California Landlord Tenant Law
AAOA’s website is a top online resource to help you understand California rental laws. While we are an association for landlords, renters should still read through the information provided as it still applies to California tenant rights. As a landlord, realtor, or property management company it’s important to familiarize yourself with landlord tenant rights governed by federal and state laws, as well as local cities. For example, renters rights Los Angeles will vary from those in San Francisco.
California Tenant Rights
The laws and regulations governing California tenant rights are derived from official state statutes. They cover requirements for the violation of a lease agreement, the ability of landlords to enter occupied properties, tenant fees, security deposits, how to write a lease and more. It should be noted that the following summary is not an exhaustive list of all relevant California Landlord Tenant laws and it is not intended to be legal advice. Laws are subject to change, and will often vary from within the state and from city to city.
We recommend that you perform your own independent research to ensure you are in compliance with any and all laws applicable to your current situation.
Should you have any legal concerns or questions regarding California Landlord Rights or California Tenant Rights, we highly recommend you consult with a qualified lawyer. Many local and state bar associations have referral services that can assist you in locating an attorney.
Landlord Tenant Law California Introduction
There are many good reasons to become a landlord but there are also many responsibilities and questions too.
Do security deposits accrue interest? Is it illegal at all times to smoke marijuana in a rental unit? What are a tenants rights if they believe to be a victim of discrimination? Are building and living conditions included on a move in – move out form? How do I perform a proper tenant screening? What day should rent be due and what if they don’t pay until the next day? If the tenant didn’t pay rent, has moved, and there is damage, what should I do?
Find answers to many questions and more resources to help with Landlord Tenant Law California.
California Landlord Tenant Law – Official Rules and Regulations
- Cal. Civ Code §§ 1925 – 1954
- Cal. Civ Code §§ 1961 – 1962.7
- Cal. Code of Civil Procedure
- California Health and Safety Code
- California Landlords & Tenants – A Guide To Residential Rights & Responsibilities
Rules and Regulations
- Security Deposit Maximum: Two months’ rent for unfurnished units. Three months’ rent for furnished units. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 and 1940.5g)
- Security Deposit Interest: No state statute, but approximately 15 localities have rent control ordinances, which require you to pay interest, including Los Angeles.
- Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: No state statute.
- Pet Deposits and Additional Non-Refundable Fees: Not Permitted. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5m)
- Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 21 days. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g)
- Security Deposit Can be Withheld:
- For unpaid rent;
- For cleaning the rental unit after the tenant vacates the premises, but only to ensure the unit is as clean as it was at the point when the tenant took control of the premises;
- For repair of damages (outside of normal wear and tear) caused by the tenant their guests; and
- If the lease agreement permits it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture or other personal property (including keys), outside of normal wear and tear.
- Require Written Description/Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes. Special Note: should the repairs and cleaning cost less than $126, receipts and documentation are not required to accompany the itemized list of repairs. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A)
- Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No state 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 (plus actual damages). (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l))
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Lease, Rent & Fees:
- Rent is Due: Unless there the lease agreement states otherwise, and the lease is for less than one year, the rent is due at the end of the month. (Civ. Code §§ 1947) and (Civ. Code §§ 1962)
- Rent Increase Notice: 30 days notice if the rent increase is less than 10 percent of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months. 60 days notice if the 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: Permitted, but the fees must be “reasonable” and be in compliance with rent control laws. The fees are only enforceable if specified in the lease. (handbook)
- Prepaid Rent: The landlord is permitted to collect one month’s pre-paid rent (first month’s rent) plus two or three months’ security deposit. (handbook)
- Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, under the implied warranty of habitability. (handbook)
- Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, but no more than the cost of one month’s rent. The tenant is not permitted to use this remedy more than twice in a 12-month period. (Civ. Code §§ 1942)
- Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney’s Fees: Yes. (Civ. Code §§ 789.3d)
- Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Re-rent: Yes. (Civ. Code §§ 1951.2)
Notices and Entry:
- Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: No notice is required. Regardless, we recommend giving 60 days notice to vacate.
- Notice to Terminate Any Periodic Lease of a Year or More – If ALL tenants have lived in the unit longer than a year, the landlord is required to give 60 days notice. (handbook)
- Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Month-to-Month: Landlord is required to give 30 days notice. Tenant is required to give 30 days notice. (Civ. Code §§ 1946)
- Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Week-to-week: Landlord is required to give 30 days notice. Tenant is required to give seven days notice. (handbook)
- Notice to Terminate Lease due to Sale of Property: 30 days notice if ALL of the following are true: (Civ. Code §§ 1946.1) (handbook)
- 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, and
- The landlord has opened escrow with a licensed escrow agent or real estate broker, and
- The landlord has given a 30-day notice no later than 120 days after opening escrow, and
- The landlord must not previously have given you a 30-day or 60-day notice, and
- The rental unit must be one that can be sold separately from any other dwelling unit. (For example, a house or a condominium can be sold separately from another dwelling unit.)
- Notice of date/time of Move-Out Inspection: 48 hours. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(f))
- Eviction Notice for Nonpayment: Three days. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2))
- Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: Three days to remedy lease violation or the landlord can file eviction. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(3)).
- 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: Tenants, including those tenants in and around the unit(s) being treated, are to be notified if the landlord is performing DIY treatment or hiring a professional.
- Lockouts Allowed: No. (Civ. Code §§ 789.3b(1))
- Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No. (Civ. Code §§ 789.3a)
Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:
- Landlord Must Accept First Qualified Applicant – The 2012 Fair Housing Handbook of California states “The landlord should take the time to check out the information and make a selection based on the first qualified applicant(s).”
- Copy of Lease: Landlord must provide a copy of the rental agreement to the tenant within 15 days of the agreement’s execution by the tenant. (Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))
- Utilities: Landlord is required to disclose if the utilities that service the tenant’s unit also service other areas (such as common areas), and disclose the manner in which costs will be fairly divided up. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.9)
- San Francisco Utilities: Landlords are required to 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 a.m. and 3 -10 p.m.
- Move-In Condition: Landlord is not obligated to provide a Move-In Condition Checklist for the Tenants to complete. We nevertheless recommended doing so, as it would be very helpful in the event you are required to go to court over physical damages in the unit.
- Mold: Landlord must disclose (prior to the signing of the lease) knowledge of any mold in the unit that exceeds safety limits or poses health concerns. The landlord must distribute a State Department of Health Services consumer handbook. (Health & Safety Code §§ 26147)
- Demolishment: If a landlord 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)
- Sexual Offenders: Landlords are required to include the following language in the lease:
“Notice: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offender’s criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and zip code in which he or she resides.” (Civ. Code §§ 2079.10a)
- Pests Disclosures: When it is time to sign the lease, the Landlord is required to disclose any pest control contracts or disclosures received by pest control companies. If the premises is being treated for pests, landlord must disclose the pesticides used and their active ingredients, and any warnings associated with them. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.8, and Business and Professional Code §§ 8538)
- Smoking: If the landlord limits or prohibits smoking, landlord must include a clause that specifies the areas on or in the premises where smoking is prohibited. (Civ. Code §§ 1947.5)
- Proof of Domestic Violence Status: Landlord is entitled to proof and/or documentation of domestic violence status of the tenant if the tenant claims they are a victim of such 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 a court order is provided. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5 and 1941.6)
- Special Treatment: A victim may terminate a lease with 30 days notice and proof of victim status. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.7) A landlord cannot end or refuse to renew a tenancy based upon the fact that the tenant or a member of the 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 regulating this area of law are very lengthy and specific. Please refer to: Civ. Code §§ 1965, 1980 to 1991.
- Retaliation: The landlord may not terminate or refuse to renew a lease to a tenant who has filed an official complaint to a Government Authority, or who has been involved in a tenant’s organization, or who has exercised a legal right. Courts will assume “retaliation” by the landlord if a negative action is taken on the tenant within 180 days / six months after the occurrence of any of the prior tenant actions. (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5) It will also be deemed retaliation if the landlord acts negatively within six months after any of the following:
- Tenant uses the repair and deduct remedy, or tells the landlord that they will be using the repair and deduct remedy.
- Tenant complains about the condition of the rental unit to the landlord, or to an appropriate public agency after giving the landlord notice.
- Tenant files a lawsuit or begins an arbitration based on the condition of the rental unit.
- Tenant causes an appropriate public agency to inspect the rental unit or to issue a citation to the landlord.
Court Related Links:
- Small Claims Court Limits: $10,000 (a landlord, however, may not file a suit for over $2,500 more than twice a year). (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 116.110 to 116.950)
- Eviction Cases Allowed: No. (handbook)
- Small Claims Court Limits – Los Angeles: $10,000
- Small Claims Court Limits – San Diego: $10,000 (How to File a Small Claims Case booklet)
- Small Claims Court Limits – Orange County: $10,000
- California Courts – Judicial Branch – Small Claims
- The Small Claims Court – A Guide to its Practical Use
- Business License required: No state statute, but municipalities may have regulations. We recommend that you check with your local city and/or county governmental authorities.
- California Landlords & Tenants – A Guide To Residential Rights & Responsibilities
- California Attorney General
- State Bar of California
- California Department of Consumer Affairs – Small Claims
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – California
- HUD – California Tenant Rights, Laws, & Protections
- Tenant Rights Los Angeles & Protections
- California State Courts
- California Department of Insurance
- California Law Help
- California Department of Real Estate
Renters (and landlords) can also access a booklet provided by the California Department of Housing and Community Development: California Tenants—A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities. While it hasn’t been updated in some time, the booklet is a good resource on California Law for renters rights and covers a broad spectrum of landlord-tenant issues.
California Tenant Screening Background Checks
Landlord Tenant Laws in California do not require a tenant background check to be performed. However, the American Apartment Owners Association as well as other national and local organizations highly recommend properly screening your tenant. Learn more about California Tenant Screening Background Checks.
When screening your prospective tenant be sure you are following all California lease laws and especially the Fair Housing Act. For example, evictions can only be based on a violation of lease terms, not discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and/or disability. A reason this law is in place is to stop illegal discrimination, forbid sexual harassment, and prevent retaliation against anyone who has filed a complaint or helped with an investigation with fair housing.
If the applicant is paying an application fee or you choose to pay out of pocket, AAOA provides a long list of tenant screening services. Just enter the applicant’s name and email or get underwritten for immediate results. Here is a sample set of data points that we can return: credit report and score from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax; criminal and eviction history; residential address history; work verification and employment history; sex offender; OFAC; Telecheck; SSN Fraud; and more.
California Landlord Forms
All states require a variety of forms to rent an apartment to a tenant and California is no exception. Check out American Apartment Owners Association’s California Landlord Forms now.
Nationwide Landlord Tenant Laws
Looking for landlord tenant laws outside of California? The American Apartment Owners Association offers helpful landlord tenant laws for all 50 states. Click on any of the states listed below and go directly to its landlord tenant laws page.
- Alabama (AL)
- Alaska (AK)
- Arizona (AZ)
- Arkansas (AR)
- California (CA)
- Colorado (CO)
- Connecticut (CT)
- Delaware (DE)
- Florida (FL)
- Georgia (GA)
- Hawaii (HI)
- Idaho (ID)
- Illinois (IL)
- Indiana (IN)
- Iowa (IA)
- Kansas (KS)
- Kentucky (KY)
- Louisiana (LA)
- Maine (ME)
- Maryland (MD)
- Massachusetts (MA)
- Michigan (MI)
- Minnesota (MN)
- Mississippi (MS)
- Missouri (MO)
- Montana (MT)
- Nebraska (NE)
- Nevada (NV)
- New Hampshire (NH)
- New Jersey (NJ)
- New Mexico (NM)
- New York (NY)
- North Carolina (NC)
- North Dakota (ND)
- Ohio (OH)
- Oklahoma (OK)
- Oregon (OR)
- Pennsylvania (PA)
- Rhode Island (RI)
- South Carolina (SC)
- South Dakota (SD)
- Tennessee (TN)
- Texas (TX)
- Utah (UT)
- Vermont (VT)
- Virginia (VA)
- Washington (WA)
- West Virginia (WV)
- Wisconsin (WI)
- Wyoming (WY)
Reminder: This information is a general explanation and summary of California Landlord Tenant Law but is in no way meant to substitute for legal advice, nor does it list all the statutes under the California Residential Landlord Tenant Act.