Tenants Rights in California
Tenants rights in California are protected by federal and state laws. There are also a number of additional city or county laws that further protect renters. These rights cover a number of things, from application procedures through to eviction. In this article, we will explain some common tenants rights in California and what happens if they are violated.
Disclosures – Tenants Rights in California
Landlords are required to make certain disclosures to potential tenants before they lease the property. These requirements protect tenants rights to a habitable home and stop them from paying high rent for a home of low standards. The landlord must disclose the following things as per tenants rights in California:
- Smoking – The landlord must provide information about smoking restrictions and which zones are smoking and non-smoking around the property. ( Code §§ 1947.5)
- Pests – The landlord must notify the prospective tenant about pest issues or potential pest issues that they are aware of before they sign the lease. If they use pesticides on the property, the landlord must provide information about which pesticides are used, their warnings, and the active ingredients. . ( Code §§ 1940.8, and Business and Professional Code §§ 8538.
- Demolishment – The landlord must provide written notice of their application to demolish a rental unit to prospective tenants before they take the tenant’s security deposit or advance rent payment.
- Mold – The landlord must notify the tenant and provide them with a handbook from the State Department of Health Services (Health & Safety Code §§ 26147)
- Shared Utilities – The landlord must let the tenant know if utilities are shared by all flats or in common areas and how the cost of utilities are divided. ( Code §§ 1940.9)
- Sexual Offenders – The landlord must provide information on how to view the sex offenders registry. This information must be included in the lease agreement. ( Code §§ 2079.10a)
Security Deposit – Tenants Rights in California
Tenants rights in California are strict regarding the security deposit. A landlord cannot charge more than three months’ rent for furnished properties or two months’ rent for unfurnished properties. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 and 1940.5g). The landlord is also not permitted to charge non-refundable fees in addition to the security deposit for cleaning or pet deposits. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5m)
If the landlord does not return the security deposit within 21 days, then they are in violation of tenants rights in California. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g)The remedy for this violation would be small claims court or a civil lawsuit in most cases. Only 15 local jurisdictions require the landlord to pay interest on late security deposits.
What Do Tenants Rights in California Say About Deductions from Security Deposits?
Tenants rights in California specify that the landlord can only make deductions for the following things. The landlord must provide an itemized list of the deductions they made if it is over $126. This includes invoices and receipts for the cost of repairs, cleaning and replacements. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A)
The landlord can make deductions for:
- Unpaid rent
- Cleaning the property to the same standard it was leased in
- Repairing damage made by the tenant or their guests
- Cost of replacing keys if necessary
- Cost of replacing or repairing furniture damaged by the tenant or their guests
Note, tenants rights in California prohibit a landlord from charging tenants for normal wear and tear.
If the landlord tries to withhold the security deposit without reason or if they violate tenants rights in California when making a deduction, they may be charged twice the amount of the security deposit. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l)).
Rent Payments – Tenants Rights in California
The date rent is due is usually stated in the rental agreement. If the due date for rent is not in the rental agreement, then it is due at the end of the month as per tenants rights in California (Civ. Code §§ 1947) and (Civ. Code §§ 1962). The landlord may charge reasonable late fees if they have specified them in the lease, and the fees do not violate rent control tenants rights in California.
At the start of the lease, the landlord can only collect the first month’s rent in advance on top of the security deposit. Collecting the first and last months’ rent or asking for a number of month’s rent in advance is a violation of tenants rights in California.
Rent control laws are designed to protect tenants from price gouging and limit the amount the landlord may increase the rent. Tenants rights in California require the landlord to give tenants notice if they increase the rent in order to allow the tenant to weigh up their options. They must give the following notice:
- At least 30 days’ notice for an increase of 10% or less
- At least 60 days’ notice for an increase of 10% or more
To calculate the increase, the landlord must use the lowest amount of rent they charged the tenant in the prior 12 months. (Civ. Code §§ 827(b)(2-3))
What Do Tenants Rights in California Say About Withholding Rent?
Tenants rights in California allow a tenant to withhold rent if the flat is not habitable. This may be because the landlord is refusing to make repairs to essential services or dangerous situations. Withholding rent is designed to put the landlord under pressure to make the necessary repairs and to prevent the tenant from having to pay for a residence that is not fit for human habitation.
Another remedy offered by tenants rights in California is called repair and deduct. The tenant would call a handyperson and get them to make the repairs and deduct the amount of rent equivalent to the repair costs. To do this, the tenant must send the landlord the receipt, and they cannot deduct more than a months’ rent. (Civ. Code §§ 1942).
If the tenant files a civil claims lawsuit and is unsuccessful, the landlord may apply to recover their attorneys’ fees and court costs. (Civ. Code §§ 789.3d). Tenants rights in California similarly protect the tenant by requiring the landlord to make reasonable efforts to reduce or offset any damages to their property by making timely repairs and attempting to rent it to new tenants. (Civ. Code §§ 1951.2)
Accommodations For Domestic Violence Victims – Tenants Rights in California
Tenants rights in California allow for domestic violence victims to apply for special accommodations to keep them safe. Landlords need to comply with requests to change locks. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5 and 1941.6). They can apply for termination of the lease with just 30 days’ notice, and the landlord must comply. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.7). Tenants rights in California also protect tenants from discrimination in lease renewal or termination decisions based on their domestic violence victim status. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161.3)
Because of the special accommodations domestic violence victims are allowed, the landlord can request proof of domestic violence status. . (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5, 1941.6, 1941.7).
Notice Requirements – Tenants Rights in California
In order to comply with tenants rights in California, the landlord must provide their tenant with notice of things like lease termination, entry, and eviction. Here are what tenants rights in California require in terms of notice periods.
- No notice is required to terminate a tenancy that has a fixed end date stated in the rental agreement. However, it is best practice to give the tenant a reminder 60 days before the fixed end date.
- The landlord must give 60 days’ notice to tenants who have lived in the property for a year or more under a periodic lease.
- The landlord and tenant must give 30 days’ notice before terminating a month to month lease. ( Code §§ 1946).
- The landlord and tenant must give 30 days’ notice before terminating a week to week lease.
If the landlord needs to terminate the lease due to the sale of the property, then tenants rights in California require the landlord to give at least 30 days’ notice. (Civ. Code §§ 1946.1)
The landlord must provide notice to the tenants in order to give them a chance to fix an issue before starting eviction proceedings. Tenants rights in California require three days’ notice for failure to pay rent(Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(2)) and three days’ notice for lease violations. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161(3)).
Tenants rights in California require the landlord to follow the proper eviction procedure. Landlords may not lock out tenants (Civ. Code §§ 789.3b(1))or shut off utilities in order to get them to leave. (Civ. Code §§ 789.3a)
Notice Before Entry
Tenants rights in California provide tenants with a right to enjoy their home in privacy. Therefore landlords must provide sufficient notice before entering the property rather than just showing up unannounced. The following requirements must be followed:
- 24 hours’ notice before entry ( Code §§ 1954a)
- 24 hours’ notice before entry for non-emergency repairs or maintenance ( Code §§ 1954a)
- 48 hours’ notice before a move out inspection ( Code §§ 1950.5(f))
An exception to these tenants rights in California is allowed for entry in the case of an emergency (Civ. Code §§ 1954b). The landlord must still abide by these notice requirements if the tenant is absent from the property but still renting it. (Civ. Code §§ 1954)
Protection From Retaliation – Tenants Rights in California
Tenants are protected from retaliation from their landlord because they exercised their tenants rights in California. Any negative rental decisions made within six months of the tenant exercising their tenants rights in California may be seen as retaliation by the court. (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5). This includes exercising rights to:
- Involvement in a tenant’s organization
- Use repair and deduct remedy or threaten to do so
- Files a lawsuit
- Begins arbitration for unfit living conditions
- Makes a complaint about living conditions
- Reports living conditions to a public authority
- Have a public agency do an inspection, whether it results in a citation or not
Miscellaneous Requirements – Tenants Rights in California
There are additional tenants rights in California that are important to note but do not fit neatly in one category. It is also worth noting that tenants rights in California are the bare minimum, and local laws may impose additional tenants rights. Always check tenants rights for your city and county.
As per the 2012 Fair Housing Handbook of California, landlords must accept the first qualified applicant. They cannot choose from a pool of potential tenants based on other characteristics. Upon mutual acceptance of the lease, the landlord must provide the rental agreement within 15 days. (Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))
If the tenant abandons the property, there are many laws and tenants rights attached to this situation. Please read the Civil Code Sections 1965, 1980 to 1991 for information on how to proceed.