Federal, state, and local laws provide tenants with a number of rights, such as:
- The right to not experience discrimination
- The right to not be charged more than state guidelines for a security deposit
- The right to a habitable home
This is not an exhaustive list of rights; many state and local laws allow more tenants’ rights. In this article, we will discuss tenants’ rights in general terms. We recommend referring to your state and local laws for specific information or speaking to an attorney.
Tenants’ Rights Against Discrimination
The Fair Housing Act is the main federal law that deals with tenants’ rights. It states that landlords cannot offer inferior rental terms or refuse to rent to a person based on their membership of a protected class. It protects the following 7 characteristics:
- National origin
- Familial status
- Disability (mental and physical)
California laws protect these characteristics in their tenants’ rights laws:
- Gender identity and gender expression
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Genetic information
- Medical conditions
- Source of income
For example, if a tenant has children, a landlord cannot require them to pay a higher security deposit.
Who Is Liable For Repairs?
Tenants’ rights include the right to a property in good livable condition, and therefore, the landlord has to pay for regular maintenance and repairs to keep the property in that condition. Under California laws, the landlord does not have to pay for the damage caused by tenants or the tenants’ guests. Therefore intentional or accidental damage caused by the tenant must be paid for by the tenant. Routine repairs or things that were not damaged by the tenant or their guests must be paid for by the landlord.
Tenants’ Rights to Reasonable Privacy
In California, tenants’ rights include the right to privacy, meaning that the landlord must give notice before entering the home. It allows exceptions for emergencies like pipe bursts. Otherwise, landlords must provide their tenants with 24 hours’ notice before entering the property or booking non-emergency repairs to the property. Tenants’ rights require 24 hours’ notice for showings to prospective tenants too. When conducting move out inspections, the landlord must give 48 hours’ notice.
Tenants’ Rights When Terminating the Lease Agreement
Tenants’ rights provide tenants with enough warning of the end of the lease to find accommodation. The notice that landlords must give tenants depends on the length of their occupancy. For example:
- Tenants with month-to-month agreements must receive at least 30 days’ notice before the landlord terminates the lease.
- Tenants who have lived in a property for a year or longer must receive at least 60 days’ notice.
If a landlord violates these tenants’ rights, they may face severe financial penalties in a civil claim.
Some cities have additional laws. For example, in San Diego, if the tenant has lived in the property for two years or more, the landlord must provide just cause when giving the tenant their 60 days’ notice.
If a tenant violates their lease agreement or does not pay rent, their landlord may evict them. However, tenants’ rights require the landlord to follow a strict process to ensure that people are not suddenly homeless.
Tenants’ Rights to Mandatory Disclosure
One of the most important tenants’ rights is the federal law forcing landlords to disclose facts, policies, and laws that may apply to the property. California increases tenants’ rights by requiring the following additional disclosures:
- The allocation of utilities costs
- The online address for the registered sex offender database
- Asbestos disclosure if the property was built prior to 1980
- The locations for any known state or federal ordinance within a mile of the property
- Pest control information
- The smoking policy of the property, including which areas are non-smoking and smoking
- Non-rescinded notice of defaults
- If the rental unit is listed for sale
These tenants’ rights allow tenants to make an informed decision about their rental residence.