California Landlord Tenant Rights

California Landlord Tenant Rights

Last Updated: April 15, 2024 by Roberto Valenzuela

Under California law, if a written or oral agreement exists, or if payment is accepted as rent, landlords and tenants have automatic rights and responsibilities under CA Civil Code 1940-1954.06, such as the right to timely rent payments and a livable dwelling.

Note: These rights exist regardless of what the rental agreement says.

Landlord Responsibilities in California

In California, landlords legally can’t rent property out unless it meets basic health and safety requirements. Here is a list of amenities and how they relate to California’s habitability requirements:

Item Has to Provide? Has to Fix/Replace?
Heating/AC Only Heating Yes
Hot Water Yes Yes
Kitchen Appliances No No
Garbage Containers/Removal Partially Partially
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors Yes Yes
Mold N/A Yes
Pest Control N/A Yes
Long Term Micromobility Storage Sometimes Yes

If a property doesn’t provide the legally required amenities for habitable housing, a tenant can usually report the landlord to government authorities for unsafe living conditions.

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Renter’s Rights for Repairs in California

Landlords are required to make necessary repairs in a timely manner. In California, repairs must be made within 30 days after getting written notice from tenants.

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, California tenants can sue for costs, or a court order to force the landlord to make repairs. They can also cancel the rental agreement, or make lesser repairs and deduct from the rent.

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Tenant Responsibilities in California

Apart from paying rent in a timely manner, California tenants must:

  • Keep the unit in a clean and habitable condition
  • Keep fixtures clean and sanitary
  • Use the rental unit for living, sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes only
  • Make small repairs and maintenance
  • Not disturb other tenants or neighbors

Evictions in California

Landlords in California are permitted to evict tenants for the following reasons:

  • Nonpayment of Rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent by the due date then the landlord may serve a 3-Day Notice To Pay. If rent is still not paid after those 3 days, the landlord may file for eviction.
  • Lease Violation: If a lease violation occurs, the landlord may issue a 3-Day Notice To Cure or Quit. If the tenant fails to fix the issue, the landlord may file a Summons Complaint for Unlawful Detainer.
  • No Lease/End of Lease: If tenants hold over or stay in the rental property after the rental term has expired, a landlord may evict a tenant. If a month-to-month tenant has lived in the rental unit for less than one year, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice To Quit. If a month-to-month tenant has lived in the rental unit for a year or more, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 60-Day Notice To Quit. No notice is required if it is an expired fixed-term lease or if the rental unit is part of a job package and the tenant loses or quits their job.
  • Foreclosure: If the rental property is being foreclosed upon, the tenancy shall end by giving the tenant a 90-Day Notice.
  • Illegal Acts: If a landlord has documentation of illegal activity occurring in the dwelling unit, they may file a 3-Day Unconditional Notice To Quit. If the tenant does not leave, the landlord may pursue formal eviction. California law does not specify which illegal activities warrant an eviction.

It is illegal for California landlords to evict a tenant in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.

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Landlord Retaliation in California

When rent is current, it’s illegal for landlords in California to retaliate with measures such as raising the rent or removing furnishings from the rental property. The law presumes retaliation when the tenant has taken a protected action like reporting a landlord to government authorities for health and safety violations.

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Security Deposits in California

Collections and Holdings: The following laws apply to the collection and holding of security deposits:

  • Maximum: Usually, the maximum security deposit is one month’s rent
  • Exceptions: The limit is higher for certain small-scale landlords, or when the tenant has a waterbed
  • Inventory Requirement: Landlords are not required to document the condition of the rental unit at the start of the lease term in order to collect security deposits
  • Interest Requirement: None

Local Laws: Cities and towns can enact their own rules. For example, many cities in California require landlords to provide interest on security deposits.

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Returns and Deductions: The following laws apply to the return of security deposits:

  • Allowable Deductions: Unpaid rent, damage excluding normal wear and tear, cleaning, and restoration costs
  • Time Limit for Return: 21 days
  • Max. Penalty for Late Return: Tenants can sue for twice the security deposit

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Lease Termination in California

Notice Requirements: If a California tenant on a periodic lease wishes to terminate their lease, they must give the following amounts of notice:

Rent Payment Frequency Notice Needed
Week-to-Week 7 Days
Month-to-Month 30 Days
Quarter-to-Quarter No statute
Year-to-Year No statute

Early Termination: California tenants may legally break a lease early for the following reasons:

  • Early termination clause
  • Active military duty
  • Uninhabitable unit
  • Landlord harassment

California tenants who break a lease early may still be required to pay out the remainder of the lease term. California landlords are required to assist in the re-renting process in a “reasonable” manner.

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Cost of Breaking a Lease in California

If a California tenant breaks their lease early, they are still liable for the rent for the remaining lease period. Landlords are legally required to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit, and if they find a new tenant, the original tenant is then no longer liable to pay all remaining rent.

Landlords cannot keep the full security deposit because a tenant broke their lease. The landlord can make deductions for damages or unpaid rent, but the rest must be returned to the tenant.

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Rent Increases in California

California has rent control and state law allows local governments to create their own rent control laws. Many cities in California have rent control so landlords should be familiar with both state and local laws.

The statewide maximum rent increase percentage changes annually based on the rate of inflation. By state law, landlords in California can only increase the rent twice every 12 months. Landlords cannot increase the rent during the lease term unless the lease agreement allows for it, out of discrimination of state or federally-protected classes, or in retaliation.

Landlords must give tenants 30 days’ notice to increase the rent. However, 90 days’ notice is required when landlords increase the rent by 10% or more.

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Housing Discrimination in California

Protected Groups: The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against tenants on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability. This rule does not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations.

California extends additional protection to tenants on the basis of ancestry, citizenship status, mental disability, gender identity/expression, immigration status, marital status, military and veteran status, primary language, sexual orientation, and source of income.

Discriminatory Acts and Penalties: The California Fair Employment and Housing Act highlights the following behaviors as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected group:

  • Refusing to rent, sell or lease on a bona fide offer
  • Falsely claiming a unit is unavailable
  • Canceling a rental agreement
  • Instituting policies that result in unequal access to housing
  • Offering inferior terms, conditions, or privileges
  • Refusing to make reasonable accommodations for the disabled
  • Maintaining overly strict rules for families with children, including where children can play

As of 2024, California has adopted Civil Code section 1954.53(4). This lets local jurisdictions in California, if they so choose, require certain ground floor units be made available to disabled tenants with mobility issues.

Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in California

In addition to having laws that address general issues like repairs and security deposits, most states, including California, grant rights and responsibilities about things like lock changes and a landlord’s right to entry. See the topics below for more information.

Landlord Right To Entry in California

California landlords have the right to enter rental property for various purposes related to maintenance, inspections, and property showings. They must give at least 24 hours’ advance notice before entering an occupied unit. Unlike most states, in California this advance notice must be in writing. California landlords do not need notice or permission to enter in emergency situations.

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Micromobility Storage in California

Beginning in 2024, California landlords can no longer limit tenants from owning and storing at least one “micromobility device” on the premises per occupant. The law applies to any devices which have both of the following features:

  1. Powered by either human effort or an electric motor
  2. Designed to transport one person, or one adult accompanied by up to three minors

The law is extremely broad, and covers everything from roller blades up to certain electric mopeds. As an alternative to letting tenants store micromobility devices themselves, landlords also have the option to provide tenants with a commonly available free and secure long-term storage option that includes electrical connections for recharging.

Rent Collection and Related Fees in California

The following laws apply to the collection of rent and related fees:

  • Grace Period: Landlords need not provide a grace period for payment of rent before charging a late fee; rent is considered late the day after it is due
  • Maximum Late Fee: No limit, except it must be reasonable
  • Rent Payment Methods: Landlords must accept at least one form of payment besides cash or electronic funds transfer
  • Rent Receipt: Required upon request

Small Claims Court in California

Most disputes between landlords and tenants are handled in Small Claims Court, which is an informal process designed to be quicker and simpler than higher courts. For example, disputes regarding the return of security deposits are typically handled in Small Claims Court.

Landlords and tenants can file cases in Small Claims Court to settle minor disputes without hiring an attorney if they file as an individual and the amount claimed is less than $10,000. If a landlord or tenant is filing as a company (e.g. LLC), the claim limit is $5,000. The process takes approximately one to two months.

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Mandatory Disclosures in California

California landlords must provide these mandatory disclosures to their tenants (if applicable):

  • Lead-Based Paint: Landlords that own homes that were built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint
  • Bed Bugs: Landlords must provide written information about how to report bed bug infestations, using language specified in Civ. Code § 1954.603
  • Mold: Landlords must provide documentation about any known mold
  • Common Utility Use and Payment: Landlords must disclose how utility fees are applied and must detail how they are divided up
  • Asbestos: Disclosure applicable to any building built before 1979 where the owner has knowledge of asbestos
  • Meth and Fentanyl: Disclosure applicable to any property where the landlord has knowledge of a possible drug contamination AND remediation has not completed
  • Sex Offender Registry: Prospective tenants must be advised of their right to access information relating to the sex offender registry
  • Demolition Permit: Disclosure applicable to any property with plans for demolition that will affect tenancy
  • Military Ordnance: Disclosure applicable to any property within one mile of known ordnance location with explosive risk
  • Death: Disclosure applicable to properties with a non-HIV or AIDS-related death in the past three years
  • Pest Control: Applicable to units where pesticides are applied
  • Flood Zone: Landlords must disclose if the property is in a known flood zone
  • Smoking Policy: Applicable to any property imposing a smoking policy

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How to Report a California Landlord for Unsafe Living Conditions

When a California landlord fails to keep a rental property in the condition required by state and local law, renters have the right to report such violations to the proper government organizations. Most areas have dedicated inspections departments which enforce code compliance. Renters can request an inspection from local authorities as evidence that the landlord has provided substandard housing.

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Changing the Locks in California

California landlords cannot change locks without tenant consent as a form of eviction (i.e. “lockouts”). Tenants who are the victim of domestic abuse or sexual harassment can request lock changes at any time during their lease.

Leasing Language

Lease in California may be written in the following languages:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • Chinese
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean

For tenants who do not speak English well enough to understand a lease agreement, landlords must provide a lease agreement in one of the above languages.

Rent Payment Methods

Landlords in California cannot require that tenants pay rent in cash or by electronic funds transfer. At least one other form of payment must be accepted. However, landlords can require cash for rent for up to three months after a tenant has attempted to pay with a bad check. To do so, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing.

Landlord’s Sale of a Rental Unit

If a landlord sells a rental unit or building while it is still occupied by leased tenants, all tenants are entitled to stay until the lease is up. The new landlord can ask them to move out if they give enough prior notice of their intent. Either way, the tenant is still entitled to the return of the security deposit.

Local Laws in California

Many cities in California have their own landlord-tenant laws in addition to the state requirements. Check your local county and municipality for additional landlord tenant regulations.

Los Angeles Landlord Tenant Rights

LA has specific local laws, including those pertaining to rent control. LA rent control policies only apply to buildings built after 10/01/1978. More information on these rules can be found on the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department website.

San Francisco Landlord Tenant Rights

San Francisco also maintains local landlord-tenant provisions including rent control and interest on security deposits. More info can be found on the San Francisco Rent Board website.

San Jose Landlord Tenant Rights

San Jose has local landlord-tenant provisions such as rent control and protection against retaliation. More info can be found on the City of San Jose website.

Sacramento Landlord Tenant Rights

Sacramento has the Sacramento Tenant Protection and Relief Act that covers rental housing in the city built after 1995. This law prevents excessive year-to-year rent hikes and also requires landlords to justify raising rental prices. The Act can be read here and more info can be found here.

Long Beach Landlord Tenant Rights

Long Beach has the “Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance” that requires landlords of multi-family units to provide relocation assistance payments for tenants that have been displaced through no fault of their own. Payments up to $4,500 may be required when a tenant receives a notice of rent increase of 10% or more. More details can be found here and on Long Beach’s website.

Oakland Landlord Tenant Rights

The city of Oakland has rent control ordinances that limit how much landlords can raise rent on a yearly basis using a rate based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Oakland also has a Rent Adjustment program that covers other types of rental housing. More info about these programs can be found here and you can contact the City of Oakland for more information on administration.

Additional Resources for California Renters

In addition to the resources below, check your local county and municipality for additional landlord-tenant regulations.

California Department of Housing and Community Development

California Tenant Protection Act AB 1482 Tenant Advocacy Tool Kit