California Landlord-Tenant Law
California is the most populated state in the U.S. and with a great culture, climate, and diverse cities, and high renter demand, there is a place for every property investor. California is known for its strong tourism industry, agriculture, natural resources, and biotechnology. While cost of living is higher in California, its amenities and affordable rental options still makes it an attractive place to live. For our recommendations on exactly where to invest in this state, take a look at our California rental investment report – read below for guidance on California landlord-tenant law.
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Laws that impact the rental market, landlords, and tenants are constantly being decided in states. Make sure you know what’s on your ballot – find California voting information here.
California Renters' Rights and Landlord Responsibilities
- Return security deposit within 21 days
- Landlords cannot raise the rent more than 5% + local rate of inflation
- Give reasonable notice of 24 hours before entering rental
When it comes to California rental laws, there are a few specifics landlords need to know:
- Security Deposits – Landlords must return the security deposit within 21 days of a tenant moving out. If landlords do not return the deposit before this time then they must mail or hand deliver a letter of explanation with a list of the deductions, the remaining deposit if applicable, and receipts for itemized deductions.
- Rent Raises – As of January 2020, landlords cannot raise the rent more than five percent, plus the local rate of inflation, in one year. For a new tenancy, landlords are allowed to establish any rental rate as rental increase caps only apply to increases to existing tenants. For details on rent raises in California, visit here.
- Filing for Eviction – As of January 2020, California’s eviction laws have been updated, specifically that the reason for the eviction must be stated in the eviction notice, there must be preliminary warning for tenant’s to fix the problem, and for no-fault evictions, relocation assistance is one month’s rent.
- Notice for Entering – Landlords must give reasonable advance notice, usually 24 hours, to enter the rental unit. Landlords may enter the unit without permission only in an emergency such as a fire.
- Rental Applications (Oakland only) – Landlords cannot ask about or require tenants to disclose their criminal background on an application. An exception to this rule is if the property is an owner-occupied unit such as single family homes, duplexes, triplexes, and ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units).
California Landlords' Rights and Tenant Responsibilities
- Late fees for overdue rent are enforced if reasonable or stated in the lease
- Landlords must fix damaged property within 30 days
- Property is considered abandoned once a tenancy is terminated
- Abandoned Property – Property can be considered abandoned once the tenancy is terminated and if the tenant has actually moved out of the rental unit. Termination of tenancy can be defined as a tenant being evicted and moving out or if the tenant has moved out by the time the lease ends.
- Overdue Rent – Rent is due on the specified date in the lease or rental agreement – late fees are allowed only if the fee is a reasonable estimate of the amount that the lateness will cost the landlord, or whatever is specified in the lease.
- Property Maintenance – Tenants must keep the property clean and undamaged, and landlords have 30 days from when they are notified of any problems to fix them. Landlords are legally required to keep the implied warranty of habitability; otherwise, tenants have a right to withhold rent.
- Harmful Behavior – If a tenant engages in harmful or dangerous behavior, only a 24-hour notice to move out is required. Don’t be afraid to notify law enforcement in dangerous situations.
- Special Protections – It’s illegal to discriminate against someone and not rent to them if they are victims of domestic violence. Make sure you notify law enforcement of potentially dangerous tenants or situations.
Criminal Background Check
- HUD (Federal) laws do not classify criminal backgrounds as a protected class, but making a decision to rent based off a criminal background alone could lead to a discrimination charge as it impacts certain protected groups of people disproportionately. However, if the criminal background check revealed a crime for the manufacture and distribution of drugs, homicide and/or stalking, denying the application is allowed.
- Landlords should have a consistent and equal policy or procedure in place to follow regarding criminal background checks so as not to discriminate against one class of people over another.
- HUD states that a landlord cannot ask about arrest records, only convictions, as innocent people are commonly arrested though the situation may not have resulted in a conviction.
- Some municipalities may have written their own laws expanding onto what you can and cannot ask regarding criminal backgrounds during the tenant screening process.
Tenant Screening Criteria
The State of California has no added laws or restrictions around the collection of criminal background checks. Adherence to general federal law is required. To avoid the perception of discrimination, make sure your screening criteria is stated and is consistent and equal for all groups of people.
Application Fee Laws
- Currently, the maximum amount California landlords can charge for an application is $59.67 per applicant.
- California law states that an applicant can receive a refund in the amount of the screening fee if a landlord charged the fee but never pulled a credit report or performed a personal reference check.
California Lease Agreement Disclosures
Provisions that, if left out, invalidate the lease:
- Meth Contamination Disclosure
- Flood Zone Disclosure
- Bed Bugs Disclosure and information
- Military Testing Site Disclosure
- Notice of Change of Terms (Landlord-Tenant Act)
- Notice of Lease Termination (Landlord-Tenant Act)
- Notice of Exemption of Rent Limits (L-T Act)
Provisions that, if left out, allow your tenant to sue you:
- Asbestos Disclosure
- Rent Cap Disclosure
- Mold Disclosure
- Non-disclosure of Death Disclosure*
Build a California lease agreement with all of the required disclosures in less than 15 minutes.
*California landlords don’t have to disclose the manner of death, just any that occurred within the last three years.
California Lease Agreement Example
There are three sections to a residential lease agreement. The first section outlines the custom details of the contract, such as who’s involved and for what address. Here’s an example California lease agreement listing details found in Section 1:
California landlords must return their tenants’ security deposit within 21 days of a tenant moving out. If landlords do not return the deposit before this time, then they must mail or hand-deliver a letter of explanation with:
- The itemized list of deductions
- The remaining deposit (if applicable)
- Receipts for itemized deductions over $125.00
Required Sex Offender Register Database Notification
Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offender’s criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and ZIP Code in which the offender resides.
Shared Utility Notification
Any utilities that are not separately metered must be disclosed to the tenant along with listing each shared utility, how the utilities are divided, and the payment arrangement.
Filing for Eviction in California
As of January 2020, California’s eviction laws have been updated, specifically that the reason for the eviction must be stated in the eviction notice, there must be preliminary warning for tenant’s to fix the problem, and for no-fault evictions, relocation assistance is one month’s rent.
Additionally, state laws on eviction cases were amended during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law provided protections for tenants who were given an eviction notice because they were unable to pay their rent or other charges due to COVID-19-related financial distress between March 1, 2020 through March 31, 2022.
The state offered a rental assistance program to pay landlords the rent due during that period on behalf of qualifying tenants.
As of July 1, 2022, landlords are no longer required to provide verifications regarding rental assistance in order for the court to issue a summons in an unlawful detainer case. However, verifications are still required to obtain a judgment or a default judgment. Learn more about current California eviction laws.
California Landlord-Tenant Law FAQ
Below are answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions when it comes to landlord-tenant laws in California:
Can You Withhold Rent in California?
Yes, tenants can withhold rent in California if landlords have failed to fix serious problems that make habitability hard. However, you cannot withhold rent entirely because you must pay the reasonable value of the rental in its damaged state. Check local laws for any specifications on withholding rent.
How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant in California?
Generally, it can take around 45 days. Please visit the state’s website to get full details on the eviction process.
Is California a Landlord-Friendly State?
California is generally a landlord-friendly state where landlords can charge rental application fees (maximum of $50) and collect security deposits. Make sure to always check local area laws along with state laws to ensure you’re fully educated.
What is the Eviction Process in California?
Landlords may be allowed to evict tenants if they do one of the following: fail to pay rent on time, breaks the lease and does not fix the issue, uses the rental property for illegal activities, seriously damages the property, or is a serious nuisance to other tenants and neighbors. Here you can find full details on eviction laws and processes.
How Much Notice Does a Landlord Have to Give a Tenant to Move Out in California?
A landlord needs to give a written notice allowing you to move out within 30 days, or 60 days if you’ve lived in the rental property for a year or longer.
Due Diligence and California Rental Laws
TurboTenant has utilized many municipal sources along with official state statutes in order to compile this information to the best of our ability. However, local laws are always in flux and landlords and tenants alike should be sure to do their due diligence and consult legal help when it’s needed. We hope the following list can serve as a valuable resource and allow you to succeed as a tenant or landlord in California. Be sure to take proper precautions when it comes to finding the top candidates for your unit by utilizing our online rental application and tenant screening services.
Disclaimer: TurboTenant, Inc does not provide legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. All users are advised to check all applicable local, state, and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise.
Resources for California Landlords
California Fair Housing Resources
California City-Specific Housing Resources
- Landlord Tenant Handbook – City of Los Angeles
- Renter Information – City of Los Angeles
- Housing Information – City of Los Angeles
- Housing Authority of Los Angeles
- Landlord Booklet – City of Los Angeles
- Tenant Booklet – City of Los Angeles
- Fair Housing – City of Los Angeles
- The Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of REALTORS®
- San Diego Codes, Regulations, Requirements – City of San Diego
- Landlord Training – City of San Diego
- Fair Housing – City of San Diego
- Fair Housing – San Diego County
- Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS®
- Housing – City of San Jose
- Department or Planning, Building and Code Enforcement
- Tenant Resources – City of San Jose
- Landlord Resources – City of San Jose
- San Jose – HUD
- Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS®
- Landlord and Tenant Information – City of San Francisco
- Rent Board – City of San Francisco
- San Francisco Association of REALTORS®
- Tenant Rights and Responsibilities – Fresno Housing Authority
- Fair Housing Council of Central California
- Fresno Association of REALTORS®
- Housing Code – City of Sacramento
- Rental Housing and Inspection Program – City of Sacramento
- Housing Program – City of Sacramento
- Sacramento Association of REALTORS®
- Housing and Landlords
- Housing Resource Center – City of Oakland
- Landlord and Tenant Rights and Responsibilities – City of Oakland
- Discrimination and Fair Housing – City of Oakland
- Oakland/Berkeley Association of REALTORS®
Other California Landlord-Tenant Law Resources
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