California Rental Laws

Last updated on December 7, 2016 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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1,713 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Matt

    Hi,

    POWER ISSUES: We have had multiple appliances/extension cords melt in the last week and the landlord is pushing blame onto us stating we use too much power (not the case, we are broke and unplug everything not in use, are not running anywhere close to “too much”). He provided extension cord as a solution and said to run off of a different outlet and that he would bring an electrician in to check “when he can” but refuses to provide a timeline. I am concerned, we have 4 occupants (2 are children) and fear for a fire. The house has no central heat/space heaters are only option to combat heat (without, house usually is same temp inside as outside due to being old/leaky). Do I call a city inspector to evaluate if up to code? Whats next?

  • Christina peck

    My landlord died in may, I’ve rented the house behind his for 5 years and he also rented a room out in his home. Well the siblings sold home, served all with 60 day termination of tenancy, the roommate got a 3 day woo and now are attempting to force him out. Don’t they need a U D signed by Judge in their favor?

    • Christina

      Nobody wants to touch this one, huh? Does the fact that the property is being passed along, on the under mind you, without ever involving probate laws when owner died, 30 YEARS AGO, then his son died 25 years ago, bringing us to today where in May 2016HIS son dies. THERE HAS GOT TO BE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE DONE when these things happen. There must be a way to undue it and hold the SCAMMERS accountable for their intent and actions. THEY ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW! or are they?

      • Ahu

        Maybe you should contact an attorney for definitive advice rather than getting angry at a forum of those who don’t have the answers you are seeking. Not every question asked here can be answered fully and held up in court as we are not practicing attorneys.

      • Mary

        Christina – Are you in a lease or month to month? If you are month to month then a 60-day notice to vacate is sufficient. If you are still in a lease, then that is another story.

  • D

    REDDINGCalifornia
    Forced leave domestic violence. sell contract with inheretancegifting in trust .He no entitlement. dealing destroying property. Noutilities occupents poop in buckets.He’s violent 6’5nieghbors scared.Sublette rooms .smoking pot@cigarettes burn candles I am owner. Tring force elderly Title holders to add his name contract for utilities.traffic drugsNuisance to nieghbors He filed for divorce put own hold can I just go barge back in reclaim my home then evict him own behalf of Title holders @myself. Kicking flop people. Out.Lienholder spent fortune own evictions. withholding his rent electricity comp want connect he’s own no contract.I’m trying to save Lienholder money. They ausome people. DON’T WANT THEM SUFFER.

    • Smantha noling

      Unfortunately, you can not evict an individual/anyone without getting an unlawful detainer; you should contact an attorney or legal aid society who might be able to direct you legally to getting these people out. If you force your way in and evict them they could possibly turn around and sue you for unlawful evictions also please have a sheriff or some law enforcement serve them. Also check your state laws on land lord and tenant laws. Good luck and I hope your able to get them out.

      • Ahu

        Can the police be called in for elder abuse and have him removed?

      • De

        Thankyou.It’s my husband thier he’s reminding me if I don’t force them Eldery lendors to add him because we’re married. He has divorce filed but dropped it so it’s pending. He thinks that will make a difference.House is inheritance in trust but he thinks because they gifted all but balance and the way agreement reads I make payments till demise. Why couldn’t I just go Turn utilities own file responce asking for poccession so he’d just have to leave.without added time @exspense. It’s him who is claiming both ours were married.

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  • Christine

    Since the waterapearedat 3am at my room walk ceiling I believe a pipe has burst and as my bed is wet a wal of water driedup and now has leaked to my property I have no idea at what point to evacuate I have covers my ruined mattress told manager. Gave notice and was asleep to blanket shock reaching. Me awake and reporting to what point is all this get me help . I’m tired alone. And cold from a leak wTerfrom roof I said fix this or I fix in 24 and in the !morning. A plumber is coming I a! Wet my stuff is 60% gotten ruined and stained its raimning I want help lnow90033 I have no person to reach now at what point does HUD help how do the get my. Relocation plan t. How long do I request and repair where do I go before my ceiling and lead is LA

  • Rengin

    My tenants have rented my place 5 years ago. They used to share the rent, each of them would deposit half of it to my account. I have a lease agreement in both names. One of them didn’t pay his portion for 7 months, the other one paid her half. They moved out last February, I have e-mailed to both of them to pay what they owe, but they never even replied. It’s been 10 months since they’ve left, can I still sue them in Small Claims?

    • Mary

      Sure you can – be prepared to show proof, have the lease agreement etc.
      You can also report the debt to the credit reporting agencies.

  • Rengin

    My tenants have rented my place 5 years ago, in ORange County CA. They used to share the rent, each of them would deposit half of it to my account. I have a lease agreement in both names. One of them didn’t pay his portion for 7 months, the other one paid her half. They moved out last February, I have e-mailed to both of them to pay what they owe, but they never even replied. It’s been 10 months since they’ve left, can I still sue them in Small Claims?

  • JUDY

    I HAVE A CONTRACT THAT STATES LEASE WILL TERMINATE ON December 31, mUST I MOVE OUT BY THAT DAY OR CAN I GO ON TO jAN 1 WITHOUT PAYMENT OF THE NEXT DAY IF I AM GONE BY 1200?

    • Mary

      You should ask your landlord. Read your lease carefully. If you contract specifically says your lease ends on the 31st and does not roll over to a month-to-month agreement (many leases convert to a month-to-month) then you would need to be out the 31st. Is there a time on the contract?

  • christine

    my landlord has a managment company that uses tactics because if the status bordinghouse transient status.. basically all rules dont apply major delapitation reduction of services and cobditions of standard public health . the bathtoomd ate not cleaned once a week for 9 months and i share a restrokm with people who have aids apparently .. i am also told by other tenants how they pay 150-500 and i pau 700f the ad mislead me . i reported to housing authority and so did ,otherx before they leave after having no results . the buiding is rewarding the persons who pay less by not complaining i m the only person who has a complaint . the buiding has shared bathrooms with mold and no heat its so cold yiu cant shave u would cut

  • Catherine

    Live in UK, rent house in CA.Term of Lease agreement was for YEARS commencing 1 June 2013.Wanted to raise rent 10% following year as paying water bill No response until they verbally communicated to a contact of mine.Plan to continue mth to mth Never received new lease agreement from this contact & never got extra $100 & communication stopped. I let it go due to distance Now I have asked a realtor to inspect house/get valuation. I have emailed and got him to hand deliver letter asking to arrange inspection No response X1wk Decide now to sell house. If no new agreement?should original yearly one be used(with no termination date) Can eviction process start now cos ignoring inspection request or 60 days before 1st June cos now going to sell?

  • Michael W

    I rent a 1 bedroom apartment in San Pedro, CA. There are 2 thermostats in the apartment and both look to be fairly new, there’s no weathering of the plastic or discoloration. We moved in during the spring and understood that there is no AC, but during this winter we turned the heat on only to find that there isn’t any heat, the thermostats are not connected to anything. We spoke to the other single bedroom unit and found their apartment has always been in that condition.

    What is the law regarding landlords providing apartments with heat in LA? I know it’s pretty warm but there are a few weeks that heat is needed.

  • Steve Gold

    Question: As a tenant renting a private bedroom with a private bath in a rented Southern California home at $1050 monthly…since 10/15…(which is rented by my landlady) responsible to pay for any carpet cleaning (where there are no stains) in my bedroom before i move out?

    Thanx,
    Steve

    • Mary

      Was it freshly cleaned prior to move in? You are expected to leave it as clean or cleaner than move in. Is it in your contract to have it cleaned?

      • Steve Gold

        My room was cleaned prior to my moving in. And, no. It is NOT in my contract. I live with a harassing bully….

        Steve

        • Ahu

          If it was cleaned before you moved in then it needs to be cleaned when you move out, even if there are no stains. Doesn’t mean the carpet is clean just because there are no apparent stains. You are maintaining the carpet from future wear and tear and staining.

        • Mary

          Sorry to hear you live with a harassing bully! If it was cleaned prior to move in, you should have it cleaned. Was there a move in/move out checklist done when you moved in?

          • Steve Gold

            No, there was no check list. My carpet is not dirty. I agree it could be cleaned. But shouldn’t it be cleaned on my move out day? And shouldn’t the fee for this cleaning be deducted from my deposit after I move out? Or am I responsible to pay this woman $50 to clean my carpet now?

            • Mary

              You shouldn’t have to clean it until you move out. You could probably let her take it from your deposit. Especially if it doesn’t specify in your lease agreement or a verbal agreement.

              • Steve Gold

                Thanks very much! As i said, for 14 months now I’ve been paying $1030 monthly for a beautiful bedroom w/private bath. But, the African American Spiritual Advisor (!!!!!?????) i rent from (& SHE rents this house) is a harassing, verbally abusive and verges on the brink of violence in retaliation for ANYTHING I say, especially if it’s challenging her. I plan on giving notice any day. Aside from her violently threatening me to give me a 30 day notice 3 nights ago for asking her nicely to try and keep the laughing, screaming and yelling going on between her and one of her poor clients (all of it was recorded). If i tell her to deduct it from my $800 deposit, she’ll act the same way. I don’t need a 2nd heart attack….

  • Steve Gold

    And…on a month to month lease can i give a 30 day notice anytime…? Or must it be the 1st of any month? Because I’m living in a very hostile and life threatening environment and I’d like to give notice on January 10th…

    • Mary

      As long as you are month-to-month and pay rent monthly You can give 30 notice anytime. If you give notice Jan 10 you are responsible for rent through feb 10. Proration is typically done as a 30 day month. Be sure to put your notice in writing with the day and keep a copy for yourself.
      http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/moving-out.shtml
      Your landlord will have 21 days to process your deposit and must itemize and provide receipts for deductions.
      http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/sec-deposit.shtml
      When you rent again be sure to complete a move in/move out checklist upon move in and take pictures. This will protect you and your deposit.

      • Gabby lizarraga

        Ok I want to move out cuz I don’t have privacy and some of my belongings is missing the landlord goes to my room to go to the patio to go to smoke and I don’t have privacy and I can’t have no visitors of my family to see me and when I’m not home he goes to my room can I give him a letter to prorate the rent I’m not comfortable living here

  • Maryhelen

    I have lived in my duplex for 3 years now…my landlord tells me he’s raising the rent and also i need to pay more for my security deposit. I thought he cannot raise my security deposit I understand the rent….anyone know if he can or can’t?

    • Mary

      Did you sign a year lease or a month-to-month? Does the lease prohibit security deposit increases? How much deposit have you already put down and what is the rent?

  • Steve Gold

    Mary…my landlady is scheduling a carpet cleaning for her house and in my room…despite the fact that it does not need it until i move out and i told her that i cannot afford it…she is intent on doing it regardless of my objections and wants to charge me $50 for doing so. She has harrassed me SO terribly that i must move asap. But, isn’t that what my $800 deposit is for? Am i responsible for that $50 before I move out? And if i say, “no” to her cleaning my carpet, can she still do it without my permission?

    Steve

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