California Rental Laws

Written on April 22, 2013 by , updated on April 11, 2019

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.

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)
  • Security Deposit Interest: No statewide statute, but 15 (or so) localities have rent control ordinances that require you to pay interest, including cities in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles (reference).
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: No Statute
  • 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) California law allows landlords to withhold a portion, or all, of a security deposit for four reasons: 1) unpaid rent; 2) to clean the rental unit after the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in; 3) to repair of damages beyond normal wear and tear, and; 4) to pay the cost of resorting or replacing furniture, furnishings, and other personal property damage beyond normal wear and tear. The lease or rental agreement must specify that the security deposit can be used to pay these costs.
  • Require Written Description/Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes. If repairs and cleaning costs are less than $126, receipts and documentation are not needed to accompany the itemized list. (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 deposit, 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)
  • Payment Methods: Landlord must allow the tenant to pay rent using a form of payment that is not a cash payment or an electronic funds transfer payment. If the tenant had an insufficient funds payment or a stopped payment on a money order, the landlord can then require that rent 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 notice 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: Late fees are 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. The application fee cannot exceed $30. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.6(b))
  • Prepaid Rent: The 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: The landlord can charge a fee equal to the actual bank fee or a flat “service” fee which is $25 for the first occurrence, and $35 for each occurrence thereafter (handbook).
  • 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 the tenant cannot use this remedy more than twice in a 12-month period. (Civ. Code §§ 1942(a))
  • 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 Re-rent: 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.
  • 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: The landlord is required to give 30 days notice. The 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 is sufficient if ALL the following are true:
    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 opened an escrow account with a licensed escrow agent or real estate broker, and
    3. The landlord gives 30-day notice within 120 days of opening the escrow account, and
    4. The landlord must not previously have given the tenant 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.)(Civ. Code §§ 1946.1) (handbook)

    Note: A landlord can only end a periodic tenancy when the property or rental 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: The tenant has three days to remedy the lease violation or landlord can file eviction. If the violation has not been corrected by that time, the landlord can file for eviction. The landlord can also terminate the lease for subletting without permission or due to illegal activity happening on the premise. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(3) and 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 any vacant dwelling unit to a prospective tenant if the landlord knows the unit 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 surrounding units 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: The landlord must 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 the 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. The landlord must also provide a formula for dividing up utilities when utilities are split among multiple tenants. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.9)
  • 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)
  • Pest Disclosures: At lease signing, the landlord must disclose any pest 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, as well as any warnings associated with them. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.8, and Business and Professional Code §§ 8538)
  • Smoking: If the landlord limits or prohibits smoking, the landlord must include a clause that specifies the areas on or in the premise where smoking is prohibited. (Civ. Code §§ 1947.5) (Guide: How Landlords can Prohibit Smoking)
  • 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 of domestic violence. (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 the 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: Landlords may 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 statewide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements. Check with your local governing authority.
  • Daly City requires all property managers or landlords/owners who do not live in a shared rental to get a business license (§ 5.16.050(a))

State agencies & regulatory bodies

Housing Authorities

Realtor and landlord/tenant associations

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2,422 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Pete Young

    I’m new in the rental property business and have the following question: The lease with our tenant has expired but he refused to move out or pay the rent. I understand I can evict him if our lease has not been expired, but in this case, how and what procedure can I apply to get him out of the rental unit as soon as possible, or can I just get the sheriff to throw him out? What are my options please?
    Thanks,

    Pete

    • Lucas Hall

      Hey Pete,
      FYI… this is not legal advice, so you should talk to a local licensed attorney.

      But what I can tell you is that you have what is known as a “Hold-Over” tenant. They are bad news for landlords. Unfortunately, you can’t just get the sheriff to throw him out. You still have to go through the normal eviction procedure in your area. I would file the paperwork immediately. You could always follow-up with a secondary lawsuit for damages of lost rent while that tenant illegally occupied the property. But first, get them out of the house.

      In order to win at an eviction, you MUST NOT accept any rent from the hold-over tenant, otherwise you are acknowledging their tenancy, and thus creating a month-to-month lease.

      I haven’t written a full-length article on this topic yet, but my friends over at RentPrep have: http://www.rentprep.com/blog/hold-over-tenant-what-if-renter-doesnt-leave/

      Good luck man!

      • Pete

        Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I appreciated it very much.
        I’ve also checked the referenced article provided, thanks. Unfortunately it did not mention which form should I file to evict “a hold-over tenant” (Have done regular eviction before)! The rental is located in Solano County, City of Vallejo, thanks so much!
        Pete

  • James

    Hey Lucas,

    My wife and I purchased a rental property this year and took over an existing lease. One of the current tenants wants to get out of the lease and the other two want to stay. I understand the best option would be to find a new tenant to take over the lease for the tenant wanting to exit. What are my options if we cannot find a new tenant soon? Can I go after the one tenant and the co-signer with a collections agency or lawsuit? Can I evict all tenants if the two remaining tenants fail to pay the rent in full?

    Thanks,

    James

    ps: I just signed up for the newsletter and started following on Twitter. Thanks for putting this site together.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hey James,

      It’s great to meet you man.

      If your 3 tenants are all listed under 1 single lease, then they usually have “joint and several liability”, which means they are all responsible for the full rent amount. Even if one tenant disappears, the other two have to deliver the full rent, otherwise they will be in default, and could get evicted.

      I’ve rented to many groups of roommates, and this situation comes up often. I usually try to make a deal with the tenants by saying “If you want to leave, you have to find a suitable replacement for the remainder of your lease”.

      Obviously, the replacement will have to pass my application standards and credit check – as well as the remaining tenants must agree to the new roommate. This forces the tenant who wants to leave, to do the legwork. If they want to leave bad enough, they will find a replacement.

      I also classify this as a sublease – which means that the departing tenant isn’t relinquished from his/her responsibilities, but that you are simply allowing someone else to live in the house and pay rent on their behalf. I also usually charge a one-time $500 subletting fee to make this switch (which you should have documented in your lease).

      If the departing tenant doesn’t agree to my terms, then I can either take the missing rent from their deposit at the end of the lease, tell the remaining tenants to find someone quickly, or simply start the eviction process.

      If you really don’t care about putting in the effort, then you could find a replacement for the tenant. However, I discourage this for three reasons: 1) your departing tenant should have to work for it based on principle alone, 2) it’s better if the remaining tenants find a friend, rather than being forced to live with a stranger that you picked, and 3) it makes you look like a softy and they will think they can walk all over you.

      If you go the sublease route; check out these forms: http://www.uslegalforms.com/landlordtenant/sublease/?auslf=landlordology

      • James

        Thanks Lucas,

        We do have the “joint and several liability” clause in the lease so I think we are in good shape. I appreciate the timely response. Lots of good tips on this site thanks again.

        Take care,

        James

  • Cassie

    This isn’t the typical Landlord/Renter question so here goes… I’m in a sticky situation and I’ve learned from my mistakes about my (ex)-boyfriend but here’s the situation………. In Sept. 2011, I moved back to San Diego to be with an old boyfriend with his promises of me being part of his business and he asked me to move in with him as his girlfriend. This July, he broke off our relationship. I lost my job in September and am still unemployed. Last week, he gave me a written “30 Notice to Vacate/Quit” in order to force me to move out. More than happy to move but I need a good job. He inherited the house we live in so he doesn’t pay rent or a mortgage. I put my good credit on the line by putting a new roof on the house so I have a legally-binding financial vested interest in it (yes, he’s been making monthly payments). ….QUESTION: since he and I are/were boyfriend & girlfriend and no Rental Agreement has ever been mentioned and I’ve paid plenty of the misc household expenses during the 2+ years, can he legally evict me? (lol, please don’t remind me of how stoopid I was in this whole thing. I’ve learned, trust me.)

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Cassie,

      Unfortunately yes, if he is the owner of the house, then he can legally evict you. Even though you didn’t have a written agreement, you had an agreement none-the-less. Many times, if there is no written agreement, the lease is considered to be month-to-month – so according to CA Civ. Code §§ 1946, it was appropriate that you received the 30 day notice to vacate or quit. If you don’t leave after 30 days, he can file an eviction, and will probably win. 2-6 months later, a police office will forcefully move your stuff out if you are still on the premise.

      The amount you paid for household expenses, and rent (if any) is irrelevant.

      With that said, if you paid for the new roof, then *I think* he should pay you in full for it. Maybe that is your bargaining chip…. you could say “I’ll move out when you pay me back for the roof in full”. If he refuses, and then kicks you out anyway, I think you would probably have a strong case to take him to small claims court for the roof money (wouldn’t that be sweet).

      However, if you have a contract for him to make monthly installments on the roof, then you will probably have to follow that contract, and wouldn’t technically be able to demand payment in full. But it couldn’t hurt to try. And the look on his face would be priceless. He may even let you stay for a while – but seeing how you are broken up, I don’t know if you would want to.

  • Cassie

    Hi Lucas! Thanks for your input! I’m stunned about him being able to evict me in spite of our previous relationship. As for the roof – I opened the Home Depot acct in my name and he is/was an Auth. User (his card has been blocked, obviously). All payments, typically $500/mo., have come from his bank acct, never mine. So, it’s not really a matter of him “paying me back”, more it’s a matter of him “paying off the acct.” The current balance is $6,000. He consistently spends more $$ than he makes so unless he can borrow that money from a friend, it would still take ~12 months or less for him to pay it off. And yes, the look on his face will be *priceless*!

    Another question regarding the roof: in 2 years, the house value has increased approx. $130,000 (‘unofficially’ according to Zillow.com). How can I compute the % of increase in value over the past 2 years? And can I claim a certain/reasonable % of that % as further repayment?

    But this situation goes even deeper: I’m in the process of (1) computing how much he owes me for misc. home improvements (two new windows, plants, other Home Depot receipts from my bank acct, etc.); (2) I’m trying to figure out how much he owes me for unpaid wages and mileage (approx. 25,000 miles) because I worked for him in his business for the past two years; and (3) the moving costs I incurred myself when I moved to SD, all of which he’s verbally promised and, you guessed it, has never paid. Any ideas as to who I should contact regarding these 3 items?

    If he can evict me over a verbal so-called “contract” regarding living here, then it would have the same weight and would carry over to my calculations (+receipts) as to what he verbally promised me regarding the 3 items above, true? Again, thank you so much for your input!

    And by the way, if I had a good job by which I could support myself, I would have burned rubber getting out of here, lol….

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Cassie,

      Unfortunately, I don’t think you can claim any property value because of the new roof. Yes, roofs add value, but 1) technically he’s making the payments, not you, and 2) you don’t own the property so you have no right to the equity. All equity goes to the homeowner. This is a common situation when tenants improve the property. Any value a tenant adds to the home is lost and absorbed by the homeowner. Your only recourse (again, not legal advice), is take anything that you paid for with you. If you bought a plant, take it with you when you leave.

      I think you have a strong argument when trying to reclaim the wages and mileage. Maybe the moving costs too…. but I’m not sure. Your dating relationship causes the situation to be unclear. He could claim that you moved to be with him, not the job.

      Verbal contracts are still contracts, but they are hard to prove. You are clearly living in the house and it’s been your home for a while – so unless there is a written lease stating otherwise, he just has to give you 30 days notice. Your other verbal contracts don’t carry the same weight simply because we’re dealing with housing in this situation, and there are specific rules to make sure tenants are treated fairly. You can prove that you have been living in the house, but you can’t necessarily prove that he promised to pay for your Home Depot expenses.

      If you want to pursue him for all the items you listed, you should definitely talk to a landlord-tenant lawyer in your area.

  • Cassie

    Sorry, in Paragraph 2, I should clarify myself: How can I compute the % of increase in value >>attributable to the new roof<< over the past 2 years? Which is why I'm wondering if I can claim a certain/reasonable % of that % as further repayment for my "investment".

  • Darrin

    Hi Lucas,
    I’m moving out later this week, and my landlord’s agent is asking me to pay his costs ($330) for moving out, i.e. the fees to the building’s management company for setting up protection for the floors and elevator in the building’s common areas. This isn’t mentioned in the lease and I didn’t pay any of these costs when I moved in. The unit is not rent controlled, and is in San Francisco. What should I do?
    Thanks,
    Darrin

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Darrin

      I think that type of fee is stupid but not uncommon in apt buildings. If it were me, I would just tell them “no, I’m not paying that fee” and then force them to show you where you are contractually obligated to pay it. Make then work for it. What are they going to do, prevent you from moving out?

      FYI – not legal advice….

  • taylor

    My landlord disappeared months ago and wasnt using the money I paid for rent to pay the mortgage. As a tenant what rights do I have when the new owners come for the house?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Taylor,

      In most states, you have a right to stay in a house if you 1) have a valid written lease and 2) pay rent to the designated party on the lease. You can’t control whether or not your landlord pays his/her mortgage.

      If the house is foreclosed on, eventually, the bank will kick you out. But it will take a lot of time, and perhaps you can make arrangements to rent the house from bank if they have no plans to sell it soon. Or, if they won’t take a rent check after they own it, then you might get to stay there rent free for a while.

      If you want to know what your specific rights and options are, you should talk to a licensed CA real estate / foreclosure / landlord-tenant attorney.

  • Henry

    Hi Lucas, I see that you are very experiended with landlord rules and landlord laws. I need your help with a dealing tenant in my building that is a drug dealer.Their is heavy foot traffic all day long and the tenant does not work but has money because he pays rent in cash. I confronted him about the issue and I felt threatened by him. That makes me not want to call the cops or further involve myself because im worried about retaliation. I wany to get him out without being any part of it as im worried he will comeback or vandalize my property. What should I do in this situation? Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Henry

      You have to get him out. Period. But how?

      Here are some ideas
      1. Don’t accept Cash as rent payment. He might move – more than likely he will just pay in cashiers checks.
      2. Go to your police station and ask for their opinion on how to handle it. Their primary concern is to keep you safe.
      3. Reach out to Al from http://www.leading landlord.com. He’s had success at removing dealers from apt buildings in situations similar to yours.

  • Tim

    Hi Lucas ,a couple months ago i was working out of state during the week days and home on the week ends. when i got home my landlord came over and told me i was evicted. i asked him why? he said earlier that week he dropped by knowing no one was there and entered my apt. and than said that it was to messy for his standards .i disagree,(he’s a neat freak )anyway there was no notice nor a phone call from my landlord before entering my apt.plus the eviction notice he gave me was hand typed by his girlfriend and it stated i had only 10 days two move.(witch would be the same date my rent would be due) I’ve never been evicted before so i put all my belongings in a storage unit before the 10 days wear up.and now I’ve been (homeless)paying storage fees and jumping from one friends place to another,still waiting for a near by apt. to open up….Did my ex landlord break the law?….and if so,is it to late to do anything about it……i live in Indiana. Tim.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Tim,

      Yes, your landlord did one rule: he’s required to give you oral or written notice before entering your unit. Check out: http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title32/ar31/ch5.pdf

      In Indiana, I believe the landlord can terminate a lease by providing an “Unconditional Notice to Quit”. I don’t believe there is a statute that says how many days notice are required in this termination. From my research, it seems that Indiana’s laws favor the landlord.

      You should probably talk to a local attorney if you want to take legal action.

  • karen myers

    Mr. Hall hi, i rented a house, ive been living here for ñiñe months now, i have a month to month lease, last week my neighbor, who is the landlords brother said that code enforcement said they have no prmit to rent the place and i have 30 days to move,landlord has not given me anything or came for rent due on dec 1, im ssi and sick, what are my rights?,i got 2highschool children who are sad and worried too,how do i get time to find something else?christmas is ruin over this, please help, thank you,blessing..

  • Lauryl

    Hi Lucas,

    My husband and I moved to a new home in Pasadena a little over two months ago. We really liked the landlord, and were excited about the house, however it quickly became apparent that we were in an unsafe neighborhood. Police dropped by to ask if we’d witnessed a violent fight in the street outside our house, we’ve had to call the police ourselves several times regarding very loud domestic disputes in the neighborhood, and just last week another house on our property (there are 4 homes on 1 property owned by our LL) was burglarized during daylight, all electronics stolen, etc. Then out of the blue we receive an email yesterday from someone who claims to have purchased the property. He says he wants to drop by today to meet us and that all rent payments should now be sent to him. We forwarded the email to our LL thinking it was weird spam, but he just wrote back saying that he did sell the property. That’s it. No explanation, no nothing. Seeing that we are not happy in the house/neighborhood because of the safety factor, we wondered if perhaps this is a blessing in disguise and will give us the opportunity to legal break the lease. Because our lease is with the previous LL, we assume that we have no legal obligation to the new LL, at least as long as we haven’t paid him anything. We’d like to vacate by the end of the month (we’ve paid our LL through the end of the month, obviously), but just want to be sure that we are within our legal rights to do so. I am assuming that our old lease doesn’t just automatically transfer to a new owner? Please advise! Thank you!!!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lauryl

      Thanks for your question. First, you should know that I’m not a lawyer and this is nat legal advice.

      With that said, typically leases do transfer to the new owner of a property. It’s a common misunderstanding, but the lease you signed is an agreement based on the property address, not the specific landlord. This is typically protects the tenant when a new owner comes along – and prevents him from kicking out the existing tenants.

      So, the only way out of your lease is to negotiate the release with your new landlord. You are not automatically free from it.

      Talk to a lawyer in your county if you think I’m wrong. You locality might have some unique rules.

  • mayela mora

    Hi Mr.Hall my rental agreement was due 16 months ago.. i know I’ve been late on my rent for the past 6 months cause my son who was helping me moved out.. i finally got a permanent job. my landlord knows i will catch up on my rent.. but now he’s been charging me late fees.. and i also pay water and trash.. my question is… can the landlord still go thru the lease agreement since it’s been expired 16 months ago and there’s no new lease.. i al also having problems with the water pipes when i do laundry the water goes to the bathtub with dirt. i just found out there’s a leak on the side of the house i showed it to him and it’s been 2 weeks and he hasn’t fixed it… please help..thank you.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mayela,

      Typically, if you have continued to pay rent on a monthly basis after the natural expiration of your lease, and your landlord has accepted your rent, then you have created a month-to-month lease that would logically follow the same terms and conditions as the previous lease. With that said, I have no idea what your previous lease said, and it might have clause in there about a month-to-month follow-on, or it might prohibit it, or it might say something else. But the fact that your landlord is accepting money from you kind of means that it’s a default month to month. To be honest, you’re lucky he hasn’t evicted you if you’ve had trouble paying rent for 6 months. So count your blessings.

      There might be something wrong with your laundry unit (maybe a rusty drum) or perhaps you are seeing the dirt from the cleaning process. The tub drain is probably a slow-draining pipe, and therefore it backs-up from the tub train into the tub whenever the laundry runs – because they share the same pipe. Does that make sense? The solution is to clear the tub drain with a snake or some Drano.

  • Jeff

    Can a landlord hold back a portion of your deposit to pay a commission to the manager? Thanks, Jeff

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jeff

      What’s up man. A deposit can typically be held for any actual damages. If a set fee was involved from manager to clean up a mess that the tenant left, then that can be part of the damages. However, I think (my opinion) that a bonus or non contractual kickback to the manager should not come from the deposit. It would be tough to validate as compensation for damages.

  • Lucas Hall

    Hey all,
    According to the AAOA, there will be some changes coming to California Landlord-Tenant Law. You can read more about it here: http://www.american-apartment-owners-association.org/property-management/latest-news/rental-laws-coming-2014/

  • Mayela Mora

    Thank you Mr. Hall God Bless You and Happy Holidays :)

  • charlotte curtis

    Hi so my landlord was a long time family friend so him and my mother in law had a pretty personal relationship and she rents another house or rented another one of his houses when they fought he would call and flip out on me about it hang up an call again several times he even showed up at my residence and has cursed at my children because they interupted one of his rants i have asked him several times not to harass me scream at me or curse at me over my family members he rents to them not me also he comes over talks really bad about her and my brother in law tells me about the condition of there house inside about there rent when its late or short
    I have also been informed recently that he has been telling my personal info and discussing when his friend thats a real estate agent beat up my husband last month and stole our rent money or one of his 3 employees that held my husband down stole with other people that rent one of his residences across town from me also they knew that my husband was on disabillity and all about him having mental issues he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder panic attacks anxiety attacks cronic pain etc after telling him he was breaking our right to privacy and the incedent where my husband went to pay our rent and was verbally attacked while are landlord was sitting in the office with the gentleman that verbally and physically attacked my husband he has refused to accomadate us in any way with where and whom to pay the rent to cause after the attack my husbands sufferred bad episodes with his ptsd and im scared he may attack me as well wich we discussed with our land lord he ignored any and all requests we have made to him then i find out he evicted my mother in law while she was in the hospital after almost dieing and the eviction happened during her hospital stay so i feel that all this harrassment discussing my personal info with his other renters and the physical attack on my husband is steming from him and my mother in laws personal relationship ending also i recieved a 3 day pay or quit he has ignored my calls since so to get to my question dont i have rights to privacy and against his harassment and is it legal for him to refuse to try to accomadate my disabled husband that has sufferred a physical attack by his friend collecting rent for him wich also made him have severe episodes with his ptsd????? please i need help advice or refferal about what i can do or what type of lawyer to contact before he bullies me and my husband and our 3 kids out of our home over his anger and hurt feelings due to his relationship with my mother in law ending right before christmas thank you so much for your time

  • Lucas Hall

    Hi Charlotte,

    I’m sorry you are having trouble with your landlord. He doesn’t sounds like a very nice person. Here are my thoughts on your situation. This is not legal advice.
    1. Yes, the landlords should not be talking about personal matters of his tenants with other tenants. It’s just poor character. However, you would have a tough time claiming privacy rights after you spilled all this information in the comments section of a blog. Legally, the landlord shouldn’t share the information on your lease or application with anyone because it has personally identifiable information (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personally_identifiable_information)

    2. The 3-day pay or quit notice simply states that you have to pay the amount due within 3 days or your landlord can start the eviction process. It DOES NOT mean that you have to vacate in 3 days. But you better think about moving quickly if you don’t want to pay rent and you don’t want an eviction on your record. With that said, there is very little chance that he could evict you before Christmas.

    3. A landlord cannot discriminate (meaning: treat someone differently) because of an injury. However, just because your husband has PTSD, doesn’t mean he’s entitled to rent a property over another qualified candidate – especially if he can’t fulfill the other lease obligations. Someone with PTSD should be treated exactly the same (for qualification and eviction purposes) as someone without it.

    4. If you feel like you or anyone else in your family has been harassed, you should call the police when it happens and file a police report. In many districts, it takes 2-3 reports of harassment on a single individual to make an arrest or for the police to take action.

    I hope that helps.

  • Rose

    Hi Lucas,
    I have been renting a property for 12 years. Have a great relationship with my landlady. She is ill now and in a care home.
    in order to go back to her own home, she had to hire a management co. (She has quite a few rentals)
    A tree fell over in my yard, and I have a leaking pipe now. Called the management co. Said it was an emergency, and to send a plumber. Long story short…didn’call a plumber. Gave ME his #, called him…he knew nothing about it. Never came over. I pay the water bill, so am very concerned. Called the co., manager said she didn’t think it was an emergency, and asked me what kind of a leak it was !?
    They took over management 1 mo. ago.
    I am used to calling a repair person (with my landlady’s permission) to fix stuff and take it off the rent.
    NOT wait around for a response !
    The pipe has been leaking for 3 or 4 days.
    this company has 1 star on yelp by 8 people !
    Can I call someone to fix it and deduct from rent ?
    Thanks for any response !
    Rose

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Rose,

      You should read these state statues which define when and how you can use the repair-and-deduct rule.

      Source: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=civ&group=01001-02000&file=1940-1954.1
      1942. (a) If within a reasonable time after written or oral notice to the landlord or his agent, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 1962, of dilapidations rendering the premises untenantable which the landlord ought to repair, the landlord neglects to do so, the tenant may repair the same himself where the cost of such repairs does not require an expenditure more than one month’s rent of the premises and deduct the expenses of such repairs from the rent when due, or the tenant may vacate the premises, in which case the tenant shall be discharged from further payment of rent, or performance of other conditions as of the date of vacating the premises. This remedy
      shall not be available to the tenant more than twice in any 12-month period.
      (b) For the purposes of this section, if a tenant acts to repair and deduct after the 30th day following notice, he is presumed to have acted after a reasonable time. The presumption established by this subdivision is a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of producing evidence and shall not be construed to prevent a tenant from repairing and deducting after a shorter notice if all the circumstances require shorter notice.
      (c) The tenant’s remedy under subdivision (a) shall not be available if the condition was caused by the violation of Section 1929 or 1941.2.
      (d) The remedy provided by this section is in addition to any other remedy provided by this chapter, the rental agreement, or other applicable statutory or common law.

  • Marlon

    Hi Lucas,
    I lost my job on 11/26/2013 and applied for unemployment, my lease is up on 12/31/2013. I was interviewing with another company but unfortunately I found out on 12/16/2013 that I did not get the job, on the same day I called the apartment manager and let her know that at the end of this month (end of my lease) I will be vacating the apartment since I have lost my job and the lease is up. She immediately asked me to type a letter letting the rental company know that I will be giving my 30 day notice (per the lease agreement, so the 30 days will begin the following day 12/17/2013) I tried to explain to her that I can no longer stay since it will be hard for me to come up with another 30 days of rent, unfortunately she did not care about my situation and stated “by the lease agreement and California law I need to give written notice to the rental company” and that I would have to stay until January 17, 2014 (She will prorate the rental payment accordingly based on the new rent amount). Is there anything I can do or do I need to pay the prorated amount and stay until January 17, 2014?

    Thank you

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Marlon

      You’ll need to go back and look at the specific lease language they you signed. It may require you to give 30 days notice of non-renewal at the end of your lease. But check yourself – don’t assume.

      In my research there isn’t a CA law requiring you to give 30 days notice if the lease is naturally expiring (assuming you were in a year-long lease) See my notes above. Ironically, the landlord is required to give 60 days notice but not the tenant.

      The only thing that would require you to pay rent until January 17th is if your signed lease mandates that you give 30 days notice. Check your lease carefully.

      If it doesn’t require 30 days notice, then you would only be responsible for the lease term. If they withhold your deposit, force them to cite the clauses or laws that allow them to do so, and if it’s not legit, you could take them to small claims court.

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I’m just a landlord who has researched CA laws.

  • JANINE

    Hi Lucas;

    I was renting a house with my daughter, who, long story short became violent and we both needed to go our separate ways. This happened on December 1st. Our landlord being very kind said, I will let you out of the Lease if you move out by this weekend. So, I did move out by the weekend. In the interim, the Landlord and my daughter apparently worked out their own agreement (of which I found out about yesterday 12/19) Their arrangement was for my daughter to pay half of the rent, and then to be moved out by December 15th. Well, my daughter did not give the Landlord 1/2 of the rent for December, nor did she move out. Now, my previous landlord may have to go through with an eviction process.

    My thought is this: My previous landlord verbally agreed to let me out of the lease, if I moved out within a week. I kept my word and moved. I believe that if an eviction takes place, that it should not include my name, as my landlord made a verbal agreement with me, of which I kept. I was let out of a one year lease by his word. My daughter did not keep her word, and I was not privy to their conversation or the arrangements that the two of them made until yesterday. I moved, she is still in the house. Question: if an eviction needs to take place…the landlord cannot go back to the original lease, and add my name to the eviction, or can he? Thanks in advance for your answer.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Janine

      That’s unfortunate that your daughter went back on her word. If your previous landlord chooses to evict her, he has the option to put both of you on the eviction claim with the courts, since you were both on the lease. But I don’t see how that would benefit him. You have clearly moved out, and if he tries to evict you, the judge will throw out that claim because you aren’t there anymore – but would likely continue with the claim against your daughter. Unfortunately, you would probably have to show up in court to make your case. It would just be easier for him if he only filed the claim solely against your daughter.

      With that said, if your written lease is still active, without written evidence that he has allowed you to break the lease, the landlord can still pursue both of you for the remaining rent that is due every month until the natural expiration of the lease. If I were you, I would be more worried about this than the eviction.

      Yes, he verbally agreed to allow you to break the lease, but if he doesn’t get his money, and your daughter turns into a squatter, he can choose to enforce the lease again, and come after you for the money – especially if there is no written proof that he broke the lease, or signed another one with your daughter.

      When you signed a lease, you entered into a contract that has joint and several liability with any other tenant – including your daughter. If she burns the house down, or doesn’t pay rent, you can be held liable – until you have written proof that you are not responsible anymore.

      Check out this article: http://www.landlordology.com/what-is-joint-and-several-liability/

      If I were you, try to get the landlord to put something in writing that releases you from the lease.

  • Albert

    Hello Lucas! We recently moved early out of a home that we were under Lease due to our Landlord giving us verbal notice of their intention to not renew the Lease. Our Lease was not up until the end of December. We found a new home before our Lease was up so we decided to ask if we could move out early and our Landlord agreed. All communication was done verbally. Our Lease states that the Landlord must return the security deposit 30 days after our last day at the property but the law in California states 21 days. Which do you believe takes statute? Do you think if I tell my Landlord that they are violating the law that they will then try and take action for early lease termination? If so can they legally do so?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Albert,
      The 21 days in Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g would have authority over the 30 days in your lease. For a full understanding on how the return of deposit is supposed to go, read 1950.5g: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=civ&group=01001-02000&file=1940-1954.1

      If you are going to try and force him to give back the 21 days to return the deposit, your landlord might get irritated, and then enforce the remaining rent that is due until the end of your lease. Legally, you are responsible for payment through Dec 31, and you don’t have any written proof otherwise. So, he could enforce it if he wants to – and just take it out of your deposit.

      If I were you, I would “let sleeping dogs lie”. The 9 days that you would get your deposit back earlier doesn’t seem worth the extra rent that you might have to pay if you make him mad. After you get the deposit back, and after you cash the check, then maybe you could let him know about this webpage and respectfully inform him of the 21 day deposit rule. If he has a teachable spirit, he might appreciate it.

      This is not legal advice, just my 2 cents.

  • Mel Johnson

    Hi Lucas!!!
    Just askin for your input on what direction to try here….
    Some really inconsiderate people moved into my building-they blast music at all hours and have domestic fights-every neighbor has complained, numerous times-the landlord has confronted them many times but he refuses to do anything more than email them asking them to stop! At this point the landlord isn’t upholding the conditions of the lease which do specify sound and nuisance violations. Any idea of what we can do about this? Anything for me to cite in an email? My neighbors and I are being run out of our home here.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mel,
      Here’s what I would do in your situation.
      1. Find the exact clauses in the lease that are designed to prevent noise issues.
      2. Write a formal letter and cite these clauses to the landlord and the noisy tenant
      3. In this letter, tell them that you are letting the police know about the previous issues, and will call the police on the next instance of noise and/or domestic violence issues. Also, say that you will provide a copy of this letter to the police when they arrive at the next occurrence.
      4. Have multiple neighbors sign it, and then deliver it to the landlord and tenant.

      You could also tell the landlord that if he doesn’t take action to hold up his end of the lease contract, then you can claim he is in violation of the lease, and you will feel obligated to leave. If you document your case very well, then you should be able to prove that you gave him fair warning and notice should he decide to take you to court.

      But, your goal should be to get the noisy tenants to be quiet or leave. You *shouldn’t* have to leave your home because of other tenants.

      Some local governments have rules that if the police are called multiple times on the same tenants, then a landlord can be fined – because they are allowing the tenants to disturb the peace. That might give you some more leverage.

      You could check with your local police station to see if they have any suggestions too.

      Good Luck!

  • Rakesh

    Hi Lucas,
    Firstly thank you for helping us out with you suggestions, really appreciate your gesture.
    Here is my question:
    I moved into my current apartment in August 2013 and signed a lease of a year, now I got another job in a different state and will be moving out in Jan 2014. I walked into the rental office and gave a 30 day notice (it is in the lease that I have to provide a 30 day notice) and now the apartment guys are saying that I should pay the rent till another tenant occupies my apartment, maximum till the end of my lease. This sounds very unreasonable and there is nothing that I had signed in the lease that says this, not sure if it is a state law. I can try to find someone in the next 30 days, but if I do not find anyone, I have to pay the rent till I find them! Please advice if there is a way out of this situation.

    Thanks,
    Rakesh

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Rakesh,

      It’s nice to meet you. I hope I can help. First, the type of lease that you describe is very unusual. It’s confusing to me because if you simply had to give 30 days notice to break the lease, then why would they make you sign a 1-year lease??? If you only need to give 30 days notice without any financial responsibility, then that is called a month-to-month lease. Are you 100% positive that your lease lets you get out of a year lease whenever you want (with 30 days notice)?

      The other confusing item is that if your apartment complex is big enough to have a “rental office” then its likely that the company has had multiple lawyers review the lease to make sure it’s solid.

      With that said, a lot of times the rental office staff is confused as to what the lease says or doesn’t say.

      Your best bet it to read the lease again, very carefully, and review each line with a critical eye.

      If it’s truly a year-long lease, you would be financially responsible for the rent until your term is up – or someone else agrees to move-in and take over the lease.

  • Lisa

    Hi Lucas,
    I have recently moved in few months ago to my new apartment. However, there was a leak in the bathroom every time my family takes a shower. I verbally informed the landlord immediately after I moved in. Repairs didn’t get done until 3-4 weeks after. In the meanwhile, my family and I had to used another facility for shower. After I mentioned that I will deduct those fees from the rent this month, the landlord said he will start the eviction process since i didn’t pay the full month rent with late fee. Do I have the legal right to deduct the utility fees?

    Lisa
    Thank you for your feedback.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, California allows tenants to use a “repair and deduct” policy, but not more than the cost of 1 month’s rent, and a tenant cannot use this remedy more than twice in a 12-month period (Civ. Code §§ 1942)

      Notice that the rule (1942b) says you have to wait 30 days after giving him notice – unless the “circumstances” allow you to act sooner. The word “circumstances”, would lend itself to meaning something dire – like a broken window in the middle of winter, or a flooded basement, or a broken front door lock.

      I don’t know the specifics on your leaky shower, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you if you were warranted in fixing it quickly.

      Be careful. Sometimes tenants want to change the paint color and then call it a “repair”. Only use this policy if you are sure a Judge would agree with you – because if he files an eviction case, you’re going to have to defend yourself. You will have to prove that you
      1) gave him notice of the issue,
      2) gave him enough time to fix it, and
      3) used a reasonably priced contractor to fix it – and show your receipt.

  • Elaine

    I need some advice because I dont know how to go about this situation I am having. Yesterday the manager whom manages the building we stay in came to my door telling me that they have told us before that when our children play outside that we are to pick up the toys and that if she comes again and there are toys out there that she is going to give me a “warning” didnt say what kind she just said a warning. I know and I am aware of that she did say before we all agreed we understud that and we do.. Now she does not live there she only come when something needs fixing witch all the time for the other tendents. she said everytime she come the toys are scattered I only have a hot wheels car that sits outside out of the way the kids play they know the rules where fine. but she came while the kids were still playing they had only came in for that moment to eat some chips and go back out and play, they do it all the time take a break then play some more. I explained that to her but she with attitude continued I told her I did not appreciate the way she came to my door with a threat of a warning because we know the rules we follow them she came at a certain time the kids were not done playing. well there is no lease agreement she says there is a new lease we need to sighn but never comes like she says for this now I am on a month to month agreement with them always pay my rent full never had any problems on time and paid in full. now she says they are under new managment and theres a new lease and again she has not come to give us to sighn such things. the reason i am upset is for 2 toy items my kids had outside wich they where not even done playing with was a problem enough to get a warning and what kind of warning is she talking about? She could not even explain that to me, so is just trying to kick me out? and is that a fair reason to?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Elaine,

      First, I want to commend you for paying your rent on time every month. I wish all renters were like you.

      Unfortunately, this situation has nothing to do with your rent. I can’t validate your managers behavior, but I can try to explain a little of where she is coming from.

      Here are my thoughts:
      1. If you live in an apartment building, you technically aren’t allowed to keep personal items in common area space when you aren’t present. If you’re just taking a snack break, then it seems a little overkill for the manager to be upset about it. It seems like she could overlook that part of it. Your manager is just trying to keep the common areas clear of personal items – which is how she would treat all tenants. It’s not your personal space, so it needs to be clear of personal items when your not there. She’s just doing her job.

      2. I’m not sure what she means by a “warning”. In property management, we usually call them “notices” which is a formal letter that says “you are in violation of the lease because of ________, if you don’t fix it by date ___________, you’ll be fined $_________, and/or we will start the eviction process.”. However, in order to fine someone, the fee schedule has to be posted in the lease or publicly in the community rule book.

      3. If I were in your shoes, I would tread lightly. Since you are in a month-to-month lease (because you have no signed lease), your landlord can simply choose not renew your lease next month, and you’ll be forced to move out. She doesn’t need a reason to not-renew. If you like your home, and you want any sort of security about staying there, I would pursue her about signing that year-long lease.

      I hope that helps you out.

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