his rent with it.

  • Vikki

    Hi Lucas,
    I have looked through most of the state booklets on issues regarding tenant deposits. I am a landlord where the tenant moved out, and the expenses to clean and fix what was the tenant responsibility exceeded their deposit. I itemized all, with receipts, and attempted to send it certified mail, but the forwarding PO Box information the one tenant gave was incorrect, according to the Postmaster. I sent anyways, as well as via e-mail.

    As you know, Landlords have 21 days to get the report and/or deposit back to the tenant. But I cannot find anywhere how long a tenant has once they receive the itemization, to pay the Landlord if additional monies are owed to clean or fix the property. The one tenant corresponding does not give a reason for a wrong address, and says she will look at the report at her convenience. I wish I had that same luxury when fixing my home. How long does she have to pay me what is owed? She has yet to dispute my itemization. Thank you!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Vikki

      That’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you. I’ve not seen a statute that sets a specific amount of time for the tenant to pay a debt.

      At some point, I think you should give them a deadline. Perhaps 30 or 60 days, and let the tenant know of the consequences for not paying. Then if they miss the deadline, file a small claims case against them. After you win the judgement, you can send it to collections, or attempt a wage garnishment.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

  • Valerie

    Hi Lucas,
    I landlord deducted for carpet cleaning from my security deposit. I told her that it was as clean as when I got it. I lived there for 5 months, we took off our shoes. I let landlord know that she cannot deduct for normal wear and tear of carpet.
    she replied and said that it was listed in rental agreement, that I shall have carpet professionally cleaned before I move out to leave in same condition it was in when I received apartment. can they include carpet cleaning fee in rental agreement? Normal wear and tear? I didn’t damage carpet or stain it. it was perfect condition.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Valerie

      Yes, they can include carpet cleaning as a tenant responsibility. If the tenant doesn’t do it, they can perform the job, and deduct the cleaning from the deposit.

      Carpet cleaning falls under the “cleaning” category, rather than normal wear and tear. A landlord can force a tenant to clean before moving-out.

      Normal wear and tear for a carpet is some padding down in higher traffic areas, and even some minor discoloration. But no matter how many times you vacuum the carpet, it won’t clean it to the condition it was when you moved in. Only a professional carpet cleaning tool will do that.

      Does that make sense?

      • Valerie

        Thank you for your quick reply. Yes, thank you it does make sense. It just feels like I’m cleaning it for the next tenant instead of the landlord paying for it. Cost falls on us renters instead of the business.
        Just wanted to know if that was something they can deduct.
        I appreciate your help.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi again,

          In a perfect world, it would have been professionally cleaned before you moved-in and therefore you’re just restoring it to the move-in condition. But we all still have to honor the lease.

          If you want, you could still ignore it, and just wait to see if they withhold the money – but that’s your call to make.

  • Sue Hernandez

    Hello, and thank you for your help.
    Here’s our situation…
    My parents rented to a couple, and the man of the couple has been put in jail for drug charges. We don’t know specifics. She is on the lease, he’s not. They are behind in rent. They have children. We’ve been told there could be some sort of liability on our part, if there are drugs in the residence. Is that the case? If so, do we need to begin eviction action while he is still in jail? How does that work? What are our responsibilities/liabilities? If we begin eviction one way or the other, How do we best proceed?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sue,

      I’m not sure what sort of liability could fall on you. I guess it would depend on the situation, and if anyone was hurt. But they were the druggies, not you.

      It sounds like you could terminate their lease for two things: nonpayment of rent, and illegal activity. Either way, you’d need to give a 3 day notice to remedy or quit. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2-4)) http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=ccp&group=01001-02000&file=1159-1179a

      You’d have to talk to your local courthouse or a local attorney to get the specifics on the eviction process in your county, but here is the high-level overview: http://www.landlordology.com/tenant-eviction/

      I hope that helps. Good luck to you. Please know that I’m not an attorney, nor is this legal advice.

      • Mary Rimachi

        UNLESS YOU ALLOWED THEM TO USE YOUR PROPERTY TO SELL DRUGS/DO DRUGS YOU HAVE NO EXPOSURE TO ANY CRIMINAL LIABILITY. As 4 THE EVICTION ISSUES: If they do not pay rent give them a 3 day notice to pay or quit. MAKE SURE YOU CONSULT WITH A LEGAL CLINIC OR LAWYER as this must be done correctly. Make sure you put the right of amount for rent owed and if you do not how to calculate this ALWAYS GO UNDER WHAT YOU THINK THEY OWE NOT OVER.
        Make sure you personally serve the notice and post the notice and mail the notice w/certified receipt. IF NO RENT IS PRESENTED, FILE AN UNLAWFUL DETAINER ACTION OR HIRE A LANDLORD TENANT LAWYER TO DO IT FOR YOU. BEST

  • Will F

    My tenant notified me that a sliding glass door in my rental property spontaneously shattered.

    He claims he was home and heard it but did not have anything to do with the breaking of the door. Not 5 minutes before we were discussing a broken dishwasher that they had broken due to large food clogging up the pump. I told him they were responsible for the dishwasher repair and he threatened to retain an attorney. I told him to have them contact me as I had done nothing wrong.

    The timing of the door breaking and him being mad at me seems to be very strange. Is my tenant responsible for the glass breakage and can I make him pay immediately to get it repaired?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Will

      I would think that you’d have to determine the cause of the problem. If a large bird flew into it, it’s possible that it could break, however, you’d probably find a dead bird with a broken neck. Doors don’t just break on their own. However, if the door is old, it’s possible that it shattered under normal use. If that was the case, then you can’t really hold him responsible if he was operating it normally.

      But if he said that he was in the other room and it just shattered, then he’s probably lying. I have no idea a lawyer would say, but if I were his landlord, I’d probably just get it fixed, and then withhold it from his deposit if he refused to pay for it. But be carefully about telling him your plan while he’s still living there – as he might break something else to get back at you.

      Be sure to get it fixed ASAP, regardless of who pays for it. It’s a security issue now, and you don’t want to be held liable for a break-in/robbery etc.

      Further, you could probably terminate his lease for destruction of property. But before you do, I’d probably consult a lawyer, and have him/her send the notice letter.

      • Will F

        Hi Lucas,
        Thanks for the reply and I agree with you on the breakage issues. The door is 7 years old and was made with double pane extra thick glass for sound proofing I spent close to 2k with installation.
        I called the window manufacturer and they said there was no reports of this glass spontaneously shattering and that the warranty would not cover it.
        There are 5 tenants on the lease sharing the house and he was the only one home at the time and as I said before was very upset with me 5 minutes earlier. Should I tell them the cost will be deducted from all of them since the one tenant who was home denies doing anything?

        thanks

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Will

          If you have a single lease, with 5 tenants on it, then it doesn’t matter who broke it. That’s for them to figure out among themselves. If you have a single lease, then they have joint and several liability, and your only concern is to charge the bill to the lease.

          Meaning, you could withhold from the entire deposit, not just 1/5th of it. As a landlord with a single lease, you need to view all the tenants as a single entity, not separate ones.

          Here’s an article I wrote on J&SL: http://www.landlordology.com/what-is-joint-and-several-liability/

          Again, I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. I’m just an experienced landlord, trying to help.

          • Will F

            Great article thanks for the help
            I do have one other issue the lease clearly states no smoking on the property but my tenants continue to smoke even though they said they were not smokers before signing the lease. I have sent them notices about no smoking on the property but they continue to do it anyway saying they don’t smoke in the house so they are not hurting anything. I have found ashes, cigarette butts and homemade ashtrays in the house on multiple occasions when performing maintenance. They are leaving in 2 weeks and I believe I will need to repaint and possibly replace some furniture as the house is furnished and I know how furniture soaks up cigarette smells. How do I prove I need to repaint and use the deposit to take care of it. The paint is less than 6 months old.

          • Lucas Hall

            Hi Will

            If I were in your shoes, I’d go over there with proper notice and try to take some pictures of the evidence. In the end, I’d proceed with the repainting and cleaning or replacement of some furniture at their expense. The repairs need to happen regardless of who pays for them. I’d send them an itemized list of damages and costs associated with it. Id even threaten to sue them for the excess damage over their deposit.

            If they take me to small claims court over the deposit, then I’d use the pictures to prove my case. In this situation, I would take the stance that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission to withhold the deposit. After all, they did smoke inside and on the premise. They would have to lie under oath to say otherwise.

            Anyways, that’s just what I would do. It’s not legal advice. Also, check your lease to make sure it says “no smoking on the premise or in the Dwelling”. That way, they aren’t allow to smoke on the property at all. If you just lost the dwelling, then they aren’t violating the lease by smoking outside.

  • MH

    We have a situation needing some guidance. My mother owns her home. The home has been rented with a two year lease due to terminate in March 2016. My mother is in poor health and requires 24-hour health care providers. Due to the expense of her care, we may need to sell her home. What are her rights as the landlord? As an additional piece of information, the tenants have expressed an interest in buying. They have also been delinquent paying rent the past few months. Does selling the home equal breaking the lease and can there be legal/financial consequences to my mother? I’ve read that the tenant can be offered to purchase the house. If they don’t and the house sells, the lease would remain in effect with new owners. Is that correct? I’ve also read that there are strict guidelines about giving notice to tenants about showing, entering the premises. Thanks for your help.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi MH

      I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s health.

      Generally speaking, the sale of a home doesn’t affect a fixed-term lease. Some cities in California, such as LA and SF have local laws on this, but at a state-level, the lease is just transferred to the new owner. The new owner becomes the new landlord, and the tenancy is uninterrupted.

      The tenants are still responsible for rent when due. Selling the house doesn’t prevent your mother (or her estate) from suing them for back-due rent after the house is sold. However, if I were their landlord, I would have terminated their lease when they first became delinquent. If I decided to sell the house to them, I’d force them to pay me all the overdue rent as part of the settlement agreement.

      Giving proper notice before entering is always required. It’s 24 hours notice in CA.

      I suggest reading the section called “Notices” in the article above: http://www.landlordology.com/california-landlord-tenant-laws/#notice

      Here’s a podcast I did on the topic: http://www.landlordology.com/ask-lucas/006-lease-termination-at-sale-of-property/

      I hope that helps, please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice. Good luck with your situation!

  • unkown

    we been living in a duplex compound for more than 15 years the contract in under my mom name but she had to leave the country for some personal problem in her country .the the landlord just told us the she lost all the right to the house even tho me an my step dad been paying the rent on time.to they have the right to do that any help would help a lot thanks .

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi there,

      I don’t see how she would lose the right to the house if the rent is paid on time. It sounds like your landlord is trying to find a reason to kick you out, which is not okay if you’ve paid rent on time.

      If your landlord keeps pressing the issues, I suggest that you get help from a lawyer ASAP. If you can’t afford an attorney, try contacting your local legal aid service provider.

      Try googling “YOUR CITY/COUNTY LEGAL AID HELP”.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

    • Mary Rimachi

      WHAT CITY ARE YOU IN? In general, what your LL is doing is unlawful. In order for any LL to evict you the LL must first have a cause to do so and then serve a 3 day notice to cure or quit. If it is for no cause the LL must serve on you a 60 day notice to vacate. If your city is under rent control then the LL must pay you relocation costs for NO CAUSE EVICTIONS. IF you are elderly or disabled then this would activate other protections you have under the law. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THE LL MUST SERVE YOU NOTICE IN EITHER CASE. THE contract does not matter as you are for all legal purposes sub tenants and 15 years of that established beyond a doubt you are.
      IF the LL tries to give you a 3 day notice to vmove do not go but make him take you court, and the judge willl determine your rights, which under CaLIF. LAW ALLOW YOU TO REMAIN IN possession AS LONG AS YOU PAY THE RENT. AS LUCAS SUGGESTED, GO TO FREE LEGAL CLINIC TO GET LEGAL AID. BEST

  • erika

    My husband and I gave a 1500.00 deposit to our friends for the home they had been renting. Since the owner lives in Florida and they were moving to Oregon, The owner put them in charge of finding a renter. Everything was approved by homeowner and we attempted to move in- I say “attempted” because the house was in uninhabitable condition. The carpet was soiled with cat urine, pool was basically a pond and it was so filthy it took a crew of 5 , 4 days to get it acceptable. We notified homeowner immmediately of the conditions and agreed that she would have carpet replaced and she would deduct cost of expenses from rent. After all was said and done, we had a pest control guy come to spray the outside due to huge water bugs and he must have disturbed a termite nest because the house was literally swarming with them! After notifying owner of termites she said she no longer wanted to rent to us, did an illegal lockout and now is selling house- what are my rights?? Please help

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Erika,

      Generally speaking, a landlord is never allowed to lock-out a tenant. Hopefully, you have a written lease so you have proof of the tenancy. It also sounds like you fronted the money for all the repairs, which the landlord is now going to use to sell the house.

      The bottom line is that a landlord can’t terminate a tenancy without just cause. However, if you only have a month-to-month tenancy, then the landlord could terminate it with 30 days notice for any reason at all. Even if the landlord is terminating it with good reason, the landlord should still reimburse you for the repairs.

      I’d suggest talking to a lawyer immediately. Civ. Code §§ 789.3b(1), talks about the consequences of a self-help eviction (lock-out) and says:

      Any landlord who violates this section shall be liable to the tenant in a civil action for all of the following:
      (1) Actual damages of the tenant.
      (2) An amount not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) for each day or part thereof the landlord remains in violation of this section. In determining the amount of such award, the court shall consider proof of such matters as justice may require; however, in no event shall less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) be awarded for each separate cause of action. Subsequent or repeated violations, which are not committed contemporaneously with the initial violation, shall be treated as separate causes of action and shall be subject to a separate award of damages.

      Source: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=civ&group=00001-01000&file=789-793

      If you get help from a lawyer, you might be able to sue the landlord for multiple thousands of dollars and retain the right to stay at the house. Further, please know that a sale of a property doesn’t normally cancel a lease. In most situations, the new owner simply becomes the new landlord, and the tenant is allowed to finish out the lease.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice.

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