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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2,480 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Zoe

    I was served with 3 day notice. i know the landlord can not include late fees in it, but i paid my rent for november exept for the late fees for the last 3 months and december rent. Anyways can the landlord applies my rent to remedy late fees first and make my rent short or i can file an answer that he overcharge me including late fees.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Zoe,
      I’m not a lawyer, and I can’t give legal advice. With that said, I have not found anything in my research of CA law that prohibit a landlord from applying money to late fees and back-due utilities before applying the money to owed rent. In my experience, I’ve met many property managers who do this. It forces the tenant to pay for all fees before they can pay their rent. To my knowledge, this is acceptable as long as the fees owed are legitimate. Many property managers even post this policy in their leases.

  • Tony

    My wife & I are entering the third year of our apt. (lease) The manger told us about 1 month ago our lease would be going up 5% on Feb 1, 14 I asked him if he will give us written notice, he said yes. He hand delivered the notice yesterday (1/03/14) stating the rent will go up 2/1/14 allowing us the old rental amount for 2/1 to 2/3/14 and new rates after that.
    My question is don’t they have to give 30 day written notice.
    Also they want to increase our security deposit by the same amount. Are they allowed to do that?
    My 2nd question is they recently fired our maintenance/manger person several tenants have asked him who our new manger is, he will not tell us.
    Does Calif law state that a apt. complex of 15 or more units has to have a 24 hr. manger? This is a 55 + complex
    I am located in Los Angeles county
    Thank You

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Tony.
      QUESTION 1: My question is don’t they have to give 30 day written notice.
      ANSWER 1: Yes, California Code says the landlord is required to give 30 days notice if rent increase is less than 10% of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months. 60 days if rent increase is more than 10% of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months. (Civ. Code §§ 1946). In your case, if your landlord gave you written notice on Jan 3, and the new increase doesn’t actually start until Feb 3, then the landlord has given 30 days and is following the rule.

      QUESTION 2: Also they want to increase our security deposit by the same amount. Are they allowed to do that?
      ANSWER 2: Yes, in fact, many landlords require that the deposit always equal 1 month’s rent. So if your rent goes up, you need to add some more money to your deposit. I haven’t found anything in CA law that prohibits this.

      QUESTION 3: they recently fired our maintenance/manger person several tenants have asked him who our new manger is, he will not tell us.
      Does Calif law state that a apt. complex of 15 or more units has to have a 24 hr. manger? This is a 55 + complex
      ANSWER 3: I have no idea. Sorry :(

  • Jessie

    Hi Lucas,

    Thank you for running this blog; I am finding it very helpful. My partner and I are renting a unit from a landlord who lives in the main part of the house. We are six months in to our lease and have always paid on time. He has never had any complaints, and we have a friendly relationship. A few days ago (on the last day of 2013) he asked us if we would start paying rent in cash. He said he had consulted with his accountant and had been advised to collect rent in cash. Upon further inquiry, including an offer to pay through direct deposit, we found out that he was planning on keeping the cash in a safe deposit box. We have looked into the legality of this situation, and are aware that we cannot be required to pay in cash unless a check has bounced (which they have not). We probably are going to refuse to do this, but I wanted to see if you could provide any insight. I noticed that you suggest several times on your site that landlords should not accept rent in cash. Is he just trying to evade taxes? If we go along with this could we be liable for fraud if he gets caught? What about if we get receipts for each payment? Is it even worse if we negotiate something like lower rent or additional space for providing payment in cash? I know you don’t give legal advice, but any insight you have would be very helpful and interesting.

    Thank you so much,
    Jessie

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jessie,

      People are funny sometimes. There are a thousand reasons, some very personal, as to why someone prefers cash over other forms of payment. I don’t like cash as payment for rent because it doesn’t have a paper trail. Sure, you could get a receipt, but he could claim that you forged the receipt. It would be tough to forge a deposited check image.

      If I were you, I would read through my lease agreement (very carefully) and make sure there isn’t a clause that allows him to mandate the method of payment. Then, make sure you can cite the legal code that supports your statement: “we are aware that we cannot be required to pay in cash unless a check has bounced (which they have not)”. Don’t just take someone’s word for it.

      I don’t see how you could be a partner in crime if he does something illegal with the money after you give it to him. What he does with his money is not your responsibility or business. If he chooses to burn it, cook it in a meatloaf, or stuff it in a mattress, it shouldn’t matter to you as long as you have proof that you paid your rent.

      With all that said, I would push back on him. If you don’t want to pay with cash, tell him so, and force him to strong-arm you into doing so (with legal or lease clauses of course).

      However, I have no idea what the rest of your situation is like. He may get mad at you and choose not to renew your lease when it expires. If he feels like you are not cooperating (regardless of how ridiculous his requests are), there may be consequences for you – like a non-renewal, or a bitter landlord, or delayed response time when something breaks.

      Just use your good judgement, and pick your battles. My advice, stay away from cash transactions.

  • Neil

    Your blog is terrific and it’s a great read with helpful links that CA landlords and tenants should be aware of.
    At the end of a six month lease, I paid to have rental premises professionally cleaned and no damage was known. Neither I nor the cleaner could foresee any complaint based on the last seen conditions.
    Two weeks later I received a certified mail notice from the landlord that stains were left on a guest bathroom glass shower door caused by hard water supplied to the premises. It stated the stains were preventable but became “permanent” on the glass as a result of “negligence” in failure to regularly clean the shower door. He is retaining the entirety of the security deposit to “replace” the entire shower door due to failure to return the premises in the same conditions which they were given.
    I have a videotape of the rental conditions at move out that show the premises in good condition but don’t show the door up-close.
    Question 1: Assuming there were difficult to see spots remaining on the glass door for the reasons asserted, does the landlord have any basis for replacing the entire door due to city water conditions?
    Question 2: Would you have done a move out inspection with the landlord given reason to believe he would act in bad faith?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hey Neil,

      In California, the landlord is required to show proof of receipts if he or she is going to withhold from the security deposit any more than $125.

      If I were you, I would require the landlord to show proof of damage with pictures or videos.

      I believe that you are required to keep the shower door stain free especially if there is hard water in the building. That’s just part of weekly maintenance.

      However most hard water stains can be removed with special hard water cleaners from Home Depot or other home-improvement warehouses. I’ve used a product called CLR and it works.

      I think it’s a little ridiculous that the landlord is replacing the door rather than just cleaning it. If it was damaged so badly that he could not have cleaned it, then it stands to reason that some of the hard water stains were there long before you moved in. I’ve never seen hard water stains accrue in six months that I haven’t been able to be cleaned. Five years of neglect? Maybe. But six months, no.

      It sounds like he wants to just replace the glass enclosure and wants to do it on your expense.

      Further, the landlord is not allowed to keep the entire security deposit unless he uses it for legitimate damages.

      If the deposit was $1000 and he only uses 500, he must give back the remaining deposit.

      If your landlord doesn’t validate the expense with documented evidence and receipts as stated by the laws above at the top of this article, then I think you have a really strong case for a small claims lawsuit.

      Keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I’m just an experienced landlord. If you choose to take legal action, you should seek the advice of the licensed attorney in California.

  • SANDY

    I JUST signed a 12 month lease on 1/3/2014 on 1/4/2013 i had an awkward disturbing encounter with the neighbor he made reference to liking my daughter which is 15 but looks 13 he is about 50 and he made disgusting remarks to my 17 yr old son. it left me very troubled i NEVER go on megans law but its that feeling you have that makes your stomach turn like on the movies i went on megans law and there he is KIDNAPPING WITH INTENT TO COMMIT A SEXUAL CRIME AND RAPE BY FORCE i immediatley called the manager she dwn played my concerns sayed that the tenant has been there a long time and tht he is her good friend THAT He got a bad wrap when he was younger and tht is past him that he is a model tenant that he does drink and he is flirty but harmless..i told her i understand getting a bad wrap BUT I AM GOING BY MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH HIM she is still not letting me out of my lease i havent spent one night in the apt and i have no idea wht i can do. the manager is great friends with him even told him that i told her about the incident and she will have him apologize!!!!! she said i will call him tomorrw when he sobers up….i am in tears.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sandy, I’m sorry for your troubles. From my research, I found that landlords are required to put the following clause in their lease. I think this is designed to help a tenant find the location of any sex offenders prior to signing the lease. I’m not sure if you can get out of a lease without there being some sort of actual crime or offense committed. I wish I knew more about this, but that’s all I can say.

      “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 http://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)

  • MARY RIMACHI

    Can my landlord tell me she needs a set of keys to the property I live in (a single family home) and she needs to come in to do an inspection of the property to check the smoke detectors, carbon detectors, and make sure the home is otherwise up to code? I told her I would not allow her in or give the keys to the property agent but only to her. Can she give me 3 day notice for this and try to evict me?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mary,

      You have to allow your landlord access to the unit. In fact, with proper notice, you can’t prevent them from coming in. The items you listed are perfectly acceptable reasons for a landlord to enter the property.

      According to the “Notices” section above and the links to the laws: http://www.landlordology.com/california-landlord-tenant-laws/#notice, the landlord only has to give you 24 hours notice. If you violate this rule, the landlord can give you a 3-day notice to remedy (allow access) or they can file for eviction.

      • J.E. Abbassian

        Dear Mr. Hall;
        I just stumbled upon this page by doing a search to see if it’s illegal to not give a person that is getting dehydrated some tap water in CA. I just went through that situation.
        Anyway, I’m glad I found this site, my daughter & I have been experiencing some really unusual rental situations since we moved to northern California & I’d like to know where we stand. Firstly, the locks on the doors of the rental house I’ve been living in since summer of 2011 are wearing out. I had to remove the one from the metal screen front door myself, & the others sometime will not open easily. I’ve asked the landlord to replace the locks on 4 doors w/the screen door, but he will not do it. He says that is my responsibility. I do not have the money to buy all the locks & am not very handy at that kind of stuff. Also, I don’t have the tools or the money for a handyman to do it.
        When we moved in, another person owned this house & would fix anything that was damaged as well as have the heavy, large bushed & trees trimmed when they had become overgrown, now the new landlord won’t do that either & says I have to pay for that as well.
        When my daughter, grandkids & myself moved in here, we didn’t want to have to move again for a very long time & the original owner assured us that he was keeping the house & never intended to sell it or not renew our lease if everything was fine between us. However, he sold the house to the new owner in 2012 & we’ve had nothing but problems with the new owner.
        On top of all of that, he says that he was not given the last months rent we paid, & my daughter has lost the documentation. It is very hard for us to find a new place to live as well as the financial & physical burden to move. Last but not least, our lease expired at the end of December 2013 & we haven’t received any documents to renew the lease, I wrote him an email expressing our concerns & he said that not to worry that as long as we pay the rent on time that he doesn’t plan on selling the house & will write a new lease. That was in late November of 2013 & still no mention of a new lease. I just have paid January 2014 rent into his bank account as I usually do. I don’t trust him & I’m afraid of what he is going to do as well as asking him about anything; I’m afraid of email or calling him because I’m scared he’ll get mad & force us to leave.
        I’m on disability, my daughter is a college student, her eldest son is only 7, & my youngest grandson is 3 & is disabled as well. I also have 2 large ESD dogs that require a backyard & of course always make it difficult to rent even with the doctors documents to give to a potential landlord. We are in no position to just pick up & just move for many, many reasons.
        So, my questions to you are:
        1) What should I do about the lease having expired & not receiving another lease to sign – we were supposed to be signing another 2 year lease. But I’m afraid to bring up the matter???
        2) Is it legal that he requires us to replace the locks on the outer doors & screen doors?
        3) Is it legal that we have to pay for the upkeep & management of the trees & very large overgrown plants that require landscapers tools & such?
        I have a couple more issues with this landlord as well, but at the moment, these are the really pressing issues. I’m constantly living on edge wondering if we will be forced out of our home with no where to go & or put our belongings.
        Thank you very much for taking your time to read this & offer any advice that you have. I’m very, very scared & intimidated by this man & I don’t think it’s fair that I have to live this way. I’d really like to know what our rights are. We are new to California, so I’m not familiar with the laws regarding landlord & tenant issues in this state at all.
        Very best regards,
        Jennifer

        • Lucas Hall

          HI Jennifer
          There’s a lot of information in your comment, so I’ll try to address it as best as I can.

          First of all, after your lease expired, and because he accepted your rent, a standard month-to-month lease was created under the same terms and conditions that were in the previous lease.

          In my opinion, it seems to me that your landlord is intentionally trying to keep you on a month-to-month lease so he doesn’t have to be tied down. If he is considering selling the place, it is advantageous for him to have a month-to-month because the house will appeal to buyers who might want to live in it, rather than have a tenant. As it stands now, he can terminate your agreement with 30 days notice, and then file an eviction if you don’t leave.

          There’s really nothing you can do to force him to sign a long term lease with you.

          As for your questions:
          1) What should I do about the lease having expired & not receiving another lease to sign – we were supposed to be signing another 2 year lease. But I’m afraid to bring up the matter???
          ***** I think you should start preparing to move. Start looking for other places to live. If he gives you notice, then you’ll be prepared. If you find somewhere that is better, then you simply have to give him 30 days notice, and you can leave.
          2) Is it legal that he requires us to replace the locks on the outer doors & screen doors?
          **** I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t tell you what is legal or not legal. Generally speaking, the landlord is required to make sure the house is secure. As long as you can lock up the house, the landlord has fulfilled his duty. If a main lock breaks, then the landlord needs to fix it, or it could a liability issue if you were to get robbed, or someone was hurt by an intruder.
          3) Is it legal that we have to pay for the upkeep & management of the trees & very large overgrown plants that require landscapers tools & such?
          **** I don’t know about the legal aspect. The lawn responsibilities are usually specified in the lease. In my opinion, the tenant is generally supposed to upkeep the grounds and anything on the property. If your former landlord did that, then it sure was nice of him. If you live in a condo, then the condo association usually hires a crew to maintain the grounds.

          Also, if you paid “last months” rent to your former landlord, he should have given that to the new landlord at the time of ownership change. You have a legitimate argument here and you should take that up with your old landlord. If he refuses, you could take him to small claims court for stealing your money.

          I hope that helps.

  • Evelyn

    I moved in at my new apartment on October 2013. I didn’t own a dog at the time but I adopted one since I saw other 2 tenants having a dog. My landlord seems to not like me for some reason and is accusing that stains in carpet are pee stains in the hallways. We had verbal agreement that it was okay for me keep my dog as long as the building stays clean. But my contract states that “dogs are not permitted on the property without a approval of lesser. And that I can lose my deposit if unauthorized pet is in property. Then in another sentence it states that Lessee will lose security deposit as well face eviction. I have text from the owner saying that it is okay for me have the dog. What should I do?

  • Lucas Hall

    Hi Evelyn, It’s tough to say. What is the owner asking you to do?

    I think that if you have proof that your landlord allowed you to have a pet, then the only concern would be the damage to the property. You would be responsible for any damages caused by the dog. If the landlord thinks the dog is preventing you from keeping the place clean, then, in your landlord’s eyes, you would be breaking the verbal (or text) agreement, and the landlord might feel like he/she can kick you out. Verbal agreements make leases fuzzy and unclear as to who is responsible for things. I’m not sure how a judge would rule in your case if you ever took it that far.

  • Oscar

    Hi Lucas, love this site and your knowledge and advice is very helpful and conducive. I recently became a property manager for my first time and learning as i go. I’m turning the complex around and implementing the rules so the people are more comfortable and their isn’t and disturbances or issues. I have a tenant in the building who use to be a manager. He is somewhat a hassle and a little bit of a disturbance. I get the feeling he is testing me. The Managing company who i manage for is kind of fearful to discipline the tenant of any wrong doing because apparently in the past he has brought in lawyers. Anyways i looked through his lease for information and leverage in case he does not want to admit any wrongdoing if he is violating his lease and i found that he had modifies his own lease himself by not checking some areas and writing signing areas to prevent him of any knowledge or responsibilities. Can he do that. I live in the city of Whittier CA. and was curious as to know if rent control can be contested in that area. I would really appreciate any advise. Thank you Lucas.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hey Oscar,
      Welcome to property management. I’m so glad to hear you are taking it serious and are trying to do things by the book. If your trouble tenant use to be the manager, then he probably knows how to work the system – which is going to make it tough on you.

      To answer your questions:
      1. No one can alter any section of a lease without both parties signing off on it again. Can you imagine the trouble that would cause if a tenant changes the rent from $1000, to $100 by simply scratching out a zero? The changes he made has not legal ground unless the management company signed off on them after he made them.
      2. I’m not familiar with rent control in Whittier CA.

  • Colette

    Hi Lucas,
    we have moved out of a rental situation 8 months ago. The landlord did not cash our last rental check for all this time. We could also not get a hold of him. Obviously after all that time he now has tried to cash that last check which had expired. Are we still liable to pay that rent?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Colette,
      I had something similar happen to me – except I was the landlord, and my tenant didn’t deposit the return of security deposit check. She waited over a year. In my opinion, you are still liable to pay that last rent check. It’s a contractual thing and you are obligated to pay rent for the time that you rented that home. Yes, your landlord was dumb for not cashing the check, but it doesn’t void your responsibility.

      If I were you, I would void the previous check, and then send him a cashiers or bank check, via certified mail, return receipt requested. A cashiers check is the same as cash, and it’s taken out of your account regardless of if he deposits it. That way, you can’t be held responsible after the point that he receives the check in the mail (which you will have proof of by sending it certified through USPS)

  • Melissa

    Hi Lucas,
    I am a landlord and I was having a phone conversation with a tenant yesterday and she mentioned that she has had the stove/oven range out in the yard covered up because she doesn’t need it or want it and she has found it unwrapped several times. I explained to her that it is probably the nighttime critters (rats, racoons, possums, etc.) unwrapping the oven due to smelling food remnants on it or using it as shelter. I told her that the appliance should never have been stored in the yard and that she needs to bring it back into the dwelling and make sure its still in working order. She became angry and confrontational and refused to discuss it. She is now requesting that I come to the property to discuss it with her, however it clearly states in the rental agreement that “Tenant shall properly use, operate, and safeguard premises, including if applicable, any landscaping, furniture, furnishings and appliances, and all mechanical, electrical, gas and plumbing fixtures, and keep them and the premises clean, sanitary…” Given her demeanor, I wish to have all communication in writing. My question to you is, may I just right a letter to her regarding the noncompliance with the rental agreement or are there laws specifying how I must notify her that her noncompliance is in violation of the rental agreement?
    Thanks for your help. Great website!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Melissa,

      That’s really odd behavior on your tenants behalf. Who just thinks “i don’t want it, so I’ll put it in the yard?”, and then a oven at that?… does she not cook? I’ll never understand some tenants…

      Anyway, yes, I would send a formal notice to her, via USPS certified mail, return receipt requested (so you have proof of receipt). In this letter, you need to tell her that she has 3 days to comply with the lease agreement (be specific, i.e. bring the stove back in the house). If she doesn’t, you can start the eviction process (see the links to the code in the post above for notice for lease violation).

      You should also mention that per the lease, she is responsible for any damages to appliances above normal wear and tear. Since ovens are not intended to be stored outside, she would responsible for the cost of fixing or replacing it. Unfortunately, with illogical tenants, you will probably be stuck using her security deposit at the end of the lease to replace it. At the end of the lease, you are entitled to have an oven in the same condition as when the lease began.

      Let me know how it goes. This is definitely one of more wild stories I’ve heard.

  • John

    we have a two year lease of which we were four month’s ahead i rent payments (plus an additional month as we paid first/last month rent when we signed lease). There was mold found in the home after a flood occurred due to a leaking toilet which landlord was notified of and never fixed. We were forced from the home since mid april 2013 and home is still not ready. Landlord has changed locks on home, refused to give us keys and now sent us a letter terminating lease (still one year left on lease). He has not returned any prepaid rents, etc and is also trying to keep security deposit. Our valuables and property/furniture are still in home since we had no notice when forced to leave due to mold contamination. Please guide/advise where to turn

    • Lucas Hall

      John,
      Your landlord is breaking all kinds of CA statues – assuming that you both agreed moving out was the best course of action. If you moved out without his consent, it doesn’t relinquish your lease responsibility. It’s sounds like your house was very much not in a livable condition.
      1. He can’t terminate the lease for inhabitability unless you both agree, or the county makes him.
      2. He cant change the locks on an active lease and lock you out.
      3. He can’t keep any prepaid rent, especially if he couldn’t provide a property for you to live in.
      4. He can only keep the security deposit to make up for rent that you didn’t pay or damages to the property that you caused. A leaky toilet (if not an obvious leak) is not your fault.

      With this said, I know there are 2 sides to every story, and I’m not a lawyer nor can I give legal advice.

      If I were in your situation, I would tally up every penny that you feel he owes you, and send him a “Demand letter”, demanding the return of $XX. If he doesn’t comply, consider filing a small claims lawsuit against him to get the money back. Once you file a claim, he may just give you the money back to save on the trouble. Or, if you can afford it, talk to a local lawyer. Since it seems like you would win in court, the judge may even force the landlord to pay for your lawyer costs.

  • MARY

    Can a property owner file for an eviction, for reasons other than non payment of rent, in Los Angles which is under rent control, if the unit is not registered with the city. The unit is in the process of being legalized but the tenants are otherwise doing things that, if the unit were registered, would justify evicting them.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mary,
      Yes, generally speaking a property manager or landlord can file for eviction because of a lease violation.

      Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: 3 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)).

      I’m not familiar with LA rent control, but these are state-wide CA rules, so they should apply. I hope that helps.

  • Albert Rubio

    Which wins, the law or the lease? We signed a lease which stated the Landlord has 30 days to return our Security deposit, but the law in California states that it must be returned within 21 days. We will be suing our Landlord based on the 21 day rule, but would like to know which supersedes? Thanks!!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Albert,
      In every case I’ve heard of, the law wins over your individual lease. If you lease contradicts a law, then the judge will throw out your lease.

      I have a question though… did you get your deposit back, even though it wasn’t within 21 days? If so, did the landlord withhold anything illegally, or were all the deductions valid? In order to sue the landlord, you need to prove damages. Yes, he withheld it longer than allowed, but he probably just didn’t know about the 21 day rule. If everything about this story is within the parameters of the law, I don’t see what damages you would be sueing for?

      If you haven’t gotten your deposit back (minus damages), then your best course of action is to inform the landlord of the 21 day rule, and send him this link: Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g. You could even send a formal demand letter to him.

      If you are serious about sueing your landlord, then you should talk to a licensed attorney in CA.

  • Susie

    Hi – I had a tenant that moved out of a house they were renting. Before they moved I discovered they had a dog. I spoke to a few neighbors and realized they had it for about a year! It stated in the lease they didn’t have any pets when they moved in and the lease said ‘no pets’. The dog did serious damage to the carpet. I understand I can charge them for the damage but what are the financial consequences a landlord can assess to a tenant for having a pet ‘illegally’ on the premises?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Susie,

      You can charge any excessive damages beyond normal wear and tear to the tenant, and/or withhold that money from the deposit – regardless of if that damage was caused by the tenant, a pet, a child, or a guest of theirs.

      If your lease said “no pets”, but specified a pet fee amount if you ever chose to allow pets, then I *think* you could back-date that fee and charge that to the tenant too. For example, if your lease said “no pets, but if the landlord approves a pet later on, extra $100 per month in rent will be assigned to the total rent amount”, then you could probably assign a $100 fee for every month that the pet was in the house (12 x 100 = $1,200).

      If your lease did not specify a fee for pets, then you wouldn’t be able to charge any fee now.

      To my knowledge, there is no statute that address this situation specifically. Feel free to look through the state or local laws yourself.

  • Elise

    Hi Lucas,

    I am a landlord, and live in Oakland, a rent controlled city. I have a tenant that is continually late with payment almost 15 days late. In rent controlled cities, you are not allowed to give notice of termination without a just cause, even for those with month to month agreements, such as the one I have with my tenant. My question is, do these ordinances apply to a single family dwelling? I see some that say no and some say yes. If they do apply, how do I provide my tenant with a ‘notice of late payment’, so as to follow the rules. I am allowed to give them a 3-day notice? Or do they have to be months behind in rent in order to give them this notice? My question is, what document can I provide them, if not a 3-day notice, for late payments each month? And how many months must they be late on their payment before I can have a ‘just cause’ for eviction. Also, we have a verbal agreement, but I want to give them a written agreement. I read that I am allowed to do so, as long as I do not make any changes to the rental agreement, which I will not. My question is: what date do I put in the lease as the beginning date for rent? Would I have to put the date they actually started renting from me or the date I gave them the written agreement? Please advise and thank you!

    • Elise

      I emailed the Rent Adjustment Program manager for Oakland, and she replied that “Most single family units and Condo are exempt under the rent control ordinance; however, the tenants would be covered under the Just Cause Ordinance.” So, I can raise the rent but I can’t terminate tenancy, I’m assuming that’s what she meant. And I’m not even sure of that as she stated ‘most’. If you could help me with the unanswered questions that still remain that would be wonderful. Thanks again!

      • Lucas Hall

        Hi Elise,

        Yes, in every state I can think of, you can’t terminate a lease without the tenant missing a rent payment or violating a lease clause. You can’t kick someone out “just because you want to”. However, maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but a month-to-month lease is designed to end, and then renew every month. Both parties have the option to not renew at the end of each month – as long as you give 30 days notice (Civ. Code §§ 1946).

        I’m going to answer your other questions:

        1. how do I provide my tenant with a ‘notice of late payment’, so as to follow the rules. *** just send them a formal letter via USPS certified mail, return receipt requested, saying that their rent is late, and they have 3 days to pay or you will file for an eviction.”

        2. I am allowed to give them a 3-day notice?, Or do they have to be months behind in rent in order to give them this notice? ***Absolutely, you can send them a 3 day notice the first day that the rent is late, read (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2))

        3. My question is, what document can I provide them, if not a 3-day notice, for late payments each month? And how many months must they be late on their payment before I can have a ‘just cause’ for eviction. *** just 1 day before you can demand rent and send a 3 day notice to remedy or quit (i.e. start eviction). If you, have a grace period, then you should wait until after that.

        4. Also, we have a verbal agreement, but I want to give them a written agreement. I read that I am allowed to do so, as long as I do not make any changes to the rental agreement, which I will not. ***You can draft up a written agreement, but you can’t make him sign it if he doesn’t want to.

        5. what date do I put in the lease as the beginning date for rent? Would I have to put the date they actually started renting from me or the date I gave them the written agreement? *** I would suggest drafting up a lease that would just reflect your verbal agreement. So if your verbal contract started on June 1st, then that would be the start date on the lease. Write it up as if you had done it in the beginning and take the approach (when talking with him) that you are only documenting the existing agreement.

  • NG

    Hi Lucas,

    I need your advice and help! I rented a studio in CA for 9 months lease contract. I’ve an emergency and I’ve to leave on Janaury 31st and I adviced my landlord who wasn’t helpful. My lease wil end on Feb, 28th, I already gave her a notice that I will leave on January 31st and I read that as per CA Law ( I provided it below) that I can make a lease transfer for the remaining period as long as the new tenant is suitable ( credit report, pay checks, etc..) he/she can take over the remaning period. The landlord first says yes and then says no because she want to waist time as she knows I’ll leave n January 31st, and I already stated that I’ll pay the month of Feb, if I couldn’t find a transfer, then she makes things worse by refusing to provide me the security depost on the same day – where she provieded the other tenants their security deposit on the same day of their check out. So I can’t trust her, because she knows I’ll be in another state and it’ll be hard to file case in court if she didn’t provide me back the security deposit.

    I tried to look for a tenant who’s suitable and she even forced me to find someone for 9 months contract!! I tried to help, but she waisted so much of my time going back and forth so that she can waist my time until January 31st and also take Feb. rent.

    The CA Law states the following:
    “California Civil Code allows landlords to collect rent on the remaining months of the lease, it also requires landlords to mitigate their damages. In other words, if your landlord can find a replacement, with your help, that meets her reasonable standards as a tenant, she must make a good faith effort to sign them to a lease and allow you to get out. If not, she is in violation of California Civil Code by failing to “reasonably avoid” excessive damages.”

    I want to verify my right, because I want to go to the civil court and file a case aganist her.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi NG,

      This particular area of the CA law is confusing, and often misunderstood. I’m happy to give my opinion, but please know that I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. It’s just my long-winded answer :)

      The “quote” that you cited above, is not actually in the legal code. Your citation seems to be someone’s interpretation. As I understand it, the landlord is required to make a reasonable effort to mitigate his or her damages if the tenant needs to break the lease. Meaning: the landlord needs to try and accommodate your request to break the lease. As you can imagine, there are multiple levels of accommodation, and no two situations are the same.

      I highly suggest that you read Civ. Code §§ 1951.2 and Civ. Code §§ 1951.4 (Scroll down)

      1951.2 talks about the landlord’s responsibilities to mitigate damages.
      1951.4 mentions that you might still be liable if your lease requires it.

      In my opinion, the issue is how you might define the term “reasonably avoided”. As I understand it, the tenant has to prove that the damages to the landlord could have been prevented, within reason. After all, it is the tenant who is breaking the contract.

      If a tenant brakes a lease agreement with 6 months left on the lease, the landlord would not be able to charge the tenant for the remaining 6 months of unpaid rent – simply because it wouldn’t take the landlord 6 months to find a replacement. However, it might take the landlord 30-60 days, and therefore the tenant would be responsible for that lost rent – which is a reasonable amount of time.

      In your situation, because you are trying to find a replacement for yourself, it seems like you are making it very easy for your landlord to not have any damages. However, the landlord stills has the right to ensure that the replacement tenant passes all quality checks. Unfortunately, you can’t force the landlord to accept an applicant just because you want to break the lease. They have to be an applicant that the landlord would have accepted anyway under normal circumstances. I don’t think your landlord has a right to force you to find a 9-month tenant given that your are skipping out on only 1 month, but if you want her cooperation, you might want to play along.

      Also, the landlord has 21 days (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g) to return any remaining deposit from the end of the lease. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect the deposit returned on the day you move out – especially since the lease is not over yet.

      Depending on your lease (Civ. Code §§ 1951.4), your replacement might be considered an subletter, and therefore your deposit should be held until after the lease is officially over, the subletter is moved out, and damages withheld. To be honest, very few landlords give the deposit back on day 1 – and NEVER have I ever seen a landlord give back a deposit prior to lease end. I am going to assume that your landlord will give back the deposit eventually – minus any damages.

      If I were you, I would read through the CA code, and your lease very carefully. Considering you are the one breaking the contract, some Judges might hold you to your lease agreement to pay for the month of February. If you do decide to take the case to small claims court, be careful, because if you lose, the landlord is allowed to make you pay for legal fees too per Civ. Code §§ 789.3d.

      Anyway, I don’t have any definitive answers for you (sorry!) but my advice is to be cautious here – as your case might not be as strong as you think. My suggestion is to continue to try and find a tenant that your landlord would accept, and then when she does, force her to end your lease and start a new one with the new tenant (no sublets). Then wait 21 days for your deposit back, and then consider whether you want to sue her. As always, this is not a substitute for real legal counsel.

  • NG

    Hi Lucas – Please find the list of questions below:

    1- I know the landlord intention not to provide me the security deposit. I requested the landlord for a pre-moving check 2 weeks prior my actual date of leaving which is January 31st. I gave her 3 dates, Janaury 14, 15 and 16. She said she has things on those dates and then I gave her the option of Janaury 16th maximum. I need to know the following:

    If she doesn’t reply what should I do, how can I prove it and what’s the law here to protect me?

    When we perfrom the pre-move assesment what should I’ve of documents that they and I should sign.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi NG,
      The deposit can only be used for unpaid rent and for actual damages that are beyond normal wear-and-tear. You can sue her if she holds your deposit for things that you didn’t do (and can prove it) and for normal wear and tear. If she withholds your deposit for the extra month of rent that you are breaking the lease, you should talk to a lawyer before suing over that. As stated in my earlier email, I’m not sure if you would win that battle since taking 30 days to find a tenant is still a “reasonable” amount of time. You’d have to prove that you found a candidate that actually applied for the property, was ready to move-in, but she denied them in an effort to hurt you.

      My suggestion to you would be to document the condition of the property with a video and lots of pictures. After you clean the and move all your stuff out, walk around each room and video every surface of the place. Get a time stamp on the video, or hold up a newspaper so the camera can see the date. That way, you have evidence of the condition of the property when you departed.

      If she tries to keep you deposit for “cleaning” or a “broken window”, you can refer back to the video and prove that you left the property in equal or better shape than when you started the lease (normal wear excepted). She can only keep a part of the deposit equal to the amount of damages. So, if you had 20 burned out light bulbs, she could withhold the exact cost of the bulbs, but not more.

      I don’t think she has to do a walk-through WITH you. She can do it anytime after you move out – and you don’t have to be present. I’m sure she can’t deny your attendance if you want to be present, but you’d have to be available when she schedules that works for her. You can’t force her to pick one of your dates.

      If she does perform the inspection with you, then you could have her sign a document stating her findings. Or you could google “move-in / move-out inception checklist” and use any number of templates found on the internet.

      Again, please don’t assume she will give you the deposit back the same day. She has 21 days after you move out to do the accounting and send you a check.

      I hope that helps.

  • NG

    If I pay for the month of Febuary and they find someone to rent the Feburary month, then I am entitled to have my month rent, which civil code is this?

    Also how can I know if they signed the month of feburary or for what ever period of feburary and how can I make sure they’ll pay me back my money? Is there’s any document I can have to help me or submit it aganist them?

    Also what should I have in the document when I am checking out that the apartment is in good conidtion 100% so that I can get my money fully back.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi again,
      CA Civ. Code §§ 1951.2 says that a Landlord must make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages to lessee, including an attempt to rerent.

      In my opinion, this means that the landlord shouldn’t “double-dip” – meaning, the landlord should NOT collect rent from two separate people for overlapping leases. In my opinion – double dipping is not “mitigating damages to the lessee”.

      If they find a new tenant – or the new tenant takes responsibility of the unit, on Feb 15th, then you should get a prorated amount of money back to reimburse you for Feb 15-28th. You won’t know for sure if your landlord is lying about the date that someone else takes possession of the place. There is no way to know without going to court. Well, I suppose you could secretly call the new tenant and simply ask them when their lease started.

      As for the deposit, you can’t guarantee that she will give you back 100%, because there might be damages that are your fault, but that you’re not aware of. For example, one of my tenants thought he was getting back 100% of his deposit, but he had lost one of his exterior key FOBs, which are $50 to replace. So, I had to withhold $50 to pay for the new key – even though his apartment was in excellent condition. Go to google, and search for “move-in / move-out inception checklist”, which will give you something to start with. Your landlord probably has her own move-out checklist, so do try to force her to use your template.

      Keep in mind, if the landlord withholds ANY money, from your Feb rent payment or deposit, then they need to validate it. She will need to give you an itemized statement of any withholdings if it’s over $125 (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A)

      Read the top of this article, under “security deposit” for more info.

  • NG

    I had provided the property manager a very sutiable tenant for a lease transfer and previous to that she said yes then we had very intense emails and she then said no! I did send her another email mentioning that there’s alredy a very suitable tenant and she didn’t respond. Her way of dealing is not to respond, and now the tenant is no longer interested. Did she viloate any law, do I’ve any right as she didn’t help me to get out and forced me to pay the month of Feb.?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi NG,
      I’m sorry that the landlord changed her mind. How are you rating the quality of the candidate? Did you evaluate their income and rental history? Did the landlord ever get to that point?

      If you feel strongly that the landlord is in violation of CA Civ. Code §§ 1951.2, then you should wait until it’s all over, then file a case with small claims court in your that county.

      Unfortunately, there is noting you can do at this point, because the landlord has not technically broken a rule yet – i.e. your deposit hasn’t been illegally withheld yet, and she hasn’t refused to move-in a (any) tenant on Feb 1st… yet.

      Alternatively, you could try and find a 9-month tenant, like she asked for. Then, if she refuses this person, you would have an even stronger case. But if she accepts that tenant, then it would save you the trouble of going to court (which is a hassle).

  • JT

    Hi Lucas.
    I’m a first time landlord and my new tenant is complaining that the heating system blows cold air and she insists I call a professional to have it fixed. I have personally checked the system 3 times (once before she moved in and twice since moving in) and the system is working fine. I lived there for 10 years so I know this system well. This is a central HVAC system which does blow a little “not hot” air when the system first turns on and in-between cycles but it is only for a few seconds then the heat comes out. I have explained how the system works to her an advised on the recommended temperature settings (as per local utilities websites) but she is insisting there is a problem that I fix. The system is able to maintain what I feel is a comfortable temperature throughout the house. When I last checked the system she had the thermostat set to 85 degrees which is probably to high for this system to handle. The house was also sweltering to me but she was complaining about being cold. I know as the landlord I am required to provide heat, but just how much heat is required? Is there an acceptable limit and is she possibly asking for too much? This is Los Angeles with outside temps in the high 70s low 80s. I’m at a loss as to how much i can push back without telling her she is the problem.

    Thanks, JT

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi JT,

      I seems like your tenant just prefers to keep the heat at 85 degrees, which is unusual. However, I don’t think her preference should be your responsibility. I think that as long as the furnace is able to keep the temperature between 68-78 degrees (preferred averages), I don’t see why you would have to change anything.

      If she has a documented medical condition, I would do my best to help her, but I wouldn’t spend $1,000s on a new heater. With that said, you do have a responsibility to make sure it is working correctly. There might be some value to you sending over a HVAC repair man to do a quick check-up, and then you would have a professional’s opinion.

      If she were my tenant, I would say “call me when the temperature drops below 72, otherwise, go buy few space heaters (2 for $30 at Target) and use them accordingly.” It sounds harsh, but you can’t please everyone.

  • Amy

    I have a question, I gave a $500 deposit on a rental unit. The landlord said I could put up a fence for my dog and once I found someone he decided I should go with his fence guy instead. Only problem his guy was $300 more. I explained that would not work for me and now he won’t give me back my deposit. I never signed anything, and I have text messages and in none of them did he say the deposit was non refundable. I also have all the texts about the fence situation. I never moved in and then when I said I would still move in (on the original move in date) he said no because he had found someone else. Can he still keep my deposit? Is this something worth going to court over?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Amy,
      Civ. Code §§ 1950.5m says ” (m) No lease or rental agreement may contain a provision
      characterizing any security as “nonrefundable.” However, a deposit can be kept if tenant backs out of the contract, and never moves in. But if he canceled on you, then he shouldn’t get to keep the deposit too! That’s just bad business. It sounds like scam, and I would be pissed if I were a tenant in that situation. Small claims court is the appropriate system for this if you wanted to pursue him. Check the links in the post above to learn more about the statutes and small claims court.

  • Dianne Kavanagh

    Hi Lucas: I desperately need help. I have a Lease with my Landlord for a 2BD/2BA unit. With his permission, but on my own Lease I got a Roommate. My ad said that the Bath was private with the exception that we must share the use of the W/D in this Bathroom. She moved in 15 days ago. She’s trying to force my moving my items for her convenience. Got very testy when I said No. I have documents that say no room for her items but in her room and bathroom. She initialled. Now she tells me that she had thought about putting a lock on the bathroom door so I could not do laundry. HELP! How do I outstep this one? Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions . . . . Dianne

    • Lucas Hall

      Try your best to refer to the lease that she signed. It’s hard to argue with a signed contract. However, if she persists, you could inform her that adding a lock would force the property owner to get involved, which would be unpleasant and expensive for her. The fact is that most landlords prohibit any additional locks to be added anywhere in the premise. Check your lease. Like it or not, the landlord can still evict her even though your roommate is a subletter. In my leases, adding locks is a breach of contract because I don’t ever want them to lock me out of the property. It’s just a creative idea in which to approach this conflict.

  • Claire

    Hi,
    My manager recently let a cable service provider tech into my apt. when I was at work. She called me and emailed me but I was working so I didn’t respond and she let him in. He was there to fix the service for the apt. above mine. I am extremely upset. My husband travels for work and I am here alone so I would prefer people not be let in when I am not home and haven’t given consent. I emailed her that I was upset to which she responded that it was an emergency. Cable service for my neighbor is not an emergency situation so from my understanding she broke california civil code 1954. That code is also referenced in our lease. Do we have legal reason to break our lease. I don’t feel safe in this apartment anymore because she won’t respond in anyway that leads me to believe she won’t do it again.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Claire,
      I agree with you, cable repair is NOT an emergency. They were just too lazy to come back later. I can’t advise you one way or another on whether you can break your lease. My recommendation would be to document this and any future occurrence extensively.

      If this happened in the last day or so, you could call the police and file a police report for unlawful entry – just so you have something on file. That will surely send a strong message to your property manager because she is clearly abusing the “emergency” entry clause. Other than that, you should talk to a lawyer about this.

  • Cecilia Van

    In what instance (short of order by court) do you know of a landlord successfully locking out a non paying tenant.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Cecilia

      There is no instance I have ever seen where performing a lock out (or self-help eviction) ever works out for the landlord. It usually costs the landlord more time and money compared to doing it the legal way.

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