California Rental Laws

Written on April 22, 2013 by , updated on September 10, 2017

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:

  • Bed Bugs:
    • A landlord shall not show, rent, or lease to a prospective tenant any vacant dwelling unit that the landlord knows has a current bed bug infestation. (Civ. Code §§ 1954.602)
    • A landlord shall provide a written notice regarding information about bed bugs, to the prospective tenant. The exact language and information can be found in Civ. Code §§ 1954.603.
    • Landlords must notify tenants about the procedure for reporting suspected infestations to the landlord. (Civ. Code §§ 1954.603 (a))
    • Landlords are required to conduct follow up treatment not only of infected units, but all surroundings until bed bugs are eliminated. (Civ. Code §§ 1954.604)
    • Landlords are required to notify tenants within two business days of receiving the pest control operator’s findings after an inspection. (Civ. Code §§ 1954.605)
  • Accepting 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). If a tenant has provided notice of a suspected bed bug infestation, or has made an oral complaint to the lessor regarding tenantability (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5(1)). 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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2,042 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Tracey March

    Super list of all the requirements and relevant law/regulations. Maybe you should do one for every state :-)

  • Lucas Hall

    Hey Tracey, thank you.

    That’s the goal! I’m about 1/5 of the way through all the states: http://landlordology.com/state-laws/.

    California definitely has more rules than most states – which made it fun to research.

  • Al Williamson

    Nice work on this one Lucas. Way to go at making the web a better place. I appreciate your work – especially since I live in CA.

  • Jeff Mesinoff

    Is it legal in California to accept prepaid rent from a tenant who wants to do so?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jeff,

      That’s a great question. There’s nothing in the California Landlord Tenant Handbook (http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/catenant.pdf) that prevents a landlord from accepting prepaid rent. It only mandates that a landlord can’t force the tenant to pay more than 1 month of prepaid rent. If the tenant is asking to give more, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to accept it.

      I would highly suggest putting the prepaid rent (if it’s more than a month or two) into a separate bank account – so you don’t commingle funds. Also, some cities in CA require you to pay interest on a security deposit (and possibly prepaid rent). Having the money in a separate bank account will allow it to accrue interest and make it easy for you to track – since it all belongs to the tenant.

      Another alternative is to write the lease so that there are not “monthly payments” but rather, one large lump sum payment due in the beginning for the whole lease term. That way, the money is technically yours from day one – and not still the tenants that you are siphoning off month by month.

      This article has some good info on CA interest rates: http://www.yourlegalcorner.com/articles.asp?id=102&cat=land

      In the end, if you’re unsure, talk to a licensed attorney in your city – that which I am not.

  • Giselle

    We (husband and I) rented one of our bedrooms to a nightmare of a couple, what are our rights, it seems they have all the rights in California ?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Giselle,

      If you have a signed lease with them, you need to follow the lease. If you don’t have a signed written lease, or if your lease is month-to-month, I would give them 30 days written notice to vacate. USLegalForms has the 30-day notice form that you need. You can download it for only $8.

      If you think that you can get them to move sooner than 30 days through negotiation, then give it a try. Sometimes you can convince them to move in less than a week if you provide financial incentives – give them a few hundred dollars, pay for a moving truck, help them move, etc.

      Keep in mind, I don’t know your entire situation, and I’m not a lawyer. If things escalate, you’ll want to get help from someone licensed in your state.

  • Sandra Sussman

    We just rented out our home in Half Moon Bay, but now are finding ourselves in some financial distress and must consider selling the property. I can’t imagine this is a unique situation–what are our rights as landlords here., i.e., if we decide that selling the property is our only recourse?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sandra,

      It’s probably best if you seek legal counsel from someone licensed in your state and county (which I am not).

      However, what I can tell you that typically when you go to sell a property, the tenants have first right of refusal. Since they are living there, you have to offer the property to them first. If they don’t want to purchase it, then you can put it on the open market.

      If you have a lease that extends past the date of the sale, there is typically no law that requires a tenant to move out. The new owner might be forced to inherit the tenants and the lease, if the tenants want to stay in the house. This is because the lease is assigned to the property, regardless of who the owner is. That’s not to say you can’t provide monetary incentive for the tenants to move out.

      But check with a lawyer about your specific situation. Good Luck!

  • Susan Kimbler

    I am a renter with an oral agreement. I pay my rent with cash, and although I have asked for receipts, I have never received one. Recently my daughter temporarily moved in, and the landlord is demanding an additional $300 per month for her to stay here. What rights do I have if I refuse to pay the additional monetary amount but continue to pay the verbally agreed amount? Can he lock me out (change locks, etc.), call the police out on me? Since I pay my rent in cash I have no proof that I pay him rent, which is the way he wanted it so that he doesn’t have to report it to the I.R.S. The only proof I have that I live here is my mail.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Susan,

      First off, he can’t change the locks on you or shut off utilities – ever. He can’t do anything to prevent you from entering the property. If he does, call the police immediately.

      He can’t call the cops on you for trespassing because you can show that you’ve been living there because you have mail with that address on it.

      Here’s the CA tenant guide – which has a section on ORAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS
      http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/catenant.pdf

      Since you don’t have a written lease and no payment receipts, you really don’t have much leverage in the situation. However, because nothing is in writing, you really can’t be forced to pay extra rent. You definitely can refuse to pay the extra money. The worst he can do to you is give you 30 days notice to vacate. If you don’t, he would have to file an eviction with the courts which would take months.

      If I were you, I would tell my landlord:
      1. I want a written lease for the remainder of the term.
      2. I’m going to pay by check for now on.
      2. I’m willing to pay $XX extra while my daughter is staying there.
      3. If he doesn’t comply, I’ll report him to the county landlord/tenant office for breach of oral lease, AND report him to the IRS for tax evasion. You obviously don’t know for certain whether or not he is reporting the rental income, but at least you can get him flagged in the IRS system – and an auditor will investigate. Call the IRS help line to find out how.

  • Jen C

    Hi Lucas, I’m an older female landlord with one apartment that I rent in San Diego. 6 weeks ago the male tenant told me that the Air was not working so I responded right away and tried to find a fix. A couple of companies came by and were not equipped for the job but finally a third company was able to replace the unit and now things are working again. The whole process took 3 weeks and I paid for it all but now the tenant, who has lived there for almost one year, is demanding a crazily high amount of compensation ($1000) due to the inconvenience as he claimed he couldn’t live there (which is not true as everything else in the apt was working perfectly and he admitted that he did not incur any hotel or relocation costs). It seems that by responding immediately and paying for the fix that I did all I could do and do not owe him compensation but where do I stand on this legally? I would’ve preferred it be faster but that it took 3 weeks was largely out of my control. In 30 years of happy tenants I’ve never had an issue like this and I just find his attitude about it very aggressive and would really appreciate your feedback. Thanks, Jen.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jen,

      It sounds like your tenant is a jerk. Regardless, how is he validating “$1000” in damages if he doesn’t have any hotel expenses? If he hasn’t already, I would ask him to send you an itemized list of any expenses that he incurred because the AC wasnt’ working – so that you can examine it. You should force him to show you receipts. If he doesn’t have a receipt, then don’t even entertain that item. Also, check to see if he has renter’s insurance? If so, it would probably cover his expenses – and you can try to give him an “path of less resistance” by suggesting he get the money from his insurance company instead of you.

      If you feel that any of the expenses are valid, but they aren’t covered by his insurance, then you should probably pay them – but that’s just what I would do (if I thought they were really a valid expense).

      If he’s just blowing smoke, then after you examine his “proof”, tell him that you won’t pay for any of it, and force him to take you to small claims. If he’s crazy, he will, but if he has any sense, he’ll just drop it.

      If you have a good lease, it probably addresses this issue – and how you aren’t responsible for expenses unless he had property damage or couldn’t inhabit the home.

      Sounds like the relationship has gone sour already. I would think twice before renewing the lease to him. Be prepared to keep some of his deposit for damages (legitimate only) because of an immature retaliation when he vacates.

      • Jen C

        Thanks so much, Lucas. Your response is hugely appreciated and I’ll follow your advice to the exact letter if he follows up. It’s great to hear this as I really do feel like I always try to do the best by my tenants and this is just an example of someone trying to get a freebie. Have a great rest of your week! Jen

  • Jared

    Hi lucas,

    recently our community has been bought by another company and the landlord is rediculous. ive been late on rent and they charge a 60 $ fee now that this new company has takenm over. they threaten to take my situation to the attourney. this has never been a problem before . is this legal of they recieved a check and since they took me to the attourney are asking for a money order because my check is not valid because of the fact they took the file to the attorney

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jared

      Check your existing lease to see what it says. Just because your previous management company was relaxed about late fees, doesn’t mean the new one has to be. It’s very common for a landlord to reserve the right to force a tenant to pay with cashier checks or money orders after the tenant bounces a personal check or was late on rent. You lost their trust, and they are allowed to charge a late fee if your lease allows it. Check your lease to be sure. If you don’t pay it, they will ding your credit, and possibly take you to small claims.

  • ms white

    Hello Lucas I have a situation,I don’t have a lease with my manager and a lot of the tenants that are in my complex are not legal. The manager only gives cold water and when asked to fix it will turn the hot water on for a period of time then turn it off. I have become discouraged with paying on time and make arrangements with the landlord to pay at the end of the month. I also have children,my landlord also turns off the water with no notice,we have not had water for 2 days now. Other tenants are complaining about the issue with the water,they also said they have mice and roaches,they want me to create a letter to the landlord about the problem they said they would sign it..what should I do?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hello Ms. White, I’m sorry to hear about your situation. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a lease.

      In California, you are allowed to withhold rent for failure to provide essential services. According to the CA handbook, a property is considered “uninhabitable” if the landlord doesn’t provide the means for hot water to the tenants. Read the handbook for more details. But be careful, if you don’t pay rent, your landlord may add on late fees and possibly file an eviction lawsuit – which becomes a game a chicken. Though you are legally allowed to withhold rent while until he fixes the utilities, but you may find yourself explaining the situation in court.

      If I were you, I would contact some free legal help – and ask the lawyer to call your landlord today – and request that the water (and hot water) get turned on immediately!

      You can check out DoJ’s Free legal aid site: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/probono/states.htm, or other legal help: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/california/homeownership/legalaid

      If he doesn’t comply within 12 hours, I would write a “Demand Letter” and send it via the postal service through certified mail, and hand-delivery a copy, telling him that he needs to turn the hot and cold water ASAP. Let him know that he is in violation of Health and Safety Codes for not providing Hot water, and it is punishable by a $1000 fee, and possibly 6 months in jail – not to mention he will have the authorities watching him like a hawk for the next 5 years.

      Then, you should also call the California Department of Housing and Community Development (contact list). Tell them about this, and they will send an inspector out to the property.

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

  • ms white

    Thank you for taking the time to respond and thank you for the information.

  • Gabriela Gonzalez

    I’m sorry, I submitted my question before finished.
    To make it short, I will file complaints and sue her for all the many reasons that I have, as well as proof.
    However, I ignore if it is to my financial benefit to remain here and open an escrow account to hold rent. Or get situated in another place and then follow with the lawsuit? What would be more of a financial gain possibility with less stress?
    I have been a landlord in the past and a tenant, of course but I have never had this your of legal problem. I just know that she has affected our entire family and we are facing 2 relocations because of her. Might I mentioned she shared with me information of her addiction to medication. And refuses to let me speak to her husband, who is also an owner.
    I don’t even have an is of now to let her know that we are not ready to move 3 days from now. Please advise me if you can.
    thank you, Gabriella

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Gabriela, if you’re going to sue her then you should probably take her to small claims court. However you can only sue for actual financial damages in small claims and not things like stress. It doesn’t cost much to go to small claims court however it can be very stressful.

      My recommendation would be to get your family to a safe situation, and then file the claim if you want to.

  • Jess

    I am a renter , I was told by realtor that I need to move out of the house it has been sold. How long do I have to move out? Owner did not give a warning after verbal rental agreement. Less than a month ago.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jess,

      The problem with verbal agreements is that they are tough to prove. Leases are a contract to rent the premise, regardless of who owns it. If you had a written contract, then you could easily prove your tenancy and it could carry over, even if the home owner changed. But since you don’t have any documents, you’re kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place. The good news is that even if you had a week-to-week verbal lease, the landlord would have to give you 30 days notice to leave. Check out the links to formal rules in the article above and show those rules to the real estate agent.

  • shanika

    Hi, lucas recently are community has been bought by another company. I was 2 days late on my rent and was charged a late fee. When I payed my rent I didn’t include the late fee and the landlord was refusing to take my rent but finally agreed to letting me include it with next months rent .but now I find out im still being charged 5 dollar a day everyday the late fee is not paid. Is this legal?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi shanika

      I recommend that you pay the late fees ASAP. They can charge you a daily fee if the lease says so. Don’t mess around with this.

      If you were late on rent, just pay all the fees and move on. If you ask nicely, you might be able to get them to remove some of the accrued fees, but they don’t have to.

      It’s not worth dinging your credit over.

  • Leah

    Hello Lucas,
    I have a question. I am dealing with a previous landlord who has been verbally abusive and I have all his messages and texts saved. So the dilemma that I am facing is that I was renting a room in his house. The last couple months he never added up the utilities and kept saying he was going to. The day i left which was November 2, 2013 he writes down on a piece of paper how much September and October utilities were. He also prorated my room for three days but I was out in two. He still has my deposit and says he has 30 days to give it back but still wants the utilities. Can he legally still keep my deposit until i pay the utilities? I was going to use that money to pay what i owe because i need the money to move out, i told him he can keep my deposit which is more than enough to cover what i owe. But, at this point i am scared for my life and he keeps harassing me and wont leave me alone. What should i do? what laws protect me? Also, he has never showed me the actual utility bills and i was scared to ask because it would turn into a fight. He never put a screen on my window, and the glass on my window was cracked and held together with tape. My window faced the backyard and i had bugs come into my room, and he never clean his dogs feces so my room reeked of the dog feces.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Leah,
      Here are my thoughts (not legal advice) on your situation:
      1. If you feel that your life is in danger, nothing else matters. Call the police and ask them to show up whenever you feel that the landlord might pay you a visit. Also, you can file a police report for harassment – or at least get clarification from the cops on “legal vs. illegal” harassment.
      If you’ve moved out, but your stuff is still there, you should get some very large guy friends, or the police to escort you back to the property and get your stuff (if you care out it that much). If he’s a danger to you, I would just forget about the deposit. You can always take him to small claims court later (when he doesn’t know where you live. If you have to talk to him, do so over email or text message. That way everything is documented. Above all else, don’t risk injury or harm for your belongings or your deposit.
      2. In CA, the landlord has 21 days to return a deposit (see post above)
      3. Yes, the landlord can force you to pay for utilities that you consumed, and even take it out of your deposit.

      • Leah

        Thank you,
        So, here is my other question. I told him he can keep my deposit, but according to him i still owe him money. The deposit is more than what i owe in utilities. Is there an actual Law that i can quote to him that shows proof that i no longer owe him money. That way he will hopefully leave me alone.

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Leah,

          It doesn’t seem to be a matter of “rules” but rather simple math. If your deposit was $1000, and you owed $300 in utilities, then clearly you don’t owe him any extra money.

          Are you sure he’s not claiming other damages that go above and beyond your deposit? Assuming he can add, it sounds like there is something else he’s claiming as damages – but maybe hasn’t communicated it to you.

          If you want to search the CA laws, I have a few links in this section: http://www.landlordology.com/california-landlord-tenant-laws/#rules

  • Leah

    Thank you very much for all your help. There is no damage i left, everything was cleaner than when i moved in. I have pictures of everything, i do know he has a reputation of acting like this which i found out after i moved in. The harassment i will be dealing with by going to the police.

  • wilma

    I have a question. I just moved into a rental property about 4 months ago. I just received an email from my landlord stating he has placed the house up for sale. If the new owners want to move in what will happen to me. Legally I’m stilll under contract to live in that house. Can the new owners force me to move out or do they need to buy me out of my lease?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Wilma,

      It’s my understanding that (generally speaking) a lease is tied to the property and not the owner. If the new owner takes possession of the house they would have to honor your lease contract unless of course they buy you out. They would not however have to extend your lease after it’s natural expiration.

      You should also check your lease, because if the previous owners knew they wanted to sell the unit, they might have put a clause in there saying that the lease does not transfer. If that’s the case then you would have to move out.

      If you’re super concerned or you have major issues with the new owners, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney in your city or county because there might be local rules that contradict this advice. I’m not a lawyer nor do I know all the details about your specific situation.

  • Wilma

    Thank you so much. I did read my lease last night and didn’t see anything about the lease does not transfer but than again I may have missed it so I will read it again tonight when I get home. Thank you again Lucas!!!

  • tara

    I have a few questions, two months I began renting a house within three weeks I found cockaroachs I let the property manager know but was the one stuck paying for pest control is that legal or right? Second question with out letting me know the roof is being replaced they have scrapped the roof and black sandy tar has now damaged my perosanl property what can I do? Anything?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Tara,
      Usually a lease will describe who is responsible for pest control, and when. For example, in my leases, I (the landlord) am responsible for pests in the first 2 weeks after move-in. After that, it’s the tenant’s responsibility. But it all depends on what your lease says. If it doesn’t say anything, then you should negotiate that with your landlord or just take care of that yourself.

      In CA, the landlord is required to give you 24 hours notice before entering the premise. This applies to his contractors too in non-emergency situations. If the contractors damaged your personal property, you can ask your landlord to replace, or contact the contractor directly. If you can find out who their insurance carrier is, you could file a claim against them. If they aren’t cooperating, you could file a claim against your own renter’s insurance policy – assuming you have one.

  • Rachael

    Hi Lucas,
    We moved into our apt. Back in august 2013, we now have a new owner/landlord as of nov.1, 2013.the new manager passed out packets on nov.1 stating all the owners, maintenance,managers Info as well as saying that the letter included in the packet is our 30 day notice (to my undetstanding meaning it starts as of dec.1st)that rent is due on the 1st each month (same as usual) but no later than the third therefore after the third there will be late fees added. Well on nov.4 the manager came late at night and gave me a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit (my husband was out of state for work which is why we did not pay on the 1st).I called the owner directly after the manager never answered my call nor return my messages and asked her if we could arrange to pay the following week by fri. Nov 15 at the latest when my husband hads came back.she said ok and would let the manager know.I called the owner to pay with late fees included and she will not accept our payment snd stated she has already started the evic. Process with the court.is this legal what she is doing? And is thst 3 day notice legal when she dudnt follow through with the 30 dsy notice she gave us properly?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Rachael,
      The notice you received for non-payment (3 day notice to pay or quit) is in line with CA law (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2)) – the link is above. The packet of information he gave you is just reiterating that law – which was already applicable. So, when you didn’t pay rent in 3 days after he warned you, your landlord started the eviction process – and was justified in doing so. If he accepts rent from you now, it could stop his eviction.

      Your best bet is to try and reason with him. His 2 options are:
      1) accept rent now, but maybe have trouble with you next month
      2) Evict you, and loose out on 2-4 months worth of rent
      If you can assure him that you won’t be late again, then he might stop the eviction.

      Your options are:
      1) Read up on CA eviction laws – and see if you can find a loophole
      2) Convince him to accept rent
      3) Move out before the eviction and pay your debt on the way out – this should stop the eviction and prevent the landlord from dinging your credit.
      4) Wait it out, and get evicted.
      Note: If you get an eviction judgement, you will have a hard time being approved to rent anywhere else.

  • Mara

    Hi Lucas,

    My landlord has been including pet rent and pet fees in my rent without my acknowledgement, I have been focused on resolving a neglect issue that I never noticed the pet rent being included. I paid a pet deposit however, did not agree verbally nor in my lease to pay pet rent and pet fees. Is it legal for our landlord to include and take pet fees and pet rent although I did not agree to it and it is not stated in my lease of such fees?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mara,

      If the fee is not stated in your lease, then you don’t have to pay it.

      Often times with pets there is a pet addendum attached under the last section of the lease. Just make sure that you didn’t sign a separate document at the end of the lease which detail the rules for pets.

      Before you change the amount of money that you pay every month, if I were you I would read every single line of the lease and attached addendums to make sure that I was paying everything I was obligated to pay. You have to be 100% sure before you start fight with your landlord.

      If you’re wrong and you did agree to this pet fee, then you’re going to piss off your landlord and rack up late fees.

  • LaTosha Hoover

    I have a question reguarding rodents! I would like to know what my “renters rights” are when it comes to this subject? When we moved in there was Decon all over in areas out in the back yard, but I have never dealt with mice till this rental and I had no clue what that stuff (Decon) was, so obviously there was a problem! We have used snap traps, bait bars, pellets to help with this problem and we THOUGHT we had it under control…..boy was I wrong! We have a huge problem and the pest control guy said it would be $150-700 for them to get it under control. We don’t have that kind of money just sitting in the bank. I just called the pest guy and he said that about 5 years ago they changed the law, now not making it the landlords problem to help deal with this problem, is this true? We are in a lease till June and if I had the money I would move YESTERDAY. I can’t take it anymore and I’m hearing 2 different stories from people…it’s our problem & it’s the landlords problem. And 1 final question. Would we be able to legally break our lease and move because of this? THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Latosha,

      First, let me get this out of the way… This is not legal advice, but simply my opinion. In my experience, if there is a pest problem when you move in, then it’s clear that you didn’t cause it, and therefore it’s the landlord’s responsibility. If the pests are causing unsanitary living conditions that effect habitability, then the landlords could probably get in trouble with the local housing authority if they new about it. You should also examine your lease to see if you agreed to paying for pest control.

      I don’t know what law your landlord is referencing, but shown below are the two laws that I found. Whenever some cites a law, make sure they prove it. Don’t just take their word on it.

      Civ. Code §§ 1940.8, says:

      A landlord of a residential dwelling unit shall provide each new tenant that occupies the unit with a copy of the notice provided by a registered structural pest control company pursuant to Section 8538 of the Business and Professions Code, if a contract for periodic pest control service has been executed.

      You can learn more about your rights in the Business and Professional Code §§ 8538. This has a big section on pesticide. Check it out: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=bpc&group=08001-09000&file=8538

  • page j t

    Hello Lucas,
    Question regarding the landlord’s obligation to protect tenants’ personal information. In the rental application, tenants have to list SSN, bank accounts, credit card accounts, work, income, etc. When a landloard makes that document accessible by anyone who wants to see, what code has the landlord violated (in City and County of Los Angeles)? Thank you in advance,

  • Carolyn

    My daughter and grand babies live in Sacramento. I see there it is noted on your site that the landlord is to provide heat to maintain 68*. My daughter has no heat provided, but being they live in Sacramento, I need to know if there is something she can do to have the landlord provide heat or if I should go ahead and purchase one for her. I live in Texas and just need to make sure they are safe and comfortable in their home. Thank You.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Carolyn

      I know there is a law in San Francisco that they heat must be at 68 for most of the day. I’ve never seen the same law for Sacramento. However, in the CA Fair Housing Handbook it mentions your daughter could talk to the city’s Code Enforcement Office and mention that her landlord is providing “inadequate heating” (whatever that means). In hotter parts of CA, the code may not require a house to have a heater – I just do know.

  • Mark

    I’m a new manager as well as new to the position. I’ve never managed before but Im aware it ia going to be a 24hr job with attention to detail as well as physical. As a new manager to the property, some tenents have warned me about a couple of neighbors in the complex who are difficult and do not follow rules. My question is if I can set a cur-few to minimize people loitering in the complex a long with outside visitors. My plan is to minimize noise and bad habits. Thank you in advance

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mark

      Congrats on your new position! Personally, I don’t like setting curfews simply because they are near impossible to enforce 100% of the time and therefore people won’t obey it, and then it will discredit your authority. If loitering is an issue, you could put up “no loitering” signs, and then encourage residents to call the cops when you have an issue.

      The best way to transform a neighborhood is to empower the residents.

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