California Tenant Rights Laws

Perhaps you're thinking about renting an apartment, or you want to know if your landlord is obligated to fix your plumbing problem. Thankfully, there is no shortage of federal, state, and local law governing the landlord-tenant relationship, in addition to the terms of your rental contract. From security deposits to eviction notices, tenant rights laws are designed to protect the tenant from unfair rental agreements and unscrupulous treatment by landlords. Read on to learn more about California tenant rights laws.

California Tenant Rights Laws: Beginning and Ending a Tenancy

California tenant rights laws cover a myriad of issues from before you even sign a lease to after you've moved out. For example, California law prohibits landlords from discriminating against rental applicants based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and other protected characteristics. There are also limits to what they can charge you for a security deposit. Finally, landlords must also abide by notice requirements for ending a tenancy, including in an eviction proceeding.

California Tenant Rights Laws: Living Conditions

California tenants also have the rights to quiet enjoyment and habitability of their rental unit. This means the landlord can only enter your unit under certain circumstances and must provide you with a unit that is habitable (i.e. sanitary, safe, etc.). These laws also require the landlord to make certain repairs if your unit become uninhabitable due to unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

California Tenant Rights Laws at a Glance

The following chart provides a summary of California laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship, including links to important code sections.

Statutes

Security Deposits

  • Cannot be non-refundable
  • Cannot be more than two times the monthly rent for an unfurnished unit, or three times the rent for a furnished unit
  • Includes amounts listed as deposits for last month's rent, pet deposit, key fee, or cleaning fee
  • Must return all or part of the security deposit within 21 days of tenant moving out
  • Part or all may be used if you:
    • Owe rent
    • Leave unit less clean than when moved in
    • Damage rental beyond normal wear and tear

Paying Rent

  • Lease or rental agreement must include manner of paying rent: amount, form, regularity, and to whom
  • May not raise rent during lease term (e.g. 6 month or 1 year lease) unless lease allows; may raise rent upon lease renewal
  • May raise rent during periodic rental agreement (e.g. month-to-month): requires 30 days' notice for increase of 10% or less, 60 days for more than 10%. Add 5 days for notice by mail.

Living Conditions

  • Landlord must give reasonable notice (usually at least 24 hours) before entering rental
  • Landlord may only enter for certain reasons including emergency, to make necessary/agreed-upon repairs, show unit to prospective buyers or tenants, give access to workers, etc.
  • Landlord must make unit habitable before tenant moves in
  • Landlord must make repairs necessary for habitability unless caused by tenant or tenant's family, guests, or pets

Discrimination

  • No discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, or genetic information
  • May not ask about immigration or citizenship status

Ending or Renewing a Tenancy

  • Landlord must give notice to terminate the tenancy:
    • Periodic tenancy: 60 days if every other tenant has lived in unit for more than one year; otherwise 30 days (or under certain circumstances if landlord has contracted to sell the unit)
    • Lease: According to the terms of the lease
    • Eviction: Three days
  • Remaining in unit after lease expires converts tenancy to a periodic tenancy if the landlord accepts rent from tenant (interval of rent payments determines type of tenancy, e.g. month-to-month if payments were made monthly)

Retaliation

  • Landlord may not retaliate against tenant for exercising tenant rights

Note: State regulations are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

California Tenant Rights Laws: Related Resources

Get Help Resolving Your Landlord-Tenant Issues

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