California Rental Laws

Last updated on March 7, 2017 by

Join RHA.orgThis 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.

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 insufficient 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: For periodic tenancies only (example: month-to-month), 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.)

    Note: A landlord can only end a periodic tenancy when a property or unit is sold, and not a fixed-term tenancy that has not yet expired.

  • 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 once it is developed and approved. (Health & Safety Code §§ 26147 and Civ. Code §§ 1941.7)
  • 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)
  • Ordnances: Landlord must disclose the locations of former ordnances (weapons and artillery)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 14 days notice and proof of victim status. (Civ. Code §§ 1946.7(d)) 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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1,820 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jelena Evans

    We have lived in our apt for 8.5 years. The building had change of landlords, rents spiked over 100%. Now, our current 12 mos rent is ending and we need additional 3 mos. The management is using “holdover clause” which in the lease is hiding under the name of Lease Term/Month-to-Month Tenancy and states that after our lease expiration if we remain in the premises and do not sign a renewal, the lease will automatically renew on a month-to-month basis which will cost us XXXxxx.xx (which is 50% increase) as an absolute unchangeable rental increase that has been supposedly “negotiated” and there is nothing, absolutely nothing can be done about it. Is it possible? It makes no sense to me personally.

  • Karen

    HI; With all this stuff on this sk computer: when is rent due when it falls on weekend.???

  • Juanita martinezjuanit

    What renters parking? I have no parking available not even for guests, mefical

    • Ahu

      Not all rental properties have assigned parking especially apartment complexes. Many are first come, first park. Emergency and medical emergency vehicles can park wherever if they are responding to a call. Good luck.

  • Leo Valenzuela

    A manager’s daughter was paying rent using a former tenant’s name, we took her to court and got the apartment under stipulation, now she moved into her mom’s apartment, can she do this?

    • Mary

      No clear on what you are asking. Please provide more information.

      • Linda

        When according to CA civil code is it required to notify Landlord that tenant is renewing her conteact?????

        • Mary

          When a tenant vacates: It depends on what is says in your contract. Typically 30 days notice is required for a tenant to give a landlord before vacating.
          Renewing the lease: Again it depends on what your contract says. if it is a lease – say a 1 year lease, typically it automatically converts month to month and the end of the initial term.

  • Bruce P

    Could someone please help me out here? After 2.5 yrs of renting at our current location, and always paying our rent on time, I was given a 60 termination of lease notice in March 3rd. I guess I was being unreasonable in thinking 24 days should be long enough for the landlord from hell to repair the toilet leaking dirty water around its base and rendering it unusable. In addition, to an inside casita wall has been showing gross signs of water having leaked in from the roof from the heavy rains we sustained at the end of 2016. Having letter I sent notifying him just as the New Year begun and nearly a month went by without any responsonddldlx

    • Mary

      A landlord has a duty to provide you a sanitary place to live and a tenant has a duty to report leaks to have them repaired. If your landlord doesn’t repair health and safety problems, the tenant can repair and deduct.
      If you are on a month-to-month agreement, Your landlord can serve you a 60 day termination notice. If you are still in a lease, then your lease end date is valid unless you are violating the terms of the lease in some way the landlord can prove.

      • Bruce P

        Yes, I admit I did violate terms of lease, but with good cause I believe. Having just returned from hospital, the casita wasn’t habitable without a working toilet, so I’ve had to sleep on a pull out sofa bed. I also learned after the fact the law says that landlords are to be given a full 30 days to do repairs. I think exceptions should be allowed for that which justifies my 24 day wait. So the point here is that while I did violate the lease, I did send him the March rent balance in the form of bank check sent certified mail which his attorney received the very next day, so we do not owe him any past due rent. He’s just an ornery greedy old a*****e. Did I say that?? LOL

        • Mary

          Is there more than 1 restroom?

          • Bruce P

            Simple answer, aside from the toilet in the casita, my Mother has her own bathroom and there’s a guest bathroom. Less simple, I am HIV + and I need to be wary of hidden mold growing in the walls from the water damage. I am a Type II diabetic as well as a newly diagnosed cardiac patient. With these health conditions, I really don’t need all the undue stress the landlord subjects me to. Breathing molds with an impaired immune system and sleeping on a sofa bed rather than my own bed, why pay the full amount of rent? A similar situation arose last year upon my arriving home from the hospital. Damage caused by heavy rains didn’t get fixed until JULY and there were rats up in the attic. All I want to know is which lease end date prevails?

  • Bruce P

    Could someone please help me out here? For 2.5 yrs we rented our current location and always paid our rent on time. A toilet was leaking dirty water around its base rendering it unusable plus an inside casita wall was showing gross signs of water leaking in from the roof above due to heavy rains we sustained at 2016’s end. Two letters from early Jan and Feb 4th notified landlord of these two issues which went totally unheeded. I believed 24 days is sufficient time for a landlord to make good on his repairs so I prorated Feb’s daily rent and deducted it from March. Result? A 60 day notice received on 3/3 saying our lease will terminate on 5/2. M2M leases typically expire on last day of month. Does our rent obligation end on 4/30 or 5/2?

    • Bruce P

      Thanks for answering, Mary. As you can see, my first message was sent a bit prematurely, the second one is complete. I reported both issues to landlord on a timely basis. I included both letters in with monthly rent check so I know he got them both. I should note that leaky toilet and water damage wall issue were both located in the casita. I discovered toilet issue when I returned from hospital after having a mild heart attack. Landlord has been a cheap b*****d since day one. We started with a one year lease in 2014 and it’s been a month to month agrmnt since 2015. I read that M2M leases terminate at month’s end, but his 60 day notice says tenancy ends at 5pm, May 2nd. Which one wins, as I really don’t want to pay him 2 extra days

      • Mary

        Let’s start with the repairs after you rprovided more information. Because of the habitability issue and you notifying the landlord in writing, you are within your rights to repair the issue and deduct it from rent (providing receipts). It can’t cost more than a month’s rent and you can only do that once a year. His failure to provide you a sanitary and safe place to live can void the lease. You would be within your right to vacate.
        http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/repairs.shtml

      • Mary

        Now for the landlord’s notice. You are on a month-to-month agreement. You have been there more than one year – the landlord can serve you a 60-day notice to vacate. The date you are to vacate will depend on the day he served you notice. You would have been able to serve your landlord a 30 day notice to vacate, but it is too late for that.
        http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/moving-out.shtml

  • Devon Patrick

    My current apartment in Long Beach, CA does not have heat. I that legal? It currently gets as low as 50 degrees at night which make my apartment extremely cold. Can the landlord deny me heat?

  • Bruce P

    Hi Mary and thank you, I appreciate your logical and well informed responses. I think I need to tell you something else. On 10/31/2014, LL gave us a month to month rental agreement to sign. Upon reminding him we wanted a one year lease, LL crossed out the title “Month to Month Rental Agreement” and wrote in the words “One Year Lease.” I mention this because the “lease” was written specifically for M2M rentals and says nothing at all about what happens when the year comes to an end. OK, so I violated what appears to be a lease by withholding partial rent due to inhabitability issues. LL equally violated it by not making it inhabitable again on a timely basis. Does that still give the LL the upper hand in this matter? Continued…

  • Bruce P

    Update…I filled out a form requesting the LL to do an initial pre-move inspection and that he do it only while I am present. It’s my understanding that tenants in violation of their leases are prohibited from requesting pre-move out inspections, but since LL’s attorney was kind enough to furnish that form along with his March 3rd three day pay or quit and 60 day lease termination notifications, I completed the form and sent it back to the LL via Certified Mail along with our April rent check. Calif law says LL cannot do inspection more than 14 days before tenancy ends, and he must also give 48 hour notice if tenant is wanting to be there. What happens if the LL neglects to contact me in order to schedule this inspection? Thanks you!

  • Joanne

    On a 12 month lease and Don’t want to renew. It is low income which requires an annual recertification and the lease will convert to month to month. I am told if I don’t recertify I will be in breach of the lease..they are forcing me to renew and I would like to leave at end of lease at least feel like not being forced to extend it?

    • Mary

      Sounds like they are saying if you want to renew you must re-certify. Depending on what your lease says you should be able to submit your written 30-day notice to vacate.

      • Joanne

        They required me to recertify or they will be serving me with another notice to comply. Good part . I can give notice to vacate at any time or stay after end of lease term… weird!!! Thank you

  • Christina Cruces

    We are subleasing a room in CA the gentleman who we are subleasing from gave us a verbal notice to be out in 30 days if not he’s going to take further actions, we have no contract & been there over a yr & a half…What are my rights??? Is it 30 days , does it have to be in writing??

  • Diana Parra

    The property has been sold. My grandmother lived here, then my mother lived and died here now Ive been living here for almost 6 years my mother passed on 10-21-2015. . All together it’s 30 years. When my mother passed she was on section 8.
    The landlord knew I was going to stay here there was no rental agreement written only verbal. And I myself was not on section 8 so I payed the Full rent amount monthly. Now that she sold the property and she gave me a 60 day notice and the other tenant 90 days they have been here like 20 years and the other tenant is on section 8 . What are my rights? Can I get the same amount of time like the other tenants? Plus the property is not even in escrow yet. What can I do in los angeles california.

    • Mary

      If you have been there more than a year 60-day notice is sufficient. There could be different laws regarding Section 8 which could be why they got more time or they made special arrangements, or their contract was laid out differently. Always have a rental agreement in writing and always make sure you retain a copy.

  • Judith Uffens

    The place I have rented for the last 23 years on a month to month was just sold by my LL to her brother. I have yet to be contacted by her brother or his rep regarding rent. I was told on April 10 about this change & that it is effective on May 1. Will they be able to raise my rent on that date without a 30 or 60 day notice? Can they charge me a deposit. My former LL said she will be refunding me my last month & deposit as soon as I can prove I paid them unfortunately those receipts were among some of my papers that were destroyed when the roof leaked about 10 or so years ago. I have started looking for another place but will probably have to leave area due to fixed income. I just need to get an idea what my rights are.

    • Mary

      Your lease goes with the property when it is sold. You should receive written notification that your rent is to go to the new landlord. Since you are month to month the new landlord can increase your rent with sufficient written notice (amount of time depends on the increase) and can also increase your deposit. Your rental agreement should state how much deposit you provided and it should be transferred to the new owner.
      http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/catenant.pdf

      • Judith Uffens

        My original Landlady was the Mother & when she passed away my place went to the daughter who has informed me verbally that she sold out to her brother & that beginning next month rent should be made to him & that his daughter in law will be getting in touch with me. I have not received any type of written notice from either party the Daughter in law has not been in contact with me yet. I was told about this on the 9th or 10th & it is now the 24th…the 1st is only a week away can they raise the rent effective on the 1st?

  • Anthony

    My tenants had requested a premove out inspection and I was unable to do so.
    I now have to refund their security deposit and want to know if I can deduct cleaning /repairs. Even though I did not give them a chance to correct any repairs themselves? By not doing a final walk thru with them, did I wave my right to deduct?

  • Stephanie

    My lease is up in August and I’m currently in the process of purchasing a home. If everything goes well I should be able to move in to my new home by the end of June. I asked my LL what was the fee for breaking out of the lease early they stated I would have to pay $300 to break the lease and be responsible for the rent until someone else moves in. Can they charge fees and rent or does it have to be one or the other?

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