Understand your California landlord tenant law in the shortest time as we distil the California Landlord Tenant Act into simple English.
The California Landlord and Tenant Act applies if you
are renting a residence, such as a house, apartment, lodging or room. What makes California different from most states is that hotel and motel residents have the same rights as tenants in MOST cases - See California Civil Code Section 1940 for more details on the rights of hotel and motel residents in different situations.
If you have any questions or need legal advice, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.
California landlord tenant law allows the landlord to ask prospective tenants for application fees to cover the costs of background and credit checks. The landlord can ask for a maximum of $30 as application fees. CA Civ Code § 1950.6.(b)
The landlord has to give the tenant a receipt (with itemized expenses) after receiving the fees from the tenant. This receipt can be mailed to the tenant or delivered in person. If the landlord did not run any tenant screening checks, he or she has to return the fees to the tenant.
If the tenant has paid the application fees and requests to see his or her own consumer credit report, the landlord must give a copy of it to the tenant. CA Civ Code § 1950.6.(f)
A background check will show a person's history of addresses, evictions, bankruptcies, judgments and liens.
A full credit report comes with a basic background check, credit check plus criminal check. A basic background check shows a person's history of addresses, evictions and bankruptcies.
Landlords do not need the tenant or applicant's consent to run background and credit checks. Fair Credit Reporting Act § 604(a)(3)(F)
The Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from discriminating against prospective renters based on their race, color, religion, sex, *familial status, national origin or physical/mental handicap. 42 U.S.C. § 3604
*Familial status - pregnant women and families with person(s) under 18.
In addition, California landlord tenant law (Unruh Civil Rights Act) also prohibits landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on their marital status, sexual orientation, language or immigration status. CA Civ Code § 51
California landlords have to follow the above Fair Housing laws unless they are staying in a single family house and renting part of it to just one individual. CA Gov't Code § 12927(2)(A)
(also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement)
Whether you're a landlord or tenant, it's important to have a written lease agreement with terms and conditions that favors you and follows your state laws.
To save time and avoid mistakes, you can customize your own lease agreement at LawDepot. This site will ask you a set of questions related to your tenancy and create a state-specific agreement based on your answers.
If you are renting the property for one year or less, your tenancy agreement (also known as a lease agreement or rental agreement) can be verbal or written. If you are renting for more than one year, your lease agreement must be in writing.
Even if you have a verbal agreement, California landlord tenant law CA Civ Code § 1962.(b) still requires the landlord to give the tenant a written statement containing the following:
The landlord and tenant can choose between a month to month tenancy or fixed term lease. Difference between a month to month versus fixed term tenancy in CA landlord tenant law:
Changing Agreement Terms: If the landlord or tenant wants to change the terms and conditions of the rental agreement, he or she has to inform the other party seven days in advance for a week to week tenancy... and 30 days in advance for a month to month tenancy. The landlord or tenant cannot change the details of a fixed term lease until it expires. CA Civ Code § 827.(a)
If BOTH the landlord and tenant wants to shorten the notice time for changing the terms of the agreement (including increasing rent) or terminating tenancy, they can do so in writing within the tenancy agreement. However this notice time must be at least seven days or longer.
Once the tenancy begins, the tenant has to be given a copy of the rental agreement within 15 days.
California landlord tenant law also requires the landlord to disclose the following to the tenant:
California landlord tenant law CA Civ Code § 1962.(a) requires all tenancy agreements to contain the following details:
According to California landlord tenant law, your lease agreement CANNOT:
According to the California Landlord Tenant Act CA Civ Code § 1950.5.(c), the maximum amount of security deposit the landlord can ask will depend on whether the property is furnished AND whether it has a waterbed:
Maximum Security Deposit Amount
Unfurnished property without waterbed
2 months' rent
Unfurnished property with waterbed
2.5 months' rent
Furnished property without waterbed
3 months' rent
Furnished property with waterbed
3.5 months' rent
In addition to security deposit, the landlord is also allowed to ask for the first month's rent in advance (if the tenant is agreeable).
California landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions.
Valid reasons for security deposit deductions under California landlord tenant law CA Civ Code § 1950.5.(b) include:
The landlord is NOT allowed to take money from the security deposit due to damage from *normal wear and tear. *Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) from normal everyday use. CA Civ Code § 1950.5.(e)
Once the lease terminates and the tenant returns the property, the landlord must send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions and refund any remaining deposit within 21 days. This list has to individually account for all damages and rent owed in writing.
In addition, the landlord must inform the tenant in advance before making any deductions from the security deposit.
If the landlord fails to follow California landlord tenant law for deducting and returning security deposit, the tenant can sue the landlord for twice the amount of security deposit PLUS actual damages. CA Civ Code § 1950.5.(l)
Lawsuits involving $10,000 or less can be filed at the small claims court while lawsuits involving more than $10,000 have to be filed at the superior court.
California landlord tenant law requires the former landlord to inform the tenant in writing that the property is being sold. This written notice must include the name, address and phone number of the new landlord and has to be delivered in person or by first class mail. CA Civ Code § 1950.5.(j)
Once the property ownership is transferred, the former landlord must do ONE of the following:
Once the former landlord has taken ONE of the two actions above, he or she shall no longer be responsible for the tenant's security deposit.
If the former landlord fails to transfer or return the security deposit, both the former and new landlord will be responsible for the tenant's security deposit. CA Civ Code § 1950.5.(j)
Los Angeles, California CA
According to California landlord tenant law, the landlord cannot force the tenant to pay rent (or security deposit) by cash or electronic fund transfer unless the tenant agrees to. Besides cash and electronic fund transfer, the landlord has to offer the tenant an alternative payment method (e.g. check, money order, credit card) as well. CA Civ Code § 1947.3.(a)(1)
However, the landlord can demand cash as the ONLY payment method for up to three months if the tenant's check bounced (due to insufficient funds) OR the tenant cancelled the check. If the landlord chooses to only accept cash payments, he or she has to give the tenant a written notice stating that the check had bounced and the period where tenant has to pay by cash. The landlord also has to attach a copy of the bad check to this notice. CA Civ Code § 1947.3.(2)
California landlord tenant law allows the landlord to charge the tenant $25 for the first bounced check and $35 for each additional bounced check.
Whenever the tenant makes a payment to the landlord, he or she can request a written receipt from the landlord. CA Civ Code § 1499
There are no California landlord tenant statutes on imposing charges for late rent payments.
Before increasing the rent for a week to week or month to month tenancy, the landlord has to give the tenant a written notice in person or by mail. If the rent increase is 10% or less, the landlord has to inform the tenant at least 30 days in advance. If the rent increase is more than 10%, the landlord has to inform the tenant at least 60 days in advance. CA Civ Code § 827.(b)
For a fixed term tenancy, the landlord isn't allowed to raise the rent until the tenancy expires.
Some cities in California have rent control laws that limit or prohibit rent increases. Some cities limit the rent increase percentage, while others require the landlord to follow certain steps or fulfill certain conditions before increasing rent.
If the tenant moves out voluntarily or gets evicted for not paying rent, the landlord is allowed to rent out the property at market rates (even if the property is in a rent controlled city).
California cities with rent control laws include Berkley, Beverly Hills, Campbell, East Palo Alto, Fremont, Hayward, Los Angeles, Los Gatos, Oakland, Palm Springs, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Thousand Oaks and West Hollywood.
The California Landlord Tenant Act CA Civ Code § 1941.1 requires the landlord to maintain the property in a safe and habitable condition:
California landlord tenant law CA Civ Code § 1941.2 also requires the tenant to keep the property in a clean and safe condition:
If the property requires repairs or maintenance (under landlord's responsibilities), the tenant should inform the landlord of the problems and request for repairs. The tenant should inform the landlord with a written notice AND phone call.
If the landlord fails to make the requested repairs within a reasonable period of time, the tenant has four choices:
1. Repair and Deduct - The tenant can make repairs and deduct the cost from rent
The tenant can choose this method IF the repairs costs do not exceed one month's rent and the property defects affect the tenant's health and safety. The tenant has to inform the landlord in writing that he or she intends to fix the problem and deduct the expenses from next month's rent. The tenant should keep the receipts for all related costs. CA Civ Code § 1942
2. Abandonment - The tenant can move out
The tenant can choose this method IF the property defects are serious and affects the tenant's health and safety. If the landlord fails to make the repairs in time, the tenant may move out and return all keys to the landlord. CA Civ Code § 1942
3. Rent Withholding - The tenant can stop paying rent until the landlord fixes the problems
The tenant can stop paying part or all of the rent IF the property defects are very serious and threaten the tenant's health and safety. How much less rent the tenant pays will depend on how much of the property is no longer habitable. Once the landlord has made the repairs, the tenant shall continue paying full rent. Green v. Superior Court , 10 Cal.3d 616
4. Filing a Lawsuit - The tenant can sue the landlord for damages
The tenant can sue the landlord for damages in small claims court IF the property defects are serious and affects the tenant's health and safety. If the tenant win the lawsuit, the landlord will have to pay for actual damages and special damages (of $100 to $5,000) PLUS the tenant's attorney fees and court costs. The tenant should file in the lawsuit in superior court if the total amount exceeds $10,000. CA Civ Code § 1942.4.(b)
According to California landlord tenant law CA Civ Code § 1954.(a), the landlord is only allowed to enter the property for the following reasons:
In the above situations, the landlord must inform the tenant in writing at least 24 hours in advance before entering the property. This written notice has to state the date, time (normal business hours) and purpose of entry.
However if the tenant is at home and agrees to let the landlord in, then the landlord does not have to give the tenant a written notice in advance. CA Civ Code § 1954.(e)(2)
According to California landlord tenant law CA Civ Code § 1954.(e), the landlord may enter the property without permission in the following situations:
The landlord must have a valid reason and obtain the tenant's permission (whenever required) to enter the property. If the landlord fails to do so or harasses the tenant, the tenant can sue the landlord for damages.
If the landlord enters the property illegally to pressure the tenant into moving out, the tenant can sue the landlord in small claims court for up to $2000 per violation. CA Civ Code § 1940.2.(b)
California landlord tenant law allows the tenant to sublet or assign the lease unless the lease agreement prohibits it. CA Civ Code § 1995.210
We highly recommend that the subtenant follow similar terms and conditions as the tenant. A subtenant cannot have greater or more rights than the tenant as well. Since a subtenant makes payments to the tenant (and NOT the landlord), the tenant will be responsible for the subtenant.
An assignment transfers the lease agreement from the original tenant to a new tenant - The new tenant will be directly responsible to the landlord under the same lease terms and conditions (including paying rent to the landlord).
However original tenant is still NOT free from his or her responsibilities to the landlord. If the new tenant violates the lease agreement or fails to pay rent, the original tenant shall be responsible as well. To be released from the lease agreement, the original tenant has to sign a novation agreement with both the landlord and new tenant.
San Diego, California CA
California landlord tenant law requires you to give the other party a written notice to quit before terminating a tenancy.
Before the lease terminates or expires, the landlord has to inform the tenant in writing that the tenant can request for an initial inspection. If he or she requests for it, the landlord (or landlord's agent) shall have to inspect the property before the termination date and point out any damages or problems that would be deducted from the security deposit. This gives the tenant a chance to fix the problems and avoid security deposit deductions. CA Civ Code § 1950.5.(f)(1)
If you are the tenant, the following are the minimum number of days for giving your landlord a notice to quit:
Week to week tenancy
Month to month tenancy
Tenant is deployed in the armed forces
Tenant passes away
If a tenant serving the military is deployed to another location for
at least 90 days, he or she can terminate the tenancy by giving the
landlord a written notice of termination and a copy of the deployment
orders. California landlord tenant law requires the tenant to deliver
these documents to the landlord in person or by certified mail.
The tenancy will be terminated 30 days after the next rent due date. Example: Rent is due on the first day of each month. The tenant pays the rent on 1 March and gives the landlord a notice of termination on 15 March. In this case, the tenancy will terminate on 1 May (30 days after 1 April).
For a fixed term lease, the lease shall continue - The tenant's executor or administrator (person in charge of distributing the deceased's wealth) shall be responsible for paying rent until the lease ends.
For a month to month tenancy, the tenancy is terminated once the landlord is informed of the tenant's death. CA Civ Code § 1934
If you are the tenant, your notice must contain the following:
If you're the landlord, your notice must ALSO contain the following:
The landlord can serve an eviction notice to the tenant in three ways:
According to California landlord tenant law CA CCP § 1946, CA Civ Code § 1161, CA Civ Code § 1946.7, the following are valid reasons for evicting tenants and the minimum number of days for giving them a notice to quit:
Week to week tenancy - Tenant has stayed for less than one year
Week to week tenancy - Tenant has stayed for one year or more
Month to month tenancy - Tenant has stayed for less than one year
Month to month tenancy - Tenant has stayed for one year or more
Tenant did not pay rent
Tenant violated tenancy agreement
Tenant deliberately caused property damage
Tenant harassed, abused or assaulted another tenant or subtenant
Tenant or related person was involved in illegal activities on property
Whether you are a landlord evicting someone or a tenant facing eviction, it's important that you handle matters correctly according to your state laws.
If you have any questions or doubts on eviction, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.
If the tenant did not pay rent on time, the landlord can send the tenant a three day written notice to pay rent or quit. CA CCP § 1161(2)
If the tenant fails to pay the rent within three days (of receiving the notice), the landlord can file an unlawful detainer in court to evict the tenant.
If the tenant violates the tenancy agreement, the landlord can send the tenant a three day written notice to terminate the tenancy. CA CCP § 1161(3)
If the tenant corrects the problem within three days, the tenant may stay. If the tenant does not or cannot fix the problem, then the landlord can proceed to evict the tenant.
Exception: If the tenant sublets the property without the landlord's consent, California landlord tenant law allows the landlord to evict the tenant WITHOUT giving the tenant a chance to fix the problem. CA CCP § 1161(4)
If the tenant deliberately caused damage to the property, the landlord can send the tenant a three day written notice to terminate the tenancy. In this case, California landlord tenant law allows the landlord to evict the tenant WITHOUT giving the tenant a chance to make repairs. CA CCP § 1161(4)
If the tenant (or tenant's occupant or tenant's guest) engaged in illegal activity on the property, the landlord can evict the tenant by sending the tenant a written three day notice. In this case, California landlord tenant law allows the landlord to evict the tenant WITHOUT giving the tenant a chance to make amends. CA CCP § 1161(4)
Examples of illegal activities include abuse of other tenants (or subtenants), dog fighting, prostitution, gambling, illegal drug production or sale.
Also known as "Notice of Termination of Tenancy" or "Notice to Quit", California landlord tenant law requires all eviction notices to contain the following:
If California landlord tenant law allows the tenant to avoid eviction by correcting the problem(s), the eviction notice must also contain:
According to California landlord tenant law, the landlord CANNOT force the tenant to move out by shutting off utilities (electricity, water, gas, sanitation), changing the locks, taking the tenant's belongings or taking possession of the property by force without a court hearing. CA Civ Code § 789.3
If the landlord forces the tenant to move out with the unlawful methods above, the tenant can sue the landlord for ALL of the following:
If the tenant wants to recover his or her belongings that were left behind on the property, the tenant has send the landlord a written request within 18 days of vacating the property. California landlord tenant law requires this written request to include a description of the belongings and the mailing address of the tenant. CA Civ Code § 1965
Before the landlord returns the belongings, he or she can demand (in writing) that the tenant pay for the costs of storing and removing the belongings. This demand has to be mailed to the tenant or delivered in person within five days of the landlord receiving the tenant's request.
After receiving the landlord's written demand (for payment of storage and removal costs), the tenant has 72 hours to pay the landlord and recover his or her belongings from the landlord.
If the landlord violates this section of the California landlord tenant law, the tenant can sue the landlord for actual damages, additional damages of up of $250 for each deliberate violation PLUS attorney fees and court costs.
California Landlord Tenant Law: California Civil Code CIV Section 19XX
California Landlord Tenant Handbook: A Guide to Residential Tenants' and Landlords' Rights and Responsibilities
If you have any questions or need legal advice, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.