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California Rental Laws

Below, you will find vital information about California rental laws as they apply to residential rental units.

The information presented below is based on the Official State Statutes along with other online resources to provide you with a solid introduction to California rental laws.

It should be noted that our summary should not be construed to be a substitute for legal advice or to be fully comprehensive. Laws and statutes do change and could vary from one city or county to another.

For this reason, it is important that you conduct due diligence in performing your own research as well as ensuring you are in compliance with all laws as they pertain to your situation.

If you should have any legal questions, we recommend consulting with a qualified attorney and/or government agencies in your local area. Your state bar association may be able to provide a referral service that can assist you in locating an attorney with specific experience in California landlord-tenant law.

Official Regulations and Rules

Security Deposits:

Maximum Security Deposit Allowed: Two months' rent for unfurnished units and 3 months' rent for furnished units.

Allowable Security Deposit Interest: There is not a statewide statute; however, several local areas have instituted rent control ordinances that require landlords to pay interest. Among those localities is Los Angeles. (reference)

Is a Separate Security Deposit Bank Account Required: No statute exists

Pet Deposits and Additional Non-Refundable Fees: Such fees are now allowed under.

Deadline for Returning Security Deposits-Must be returned within 21 days.

Can Security Deposits Be Withheld? -(handbook)

Security deposits may be withheld under the following circumstances:

  • For unpaid rent
  • For repair of damages beyond normal wear and tear; caused either by the tenant or guests of the tenant
  • For cleaning the unit at the time the tenant moves out of the unit, but only to the degree necessary to make the unit as clean as when the tenant first moved into the unit
  • For the cost of replacing or restoring furnishings, furniture, or other personal property for reasons other than normal wear and tear, if the rental or lease agreement allows it

Require an Itemized List or Written Description of Charges and Damages-Yes, required. Documentation and receipts are not required to accompany the list if the cost of cleaning and repairs is less than $126 under Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A

Record Keeping for Deposit Withholdings Required-No statute exists

Failure to Comply-Retention by or a bad faith claim by a landlord could subject said landlord to statutory damages amounting to double the security amount, along with actual damages. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l))

Rent, Lease, and Applicable Fees:

Due Date for Rent-Rent is to be due at the end of the month unless the lease is for less than a one year period or there is a contract that states to the contrary. Rent is typically stated as being due at the beginning of the month in most leases. (Civ. Code §§ 1947) and (Civ. Code §§ 1962)

Rent Increase Notice: Landlords are required to give 30 days-notice if the rent is to increase less than 10 percent of the lowest amount of rent that was charged during the preceding 12 months. If the rent is to increase more than 10 percent of the lowest amount of rent that was charged during the preceding 12 months, landlords are required to give 60 days-notice. (Civ. Code §§ 827(b)(2-3))

Late Fees: Late fees are allowable, but they must be what is considered "reasonable." Furthermore, landlords must abide by rent control laws in terms of charging late fees and late fees can only be enforceable if they are specified in the lease. (handbook)

Application Fees: The maximum fee allowed to be charged as an application fee is adjusted annually based on changes reflected in the Consumer Price Index. The maximum fee allowed in 2012 was $44.51. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.6(b)).

Prepaid Rent: Landlords are allowed to collect a total of one month of pre-paid rent along with two to three months of security deposit. (handbook)

Returned Check Fees: Returned check fees may be equivalent to the actual bank fee. Alternately, landlords may charge a flat service fee of $25 for the first occurrence and $35 for each subsequent occurrence. (handbook)

Are Tenants Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services, Such as Heat, Water, Etc.?: Yes. Tenants are allowed to withhold rent under such circumstances, as the property is falls under an implied warranty of habitability. (handbook)

Are Tenants Allowed to Make Repairs and Deduct Rent to Cover Those Repairs?: Yes, tenants are allowed to do so, but they are not allowed to deduct more than the cost of one month of rent. Furthermore, tenants are not allowed to do so more than twice within a 12-month period. (Civ. Code §§ 1942)

Are Landlords Allowed to Recover Attorney and Court Costs: Yes. (Civ. Code §§ 789.3d)

Must Landlords Make Reasonable Attempts to Mitigate Damages for Tenants, Including Making Attempts to Rerent the Unit?: Yes (Civ. Code §§ 1951.2)

Notices and Entry to Property:

Is a Notice to Terminate Tenancy with a Fixed End Date Contained in the Lease-Not such notice is required since the lease will expire, but it is still a good idea to provide 60 days-notice.

Is a Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease Required for a Lease of a Year or More: Landlords are required to provide 60 days-notice if all tenants have resided there for more than one year. (handbook)

Is a Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease Required for a Month-to-Month-Landlords are required to provide 30 days-notice. Tenants are also required to provide 30 days-notice. (Civ. Code §§ 1946)

Is a Notice Required to Terminate a Periodic Lease for a Week-to-Week?: Landlords are required to provide 30 days-notice. Tenants are required to provide seven days-notice. (handbook)

Is a Notice Required to Terminate the Lease if the Property is to Be Sold?: Landlords are required to provide 30 days-notice if all of the following conditions are met (Civ. Code §§ 1946.1) (handbook):

  • The landlord has signed a contract to sell the property to another individual who has the intention of occupying the property for a minimum of one year following the end of the tenancy.
  • The landlord has opened escrow using a licensed real estate broker or escrow agent
  • The landlord has provided 30 days-notice not later than 120 days following the opening of escrow
  • The landlord has not previously issued either 30 days-notice or 60 days-notice
  • The property is one which can be sold in a separate manner from any other unit.

Notice for Time and Date of Move-Out Inspection: Required to give 48 hours-notice (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(f))

Eviction of Notice for Nonpayment of Rent: Required to give three days-notice (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2))

Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: Landlords are required to give notice of three days to resolve the lease violation or landlords may file an eviction. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(3)).

Required Notice Prior to Entering Property: 24 hours (Civ. Code §§ 1954a)

Entry Allowed with Notice for Non-Emergency Maintenance and Repairs: 24 hours (Civ. Code §§ 1954a)

Is a Notice to Tenants Required for Pesticide Use: No Statute Exists

Is Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice?: Yes (Civ. Code §§ 1954b)

Is Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence?: No (Civ. Code §§ 1954)

Are Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No (Civ. Code §§ 789.3a)

Are Lockouts Allowed: No (Civ. Code §§ 789.3b(1))

Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:

Are landlords required to accept the first qualified prospective applicant-Under the 2012 Fair Housing Handbook of California, landlords are encouraged to take the time necessary to review the information provided and make a selection based on the first qualified applicant. While there is not a statute that exists to support this, it is generally recommended that landlords do so.

Are landlords required to provide a copy of the lease: Landlords are required to provide a copy of the lease or rental agreement to the tenant within 15 days of the agreement being executed by the tenant. (Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))

Utilities: Landlords are required to disclose information in the event that utilities which service the tenant's respective unit also service other areas, including common areas. Additionally, landlords are required to disclose how expenses will be divided in a fair manner. Furthermore, landlords must provide a method for dividing utilities in the event that utilities are to be split between multiple tenants. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.9

Utilities in San Francisco: Landlords are required to provide sufficient heat to maintain a room temperature of 68 degrees. Such a level of heat must be provided for a minimum of 13 hours, between the hours of 5-11 AM and 3-10 PM.

Move-In Condition of the Property-Landlords are not required to provide tenants with a Move-in Condition Checklist to complete. With that said, it is advisable to do so in the event that court proceedings are brought related to physical damages of the property.

Mold-Landlords are required to disclose any knowledge of the presence of mold in the property that exceeds what is considered safety limits or which poses a health risk. Such disclosure must be made prior to signing the lease. Additionally, landlords are required to distribute a State Department of Health Services consumer handbook. (Health & Safety Code §§ 26147)

Demolishment: In the event that an agent or landlord has made an application for a permit to demolish a rental property, the agent or landlord is required to provide written notification to prospective tenants prior to accepting any funds. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.6)

Ordinances: Landlords are required to disclose the locations of any former ordinances within the relevant neighborhood. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.7)

Sexual Offenders: Landlords are required to ensure the following verbiage is contained within 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 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)

Disclosures Regarding Pests: Landlords are required at the time of the lease signing to disclose any pest control contracts and disclosures that may have been received by pest control companies. If the property is being treated for pests, landlords are also required to disclose the pesticides used as well as their active ingredients along with any warnings associated with those pesticides. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.8, and Business and Professional Code §§ 8538)

Smoking: In the event that the landlord prohibits or limits smoking, the landlord is required to include a clause in the lease specifying the areas where smoking is allowed on the property. (Civ. Code §§ 1947.5)

Proof of Domestic Violence Status: Landlords have the right to obtain proof or documentation of the domestic violence status of a tenant if said tenant claims they are a victim of domestic violence. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5, 1941.6, 1941.7)

Locks: Landlords are required to change the locks if the change is requested by a domestic violence victim and he or she is provided with proof of a court order. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5 and 1941.6)

Special Treatment: Victims may terminate a lease by providing 30 days notice along with a proof of victim status. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.7) Landlords are not allowed to refuse to renew or end a tenancy based on the fact that a tenant or a member of the tenant's household is a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161.3)

Abandoned Property: The rules related to abandoned property are quite lengthy; Civ. Code §§ 19651980 to 1991.

Retaliation: Landlord are not allowed to increase rent, terminate leases, cause a tenant to quite involuntarily, decrease services, or bring an action to recover possession due to a tenant who has filed an official complaint, exercised a legal right, or who has been involved in a tenant's organization. If any negative action is taken by the landlord within six months following any such actions by the tenant, those actions will be construed as retaliation by the courts. (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5) Furthermore, if the landlord acts in a negative manner within 180 days or six months after the following, it will be considered retaliation:

  • Telling the landlord that the tenant will utilize the repair and deduct remedy
  • Complaints regarding the rental unit's condition
  • Beginning an arbitration or filing a lawsuit based on the unit's condition
  • Causing an inspection by an appropriate public agency of the unit

Court Related:

Business Licenses:

Are Business License Required: There are no statewide statutes but counties and local cities may have requirements and regulations.

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