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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1,606 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Lorraine

    When we moved into this house we are in. We got a independent home inspector to do a independent report of the house. He said the fences were in bad need of repair. Well it just fell over yesterday on me while I was taking the trash out.
    The landlord said he will see what he can do. He tried to say the tenant prior to us must have removed some steel bars he put in. My question is should he have to fix it.
    The neighbors have a dog and he can get through anytime.
    I mean the whole 6 foot section came down.
    Thanks Lorraine

    • Kip

      Lorraine,
      I am no legal expert, but I’ve had a similar situation while renting in Palm Desert several years back. Plus another time while living in Palm Springs my house was broken into. On both situations my “Slumlords” tried to tell me it was my responsibility.
      Being a property manager in another state I knew that was crap. But just to be safe, I contacted the CA fair housing board.
      Just as I continue suspected, my fence and pool turning green, and property maintenance was the responsibility of my landlord in Palm Desert, and in Palm Springs, the landlord was responsible for repairing the window that the burglar broke to gain access to my house.
      I hope this helps

    • Kip

      Lorraine,
      I am no legal expert, but I’ve had a similar situation while renting in Palm Desert several years back. Plus another time while living in Palm Springs my house was broken into. On both situations my “Slumlords” tried to tell me it was my responsibility.
      Being a property manager in another state I knew that was crap. But just to be safe, I contacted the CA fair housing board.
      Just as I continue suspected, my fence and pool turning green, and property maintenance was the responsibility of my landlord in Palm Desert, and in Palm Springs, the landlord was responsible for repairing the window that the burglar broke to gain access to my house.
      I hope this helps.
      Kip

  • kathy haden

    My landlord feels it is ok to walk in my apartment any time he wants to even if the door is locked and I have company over. He also refuses to fix anything that I ask him to such as the oven, two stove top burners, the thermostat, two loose outlets. and the sliding door which doesn’t close properly or even lock.
    The front gate is falling off the hindges and my son has autism which causes him to escape or wander especially since there is no secure door or gate in the whole place. Please tell me how I can handle this problem I have lived here for 4 years and nothing is maintained or repaired.
    Thank you.

  • Juan

    Tenant in SD California for over 2 years. Old landlord gave 30 days to vacate (March 10). New owner says I have to move out immediately (Feb 22). I have until March 10 correct?

  • Al-x Gonzalez

    I had a tenant rent a room from my home. He told me he was giving his 30 day notice in February. I told him that’s not a problem if I get someone to move in as his lease isn’t up until March 30th. I got home and he moved out. Most of his stuff is gone, left bed, clothes and junk. I really can’t do anything besides going to small claims court now, but was wondering, can I change the locks? His lease is up next month and he verbally told me Feb would be his last month. I told him to give me a letter and never received one. he hasn’t returned my calls or text. Do I still need to wait since he is still legally in the lease? Thank you in advance.

  • JOHN DREXL

    unit was tented for termites, had to stay in hotel for three days who pays for hotel ?

  • Kip

    Lucas, I was really curious as to the states requirements to be a property manager and what requirements are there to rent your property, house more specifically and as long as there assure no other restrictions from ass rent HOA.
    Thank you for your time,
    Kip

  • Alyssa Guzman

    My mom is the sole owner of the home and my dad has been in and out over the last few years. He has a history of domestic violence and we have restraining orders to prove it. He recently hurt my mother but the court would not grant a restraining order, my sister was the one to file since my mother can’t make it to court because she works full time. My sister lives with my mom. A sheriff told my mom to try evicting him but my mother won’t start the paperwork because it’s stressful and confusing. We’re also worried my dad might flip out and hurt her again if we try to evict him. How should we go about this? I need all the help I can get because I live out of state but I know my mother won’t get the ball rolling on her own.

  • noe melendez

    ha are their any new 2016 laws on calof pro rated rent I just gone to court small claims and the def said their was I could fine any thing on the web I gien notice 10/1/2016 left 10/16/2016 was trying to get my 14 day prorated rent return I got my deposit the contact said after deposit return and damages taken out the pro rated rent is to be return
    so this this true
    I got mt pro rated rent return my last three time I move out some time the full amount I always leave my apartment beter than I move in

  • Shantala Ponce

    I moved into a studio apartment in February of 2013, when I moved in the landlord said I would be required to pay first and last months rent and the last months rent would serve as a security deposit. I received a 30 day notice to move at the end of last month. I didjt pay this months rent because the last months rent was the security deposit. It’s been less than two weeks and now my landlord served me with a three day notice to move for not paying this months rent. Looking back at my receipt when I moved in it does not specify anything about the last months rent on my reciept. Is what she’s doing legal?

  • Maria

    HI
    I am a manager assistant here in the complex and I need help resolvían issue we are having with a troubled tenant.
    We are having issues with one of our tenants 4 other tenants have already had a conflict with her do to her bad mouth n bullying children. All 4 tenants have already talked to the manager but he just laughed at them crossed his hands and said that was a personal problem that the office can not get involved with. My thing is that if it only one tenant causing the problem could we ask her vacate the unit ?

  • Maria

    Good afternoon
    I am a manager assistant here in the complex .
    I need help resolving an issue we are having with a troubled tenant. (3 year tenant)
    We are having issues with one of our tenants 4 other (more then 15 years tenant) .All 4 tenants are having a conflict with her do to her bad mouth n bullying children. All 4 tenants have already talked to the manager but he just laughed at them crossed his hands and said that was a personal problem that the office can not get involved with. My thing is that if it only one tenant causing the problem could we ask her vacate the unit ?

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  • steven kile

    my landlord just called me and told me I was a pig and I needed to clean my house.
    when he entered to fix the water heater, he said he was disgusted and that I needed to clean my house cause he was disgusted with me.

  • Laurie Jean 🌻

    Hello, In January 2014 i was going into my 11th year at this apartment complex. It was a known fact that several staircases were rocking and not stable.

    I ended up falling breaking my ankle and leg along with 2 other tenants that live on the opposite side.

    After fall8my they began replacing all the stairs. They ended up having to year it down and the stairs are still not evenly separated. How many years from the initial fall do i have to file a claim?
    Thx, LJA 🌻

  • Lupe

    What should I do if my landlord wants a keys to my home.. I’m always home.. My husband works. The manager told me its for in case of an emergency..

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lupe,

      In my opinion, the landlord has a right to a key – after all it’s his property and there may be times he needs to enter it – for repairs or emergencies when you aren’t there.

      The statutes allow the landlord to enter the property for repairs, showings, and other business related tasks as long as proper notice is given. The tenant’s presence is not required.

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

  • Naomi

    The landlord allowed 5 people in our house and one moved out. My daughter is pregnant and she will be living here but the landlord doesn’t want to have another person living here. She is 17 years old and it’s unfair that we were allowed 5 people years ago but three years ago my oldest moves out and now she doesn’t allow 5 people. In our contract it states we can have 5 people. Is there anything we can do?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Naomi,

      Does your contract also state the names of the occupants? If so, then you wouldn’t be able to move in someone who isn’t listed by name on the lease. But if it doesn’t, then could have up to the occupancy limit according to the county law or the lease.

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

  • Howard

    Can a landlord refuse you to move to another apartment that he owns can he stop your transfer

  • anne

    Help….A property owner allowed me to put furniture in garage and change utilities and nake decesions on light fixtures, yet he wouldnt give me a final move in date…his handyman was vehind scheduled date…..i had hired moving co. put things in basement due to needed painting…i put electricity in my name and oartial deposit until home 100%ready…aftr waiting month n half n doing all this, he changes his mind. texd to pick up my things from house n hed give me my deposit…im left homless…

  • Robt.

    Mobile home park. Have a neighbor that is being evicted for a year’s worth of on going blatant nuisance. There has been multitudes of complaints before Mngt acted. The onset should have been stopped and that would have resolve matters. However it took other neighbors to “finally” get tired of the nuisance. Can the Mngt be held responsible for the disruptions and emotional distress going all the way back to the beginning concerning the covenant of quiet enjoyment ?

  • Aries

    I have a friend that is renting. Her building was sold, the new owner is going up on her rent $100.00 dollars & some of the other tenants up to $300.00 dollars. Is this legal?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Aries

      It all depends on what kind of lease she has. If she has a fixed-term lease, the price is set for the term, regardless of who owns the building. The new owner would have to honor the old lease. If she is month-to-month, the price can change every month, regardless of who owns the building.

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

  • Marie

    I’ve been leasing a house for 3 years my lease is up May 31st 2016 they’re selling the property. The realtor wants keys to show and take pictures he said he will notify me in advance when he needs access to the house. My question is do I have to allow him access? I have not been given a 30 or 60 day notice in writing to move.

  • Natasha rey

    On our month to month lease stated noo pets … Well my landlord told the neighbor he was going to call the cops for parking their trucks on the side of the house…well that neighbor called out my husband and ever since than there has been tweakers scooping out our place.. I have a dog and want to brimg her to live with is what are my rights I feel threatened by these people and I have 3 young children under the age of 6 please help me

  • Jorge

    My rental has a major flea infestation. At 1st I thought it might be bc of my gf’s dog but she doesn’t have any fleas in her place & he lives with her. I contacted Orkin and had the place sprayed. Orkin has sprayed twice & the fleas are really bad. They suggested that they may not be from a domestic animal because of their size. I had already complained to my landlord about possums living under my wooden porch. She put a trap and the very next day there was a huge rat. I believe the fleas are from the critters living under my porch & I have spent lots of money, had to throw out my mattress, and now my couches. I haven’t stayed there in 3 weeks. I am leaving without a 30 day notice. Can I get some of my money back besides my security deposit

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