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California

Welcome to the California Landlord Tenant Law page here on underground landlord. You can find the Landlord tenant laws in navigatable form here as well as numerous other facts about California for Real Estate Investors.  Enjoy and let this be a stop before you cause yourself undue legal woes!

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Common Rule of Law in Real Estate

In real estate law, real property (also known as realty, real estate, or immovable property) refers to property that is intrinsically linked to land. It also includes buildings, machines, and equipment attached to the land. In the United States, each State (with the notable exception of Louisiana) regulates and legally protects real estate primarily through common law and real estate law.

The common law and real estate law regulate the liability of an owner in regard to the safety of a third person party on their property. Within the common law, there are three different types of third parties that can be found on land. The liabilities associated for a landowner vary greatly depending on the status of the third person party. Contact real estate lawyers for legal advice and assistance.

 

Trespasser

 

A trespasser is defined in common law as a third person party that enters a property without the knowledge or invitation of a landowner for personal purposes. Landowners typically have no duty to warn adult trespassers of dangers on a property or to make their property safe for adult trespassers. Although the duty is lighter than for a licensee or an invitee, a landowner is responsible to ensure the safety of the property if the owner believes trespassers could be on the property, especially in the case of children.

In the case of child trespassers, the owner is held to a higher standard in protecting the child from harm by ensuring the safety the property. Properties that might boast features that would attract child trespassers, such as ponds or pools, are often required to ensure the safety of their property to a higher degree.

Licensee

A licensee is defined in common law as a third person party that is invited on to and remains on a property for any reason other than a commercial or business reason. Thus, a guest would be a licensee, and not an invitee. Licensees are protected more than trespassers, and the landowner owes a higher degree of duty in maintaining the safety of a property and warning licensees of the dangers on a property.

Property owners are often found liable under real estate law and common law for damage or harm to a licensee or a licensee's property if the owner neglected to ensure the safety of a known danger on the property, failed to inform the licensee of the dangers on a property, or if a licensee did not have a reasonable understanding or notice of the dangers on a property.

Invitee

An invitee is defined in common law as a third person party that is invited on to and remains on a property for business or commercial purposes that will benefit the owner of the property. These invitations could be either implicit or explicit. For example, "open" signs and open doors are both considered invitations for these purposes.

Invitees are protected with the highest regard and owners have the highest liability to this class of third person parties. If the risk of harm or damage for an invitee or an invitee's property is considered unreasonable and the unsafe conditions of the property are explicitly known and understood by the owner, the owner must protect the invitee from any harm or damage. Invitees can also be classified as public invitees in real estate law, where their presence is legitimized by the use of a land for a public purpose.

Links to Legal Pages Based on State

TABLE OF CONTENTS

​​

  • Glossary 

  • WHO IS A LANDLORD AND WHO IS A TENANT?

 

 

  • General Information About Landlords and Tenants 

  • Special Situations

  • Hotels and motels

  • Residential hotels

  • Single lodger in a private residence

  • Transitional housing

  • Mobile home parks and recreational vehicle parks 

  • LOOKING FOR A RENTAL UNIT

  • Looking for and Inspecting Rental Units

  • Looking for a rental unit

  • Inspecting before you rent 

  • The Rental Application

  • Criminal History

  • Prepaid Rental Listing Services 

  • Other Rental Application Considerations 

  • Credit Checks

  • Application Screening Fee 

  • Holding Deposit

  • Unlawful Discrimination.

  • What is unlawful discrimination?

  • Limited exceptions for single rooms and roommates 

  • Resolving housing discrimination problems 

  • BEFORE YOU AGREE TO RENT

 

 

  • Rental Agreements and Leases

  • General information

  • Oral and Written Agreements

  • Fixed Term and Periodic Tenancies 

  • Shared Utility Meters

  • Translation of Proposed Rental Agreement 

 

  • WHEN YOU HAVE DECIDED TO RENT 24

 

 

  • What the Rental Agreement Should Include 

  • Key terms 

  • Alterations to Accommodate a Tenant with a Disability

  • Tenant’s basic legal rights

  • The duty of good faith and fair dealing

  • Landlord’s Disclosures

  • Lead-based paint

  • Periodic pest control treatments

  • Bed Bugs

  • Asbestos

  • Carcinogenic material

  • Methamphetamine contamination

  • Demolition permit 

  • Military base or explosives 

  • Death in the rental unit 

  • Condominium conversion project

  • Flood Hazard

  • Megan’s Law

  • Basic Rules Governing Security Deposits 

  • The Inventory Checklist

  • Renter’s Insurance 

  • Limits to Rent Increases and Local Rent Stabilization Programs

  • LIVING IN THE RENTAL UNIT

 

 

  • Paying the Rent 

  • When is rent due?

  • Check, money order, electronic funds transfer, or cash? 

  • Obtaining receipts for rent payments 

  • Late fees and dishonored check fees 

  • Partial rent payments

  • Security Deposit Increases

  • Rent Increases

  • How much can rent be raised?

  • How often can rent be raised?

  • Rent increase; notice and effective date 

  • Example of a rent increase

  • When Can the Landlord Enter the Rental Unit? 

  • Subleases and Assignments

  • Subleases 

  • Assignments

  • Short Term Rentals

 

 

  • DEALING WITH PROBLEMS

  • Repairs and Habitability

  • Landlord’s responsibility for repairs

  • Tenant’s responsibility for repairs

  • Conditions that make a rental unit legally uninhabitable

  • Limitations on landlord’s duty to keep the rental unit habitable

  • Responsibility for other kinds of repairs 

  • Tenant’s agreement to make repairs

  • Having Repairs Made

  • The “repair and deduct” remedy

  • The “abandonment” remedy

  • The “rent withholding” remedy 

  • Giving the landlord notice

  • Tenant information 

  • Lawsuit for damages as a remedy

  • Resolving complaints out of court 

  • Landlord’s Sale of the Rental Unit

  • When property is sold in foreclosure

  • Condominium Conversions 

  • Demolition of Dwelling

  • Influencing the Tenant to Move

  • MOVING OUT

  • Giving and Receiving Proper Notice 

  • Tenant’s notice to end a periodic tenancy

  • Special rights of tenants who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking human trafficking, or elder/dependent adult abuse

  • Landlord’s notice to end a periodic tenancy

  • TENANT PROTECTION ACT of 2019 67

 

  • Advance Payment of Last Month’s Rent

  • Refund of Security Deposits

  • Common problems and how to avoid them 

  • Initial Inspection Before Tenant Moves Out

  • Landlord’s notice

  • Scheduling the inspection 

  • Itemized statement

  • Final inspection

  • Example 

  • Suggested Approaches to Security Deposit Deductions 

  • Refund of security deposits after sale of building

  • Legal actions for obtaining refund of security deposits

  • Tenant’s Death 

  • Moving out at the end of a rental agreement 

  • The Inventory Checklist

  • TERMINATIONS AND EVICTIONS

  • When Can a Landlord Terminate a Tenancy?

  • Written Notices of Termination 

  • 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day notice

  • How to respond to a 30-day, 60-day or 90-day notice

  • Three-day notice 

  • How to respond to a three-day notice 

  • How to count the three-days

  • Proper Service of Termination Notices 

  • The Eviction Process (Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit) 

  • Eviction Moratorium Alert

  • Overview of the eviction process 

  • How to respond to an unlawful detainer lawsuit 

  • Eviction of “unnamed occupants”

  • Before the court hearing

  • Discovery in Unlawful Detainer Cases

  • After the court’s decision

  • Writ of possession

  • Stay of Execution 

  • Setting aside or vacating a default judgment or trial judgment

  • A word about bankruptcy 

  • Retaliatory discrimination 

 

  • RESOLVING PROBLEMS

 

  • Talk With Your Landlord

  • Getting Help From a Third Party 

  • Arbitration and Mediation

 

  • GLOSSARY

 

  • APPENDIX 1 — OCCUPANTS NOT NAMED IN EVICTION LAWSUIT OR WRIT OF POSSESSION 

 

  • Occupants Not Named in Eviction Lawsuit 

  • Occupants Not Named in Writ of Possession

 

  • APPENDIX 2—LIST OF CITIES WITH RENT CONTROL ORDINANCES) 

 

  • APPENDIX 3—TENANT INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE RESOURCES

 

  • APPENDIX 4—OTHER RESOURCES

 

  • Publications on Landlord-Tenant Law.

  • Books

  • Department of Consumer Affairs—Other Resources 

 

  • APPENDIX 5—LEGALLY REQUIRED TEXT OF NOTICES 

  • Megan’s Law Notice

  • Lead Warning Statement

  • Waiver of Right to Receive Copies of Invoices, Receipts, or Good Faith Estimate

  • Lawful Uses of Tenant’s Security Deposit 

  • Condominium Conversion Notice

  • Rent Cap and Statement of Cause to Terminate Tenancy Notice 

 

  • INVENTORY CHECKLIST

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There are a total of 58 counties in the state of California. Among them, Butte County is the oldest one (established in 1850) while Imperial County is the youngest (established in 1907).  With population of 10,163,507, Los Angeles County is the most populated. The biggest county by land area is San Bernardino County (1853 km2) and the smallest is San Francisco (122 km2). Below please see all California counties which are listed in alphabetical order.

List of Counties in California

  • Alameda County, CA

  • Alpine County, CA

  • Amador County, CA

  • Butte County, CA

  • Calaveras County, CA

  • Colusa County, CA

  • Contra Costa County, CA

  • Del Norte County, CA

  • El Dorado County, CA

  • Fresno County, CA

  • Glenn County, CA

  • Humboldt County, CA

  • Imperial County, CA

  • Inyo County, CA

  • Kern County, CA

  • Kings County, CA

  • Lake County, CA

  • Lassen County, CA

  • Los Angeles County, CA

  • Madera County, CA

  • Marin County, CA

  • Mariposa County, CA

  • Mendocino County, CA

  • Merced County, CA

  • Modoc County, CA

  • Mono County, CA

  • Monterey County, CA

  • Napa County, CA

  • Nevada County, CA

  • Orange County, CA

  • Placer County, CA

  • Plumas County, CA

  • Riverside County, CA

  • Sacramento County, CA

  • San Benito County, CA

  • San Bernardino County, CA

  • San Diego County, CA

  • San Francisco County, CA

  • San Joaquin County, CA

  • San Luis Opispo County, CA

  • San Mateo County, CA

  • Santa Barbara County, CA

  • Santa Clara County, CA

  • Santa Cruz County, CA

  • Shasta County, CA

  • Sierra County, CA

  • Siskiyou County, CA

  • Solano County, CA

  • Sonoma County, CA

  • Stanislaus County, CA

  • Sutter County, CA

  • Tehama County, CA

  • Toulumne County, CA

  • Trinity County, CA

  • Tulare County, CA

  • Ventura County, CA

  • Yolo County, CA

  • Yuba County, CA

INTRODUCTION

 

What should a tenant do if his or her apartment needs repairs? Can a landlord force a tenant to move? How many days' notices do a tenant have to give a landlord before moving out? Can a landlord raise a tenant’s rent? California Tenants – A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities answers these questions and many others.

 

Whether the tenant is renting a room, apartment, house, or duplex, the landlord tenant relationship is governed by federal, state, and local laws. This booklet focuses on the most significant aspects of the relationship of landlords and tenants in California, particularly the California laws that govern the landlord-tenant relationship. There are other parts of the landlord-tenant law that may not be covered. It is suggested that in addition to reading and using this guide, tenants and landlords may wish to seek additional information regarding their rights and responsibilities from a tenant-landlord program, a housing clinic, a legal aid organization, or an attorney.

 

It is important that tenants understand their legal rights when it comes to renting a residential unit.

 

This booklet discusses various fair housing laws that protect tenants from unlawful discrimination and harassment. These laws are designed to protect and uphold the inalienable rights of all California tenants, without compromise. This booklet also suggests steps that both landlords and tenants can take to develop and maintain a good working relationship. Although this booklet is written from the tenant’s point of view, landlords can also benefit from the information contained herein.

 

Tenants and landlords should discuss their expectations and responsibilities before they enter into a rental agreement. If a problem occurs, the tenant and landlord should try to resolve the problem through open communication and discussion. Honest discussion of problems may show each party that they are not completely in the right, and that a fair compromise is warranted.

 

If the problem is one for which the landlord is responsible (see pages 47-51), the landlord may be willing to correct the problem or work out a solution without further action by the tenant. If the problem is one for which the tenant is responsible (see page 49), the tenant may agree to correct the problem once the tenant understands the landlord’s concerns. If the parties cannot reach a solution on their own, they may be able to resolve the problem through mediation or arbitration (see page 106). In some situations, legal action may provide the only solution.

 

While much of this booklet focuses on tenants, it is designed to educate landlords and tenants on the fundamental aspects of rental housing laws in California. Although this booklet itself is not considered legal authority, the footnotes contained within it cite to the statutes and case law that are considered binding legal authority.

 

The Department of Real Estate hopes that tenants and landlords will use the information contained in this booklet to avoid problems in the first place and resolve problems fairly when they do occur.

HOW TO USE THIS BOOKLET

 

You can find the information you need by using the Table of Contents, Index, and Glossary of Terms contained in this booklet.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

As the Table of Contents shows, this booklet is divided into nine main sections. Each main section is divided into smaller sub-sections. For example, if you seek information about the rental agreement, look under “Rental Agreements and Leases” in the “BEFORE YOU AGREE TO RENT” section.

 

GLOSSARY

 

If you just want to know the meaning of a term (such as "eviction" or "holding deposit") look in the Glossary (see pages 108-115). The glossary gives the meaning of more than 60 terms. Each term is printed in boldface type the first time that it appears in the booklet. The Department of Real Estate hopes that you will locate the information you are looking for in this booklet. If you cannot find what you are looking for, call or write to one of the resources listed in “Getting Help from a Third Party”

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A Guide for Landlords on How to Evict a Tenant in California

Evicting a tenant, or forcing a renter to move out of a dwelling that you own, under California law is a time-consuming, multi-step process. The only way to legally evict a tenant is by filing a lawsuit. As a landlord, you have the right to remove tenants who violate their lease agreements. Landlords often want to complete the eviction process quickly to avoid losing rent money and prevent other tenants from moving out due to dissatisfaction with living conditions.

California calls eviction lawsuits unlawful detainer actions, and you should expect the entire process to take about one month. The landlord is the "plaintiff," and the tenant is the "defendant." The state of California also gives priority to eviction lawsuits over all other legal matters, aside from criminal cases.

This guide will outline all the steps necessary to evict a tenant.

 

 

How to Evict a Tenant in California

  1. Make sure that you have legal grounds to evict the tenant. Before you can proceed with evicting a tenant, you must have a valid reason for doing so. ...

  2. Serve tenant with an appropriate notice. Prior to serving a tenant with a legal notice, you may want to contact the tenant yourself to try to resolve the situation.

  3. Wait for the notice to expire. Depending on the type of notice, you'll have to give the tenant a certain amount of time to remedy the grounds for eviction.

  4. File all legal documents with the court. You'll need to submit the Unlawful Detainer Complaint and the Civil Case Cover Sheet to the courthouse in the county where the ...

  5. Serve the tenant with the proper legal documents. As before, the complaint and summons must be properly served to the tenant. However, you cannot "nail and mail" a summons.

  6. Wait for the tenant to respond to the lawsuit. The tenant has five business days to file a "response" to the court to challenge the lawsuit. ...

  7. Go through the court process. You or the tenant may ask for a trial date, which is usually set within 10 to 20 days after the request.

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2. Serve tenant with an appropriate notice

Prior to serving a tenant with a legal notice, you may want to contact the tenant yourself to try to resolve the situation. Some landlords opt to start the process with a legal mediator for a more peaceful situation. If these methods don't work, you can always go through the legal process.

If you are evicting the tenant because of failure to pay rent, you must serve the tenant with a three-day notice of the rent due. The notice should state that if the tenant fails to pay the rent due within three days of the date of the notice, you will begin taking steps toward eviction. You can ask only for the amount that was actually due, so utilities and penalties must be excluded. The notice must also provide:

  • Name, address, and phone number of the person or financial institution to whom the rent must be paid and include hours and days that the person or financial institution is available to receive the rent

  • Date you served the demand to the tenant

  • Name(s) and address(es) of the tenant(s)

  • Total amount of rent due

  • A certificate of service that specifies how you provided the notice to the tenant

  • The signature of the landlord

Many tenants in eviction cases will claim that the notices weren't served properly, so take great care to handle the process correctly and include all necessary information on the notice. A renter may also use an eviction notice to raise awareness about the landlord's wrongdoing. If a landlord breaks the law, this action could cause the case to swing in favor of the tenant.

"Serving" the tenant means that you must try personally serving the tenant by directly handing the notice to the person or leaving it on the ground near the tenant if the person refuses to take it. If that arrangement isn't possible, then you can engage in "substituted service," allowing you to leave the notice with someone who seems reasonably competent and is 18 years or older at the rental property or tenant's place of work and mailing a copy to the tenant. If that option isn't possible, then you are allowed to "nail and mail" by posting the notice on the tenant's door and mailing a copy to the tenant. Some counties require permission from the court to use the "nail and mail" option for serving the tenant.

The three-day notice is also used when the tenant has violated a rental agreement provision. If the violation is correctable, such as having a pet when no pets are allowed, then you must give the tenant three days to remedy the problem. If the violation is based on illegal activity or other violations that aren't easily remedied, then the notice is an order for the tenant to leave the unit within three days.

If you are evicting a tenant from a month-to-month lease, you will need to give the tenant a 30-day notice to move out. If the tenant has lived in the unit for more than one year, the notice must be extended to 60 days. In government-subsidized housing, the notice must be 90 days.

Landlords do not have to give a 30-day notice if the tenant is creating a legal nuisance by engaging in criminal activity or endangering neighbors. You simply must provide a three-day notice to vacate the premises.

The tenant has three options upon receipt of a three-day notice of the rent due. The tenant may pay the rent within the three-day window. Another option is that the tenant could move out within three days of receiving the three-day rent notice. The third option is not responding to the notice or moving out, which allows the landlord to move forward in the next step of eviction proceedings.

3. Wait for the notice to expire

Depending on the type of notice, you'll have to give the tenant a certain amount of time to remedy the grounds for eviction. A notice based on failure to pay rent requires that the landlord give the tenant three days to correct the problem and pay rent. A 30-day notice on a month-to-month or expired lease requires you to wait 30 days before you proceed with filing a lawsuit.

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4. File all legal documents with the court

Three forms are necessary to proceed with an Unlawful Detainer Complaint:

 

You'll need to submit the Unlawful Detainer Complaint and the Civil Case Cover Sheet to the courthouse in the county where the rental property exists. The forms must be factually accurate, so be meticulous when filling them out. The clerk at the courthouse will give you a summons and a stamped copy of the Unlawful Detainer Complaint.

Be sure to get a copy of the Prejudgment Right of Possession form or print one. This form is used when someone not listed on the rental agreement is living in the unit. You cannot legally evict a person living in a unit who is not named in the complaint, so you'll need to serve those unnamed occupants with a Prejudgment Right of Possession form and a copy of the complaint and summons. This action will automatically make them defendants in the lawsuit.

From the time you file an Unlawful Detainer Complaint form, the process of getting the tenant evicted typically takes about two months, although eviction can take longer.

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5. Serve the tenant with the proper legal documents

As before, the complaint and summons must be properly served to the tenant. However, you cannot "nail and mail" a summons. After you serve the summons, file a proof of service with the court. Do not continue to reserve the tenant with notices, as this action will end the original case and open a new one, which will extend the waiting period and prolong the case.

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WHO IS A LANDLORD AND WHO IS A TENANT?

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT LANDLORDS AND TENANTS

 

A landlord is a person or entity that owns a rental unit. The landlord rents the rental unit to another person, called a tenant, for the tenant to live in. The tenant obtains the right to the exclusive use and possession of the rental unit during the rental period. Sometimes, the landlord is called the owner, and the tenant is called a resident.

 

A rental unit is an apartment, house, duplex, condominium, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), room, or other structure or part thereof that a landlord rents to a tenant to live in. Because a tenant uses the rental unit to live in, it is called a residential rental unit or dwelling unit.

 

Often, a landlord will retain a rental agent or property manager to manage their rental property. The agent or property manager is compensated by the landlord to represent the landlord's interests. In some instances, the tenant will deal with the rental agent or property manager on behalf of the landlord. In other instances, the tenant will deal directly with the landlord. For example, a tenant can work directly with the agent or property manager to resolve problems with the rental unit. When a tenant needs to give the landlord one of the required notices described in this booklet (for example, see pages 63-67 and 89-91), the tenant can give that notice directly to the landlord’s rental agent, property manager, or another person if that person is identified in the rental agreement to receive service.

 

The name, address and telephone number of the person authorized to receive legal notices on behalf of the owner (such as a property manager or owner if no property manager is used) must be written in the rental agreement or posted conspicuously in the rental unit or building.

 

SPECIAL SITUATIONS

 

The tenant's rights and responsibilities discussed in this booklet apply only to people whom the law defines as tenants. Generally, under California law, lodgers and residents of hotels and motels living in these locations for more than 30 days have the same rights as tenants.2 The rights and responsibilities of lodgers and residents of hotels and motels are discussed in the “Special Situations” section

Special Situations

 

Hotels and motels

 

If you are a resident in a hotel or motel, you do not have the rights of a tenant if you are in any of the following situations:

 

1. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other short-term lodging facility for 30 days or less, and your occupancy is subject to the state’s hotel occupancy tax.

 

2. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other lodging facility for more than 30 days, but have not paid for all room and related charges owed by the 30th day.

 

3. You live in a hotel or motel to which the manager has a right of access and control, and all of the following is true:

 

• The hotel or motel allows occupancy for periods of fewer than seven days.

 

• All of the following services are provided for all residents: 

 

a fireproof safe for residents’ use; 

 

a central telephone service; 

 

maid, mail, and room service; and 

 

food service provided by a food establishment that is on or next to the hotel or motel grounds and that is operated in conjunction with the hotel or motel.

 

If you live in a unit described by either 1, 2, or 3 above, you are not considered a tenant. Rather, you are considered a guest. Therefore, you do not have the same rights as a tenant.4 For example, a hotel manager can lock out a guest who does not pay his or her room charges on time, while a landlord cannot resort to self-help eviction measures by locking the tenant out and must follow formal eviction proceedings to evict a nonpaying tenant.

 

Residential hotels

 

If a residential hotel serves as your primary residence, you possess some of the same legal rights as a tenant.5 A residential hotel is any building containing six or more guestrooms designed, used, rented or occupied for sleeping purposes by guests, and which serves as the primary residence of those guests.6 A locking mail receptacle must be provided for each guest of a residential hotel.7

 

It is unlawful for the manager of a residential hotel to require a guest to move or to check out and re-register before the guest has lived there for 30 days, if their purpose is to have the guest maintain transient occupancy status (and, therefore, not gain the legal rights of a tenant).8 A person who violates this law may be subject to a $500 civil penalty and may be required to pay the guest’s attorney fees

 

 

Single lodger in a private residence

 

A lodger is a person who lives in a room in a house where the owner lives. The owner may enter all areas occupied by the lodger and has overall control of the house.9 Most lodgers have the same rights as tenants.10

 

However, in the case of a single lodger in a house where there are no other lodgers, the owner can evict the lodger without using formal eviction proceedings. Instead, the owner can give the lodger written notice that the lodger cannot continue to use the room. The amount of notice must be the same as required for any other periodic tenancy (see Landlord’s notice to end a periodic tenancy, page 62). After the owner has given the lodger proper notice and the applicable time period has expired, the lodger has no further right to remain in the owner’s house and may be removed as a trespasser if they refuse to leave.11 However, the lodger may dispute their status as a lodger which may necessitate an unlawful detainer action to be filed by the owner to obtain a writ of possession to remove the lodger.

 

Transitional housing

 

Some residents may actually occupy “transitional housing.” Transitional housing provides lodging and services to formerly homeless persons for periods of 30 days to 24 months. Residents of transitional housing, who do not pay rent to occupy that housing, are generally referred to as “participants” and are subject to specific behavior rules and eviction procedures.12 If rent is paid, then they will be considered tenants.

 

Mobile home parks and recreational vehicle parks

 

Most landlord-tenant relationships in mobile home parks and recreational vehicle parks are governed by the Mobile home Residency Law13 and the Recreational Vehicle Park Occupancy Law.14

 

However, normal landlord-tenant law, including eviction procedures (see pages 90- 104), must be followed for certain mobile home residents. Specifically, a person who leases a mobile home from its owner (where the owner has leased the site for the mobile home directly from the management of the mobile home park) is subject to landlord-tenant law procedures described in this booklet and not any of the in the Mobile home Residency Law. The same is true for a person who leases occupancy in a mobile home from the park management.

 

You can find more information on the Mobile home Residency Law by accessing the following link: https://www.hcd.ca.gov/manufactured-mobile-home/mobile-homeombudsman/mobilehome-resident-rights.shtml.

LOOKING FOR A RENTAL UNIT

 

LOOKING FOR AND INSPECTING RENTAL UNITS

 

Looking for a rental unit

 

When you are looking for a rental unit, the most important things to think about are:

 

• The dollar limit that you can afford for monthly rent and utilities.

• The dollar limit that you can afford for all required fees and deposits (for example, application screening fees, holding, security, and pet deposits)

• If the property is located in a city or other area that limits the amount the rent can be increased each year (usually referred to as “rent control”).

• The location that you want. In addition, you also should carefully consider the following:

• The type of rental unit that you want (for example, an apartment complex, a duplex, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), or a single-family house).

• The specifications or amenities that you want (such as, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms).

• Whether you want a month-to-month rental agreement or a rental agreement for a fixed-rental term (see pages 80-82).

• Access to schools, proximity to employment, stores, public transportation, medical facilities, libraries, child-care facilities, and other necessities and conveniences.

• The neighborhood (for example, its safety or available green spaces).

• The condition of the rental unit (see “Inspecting before you rent,” page 8).

• Whether the unit is physically accessible or can be reasonably modified to allow a person with a disability to access and enjoy the housing.

• Other special requirements that you or your family members may have (for example, wheelchair access).

• What State and local tenant protection laws may apply to the unit (see pages 90- 91).

 

You can obtain information on places to rent from many sources. Many websites list rental properties. Local newspapers carry classified advertisements on available rental units. In many areas, free weekly or monthly publications devoted to rental listings are available. Local real estate offices and property management companies often advertise rental listings. Bulletin boards in public buildings, local colleges, and places of worship often have notices about places for rent. You can also look for “For Rent” signs in the neighborhoods where you would like to live.

 

Note that landlords and housing providers cannot advertise or state a preference for tenants with certain sources of income. For example, an advertisement stating “No Section 8 tenants,” is unlawful

Inspecting before you rent

 

Before you decide to rent, carefully inspect the rental unit with the landlord or the landlord’s agent. This will help you to see if the unit is a safe and healthy place for you to live and will give you a chance to request needed repairs before you move in. It will also protect you from being held responsible for conditions that already existed when you move in. Make sure that the unit has been well maintained. Use the inventory checklist (pages 123-126) as an inspection guide, and take notes about any needed repairs. Ask that you and the landlord (or agent) both sign the inventory checklist at the end to show you both agree with what it says. You can also take pictures of any issues on your phone. When you inspect the rental unit, look for the following problems:

 

• Cracks or holes in the floor, walls, or ceiling.

• Signs of leaking water or water damage in the floor, walls, or ceiling; this may include dry or wet spots, flaking, bubbling, or a damp or moldy smell.

• The presence of mold that might affect your or your family’s health and safety. Mold may appear as dark spots on a wall or floor.

• Signs of rust in water appearing near the faucet. Bad smelling or discolored water coming from the faucet.

• Leaks in bathroom or kitchen fixtures.

• Lack of hot water.

• Windows and doors that do not open all the way or fail to shut securely.

• Inadequate lighting or insufficient electrical outlets.

• Inadequate heating or air conditioning.

• Inadequate ventilation or offensive odors.

• Defects in electrical wiring and fixtures.

• Damaged flooring.

• Damaged furnishings (if it is a furnished unit).

• Signs of insects, vermin, or rodents.

• Accumulated dirt and debris.

• Inadequate trash and garbage receptacles.

• Chipping paint in buildings, especially older buildings. Paint chipping could be indicative that the rental unit may be poorly maintained. Paint chips in older buildings sometimes contain lead, which can cause lead poisoning in children if eaten. If the rental unit was built before 1978, you should read the booklet, “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home,” which is available by calling (800)-424-LEAD or online at https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-lead-your-home-english.

• Signs of asbestos-containing materials in older buildings, such as flaking ceiling tiles, or crumbling pipe wrap or insulation. (Asbestos particles can cause serious health problems if inhaled or consumed.) For more information, go to www.epa.gov/asbestos.

• Any sign of hazardous substances, toxic chemicals, or other hazardous waste products in the rental unit or on the property

Also, look at the exterior of the building and any common areas, such as hallways and courtyards. Does the building appear to be well-maintained? Are the common areas clean and orderly?

 

The quality of rental units can vary greatly. You should understand the positive and negative aspects of the unit and consider all of them before deciding whether to rent, and if the monthly rent is reasonable. Rental units without the amenities listed in this section (generally) are unlawful and violate the Health and Safety Code. They should not be rented, unless repaired by the owner first.

 

Ask the landlord who will be responsible for paying for utilities (gas, electric, water, and trash collection). You will probably be responsible for paying some, and possibly all, of these utilities. Try to find out how much money the previous tenant paid for utilities. This will help you calculate whether you can afford the total amount of the rent and utilities each month. With increasing energy costs, it is also important to consider whether the rental unit and its appliances are energy efficient.

 

If the rental unit is a house or duplex with a yard, ask the landlord who will be responsible for taking care of the yard. If you will be responsible for the yardwork, ask whether the landlord will supply necessary equipment, such as a lawn mower and a hose. However, regardless of what the lease states, a landlord is always responsible for making sure the outdoor area is clean and free of debris and garbage.15 At the same time, the tenant has a duty to keep the premises that they occupy and use clean and sanitary.16

 

During your initial viewing of the rental unit, you will have the chance to see how your potential landlord reacts to any concerns and/or questions that you raise. At the same time, the landlord will learn how you likely will handle potential problems. While you may not reach agreement on every issue, how you get along during the initial viewing process will help both of you decide whether you will become a tenant.

 

If you find problems like those listed above, discuss them with the landlord. If the problems are ones that the landlord is required by law to repair (see pages 47-51), find out when the landlord intends to make the repairs. If you decide to rent the unit, it is recommended to include any repair promises made by the landlord as part of the written rental agreement, including the date by which the landlord will complete the necessary repairs.

 

If you think you may rent the unit, make note of any problems you observe when looking at the unit, including taking pictures and video. Be sure to address these issues when you perform a “walk-through” with the landlord before or just after moving so they are included on the inventory checklist (see Inventory Checklist page 123). If the Landlord promises to make some of the repairs before you move in, be sure to confirm this in writing to avoid any problems later. You can write the promises down and ask the landlord to sign or send an email or text about the issue(s), requesting a reply as acknowledgement.” However, it is recommended that you make any repair promises a part of the written rental agreement to avoid any problems later.

 

Generally, the landlord will have a detailed move-in walkthrough form that the landlord will provide to all parties prior to the tenant moving in their possessions

Finally, you should walk or drive around the neighborhood during the day, and again in the evening, to get a feel for the neighborhood. Ask neighbors whether they like living in the area. If the rental unit is in an apartment complex, ask some of the tenants how they get along with the landlord and the other tenants. Ask other tenants if the landlord has evicted tenants in the past or has served many eviction notices on other tenants. You may also want to ask how quickly the landlord responds to requests for repairs. If you are concerned about safety, ask neighbors and tenants if they know of any problems and whether they think the area is safe

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6. Wait for the tenant to respond to the lawsuit

The tenant has five business days to file a "response" to the court to challenge the lawsuit. Responses from a tenant might include a motion to attack the method of service, a motion to answer the complaints received, or a motion to attack the sufficiency of the notice received.

If the tenant fails to respond after five business days, you can ask for a default judgment by filing another form with the court. The clerk of court will set a court date, and you will have to give the judge enough evidence to show that you properly went through the eviction process and the tenant defaulted.

7. Go through the court process

You or the tenant may ask for a trial date, which is usually set within 10 to 20 days after the request. The time frame may vary depending on your area. You cannot collect rent from the tenant while awaiting a trial, but the tenant will be responsible for rent payment.

The tenant may respond to your lawsuit by filing one of many legal objections to the notice, service, or the actual complaint. An objection to the method of service of the notice or complaint is a Motion to Quash Service of Summons, and an objection to the grounds for eviction is a Demurrer.

You will have to respond to these objections in writing. If the court sides with the tenant, you'll be granted "leave to amend," which is a second chance to show that you have a valid case or that you properly gave notice to and served the tenant. At this stage, if you lose a second time, your lawsuit may be dismissed, and you will have to start your lawsuit again. This part is particularly tricky, and you should seek help from an attorney.

If the tenant "answers" the complaint, then a trial date is set. Both sides will be able to present evidence and explain their cases to the judge at trial, so collect as much documentation as possible to show that this eviction is warranted.

Make sure to bring records of violations, notices, and the lease agreement with you to court. Most proceedings for eviction take about one hour. But if the defendant brings significant information, the case could take longer.

If the judge rules in your favor at the trial, the court will issue a Writ of Possession, which gives a sheriff the power to physically lock the tenant out of the rental property if the tenant does not voluntarily vacate within five days. Depending on the circumstances and provisions in the rental agreement, the court may also order the tenant to pay any unpaid rent, attorney's fees, or up to a $600 penalty. A landlord cannot legally try to evict a tenant without the Writ of Possession from the court and without having a sheriff present during the eviction.

The sheriff typically has three to 15 days to post the notice on the dwelling; then, the tenant has five days from the date of the notice posting to vacate the property. If the tenant does not leave, the sheriff will return within six to 15 days to physically remove the tenant from the property.

If the tenant leaves any personal items behind, you will need to research local ordinances in the county or city where the property is located. Some municipalities require the landlord to give notice to the tenant to collect the items, while others allow the landlord to sell or dispose of them.

When a case gets ruled in favor of a landlord, the tenant is found both liable and guilty. The conviction will stay on the tenant's record for up to 10 years and could arise during background checks when applying to rent another residence.

Additional situations can make evicting a tenant more complicated:

  • The tenant works for you while living on the property

  • The tenant lives in a residential hotel

  • The tenant lives in an RV park or mobile home

  • The tenant rents a foreclosed unit

 

Special protections are in place for tenants of properties under foreclosure under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). If the tenant is bona fide, which means the individual is the original tenant on the lease agreement, these protections restrict a new owner or financial institution from evicting that tenant. Bona fide tenants do not include spouses, children, or parents of a former owner.

If a bank takes ownership of a property, it must give a month-to-month tenant at least a 90-day notice to move out. But if the tenant has a current lease, a bank cannot issue the 90-day notice until a buyer is ready to move into the property as the person's primary residence. If the property gets sold to an investor or someone who plans to use the property as a vacation or second home, neither the new owner nor the bank can evict a tenant maintaining a current lease agreement.

If you're in any of these complex situations, you should hire an attorney to help make sure that you're not violating any laws. By following the process, you can avoid losing rental income and prevent getting involved in a lengthy legal matter, which could take months to resolve.

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Some Tips on Pest Control

Periodic pest control treatments

 

A pest control company must give written notice to the landlord and tenants of rental property regarding pesticides to be used when the company provides an initial treatment as part of an ongoing pest-control service contract. The landlord must give a copy of this notice to every new tenant who will occupy a rental unit that will be serviced under the service contract. If the landlord fails to do so, the new tenant might be able to sue the landlord for costs incurred, moving costs, and an additional penalty of up to $2,500.106

 

Bed Bugs

 

Prior to creating a new tenancy for a dwelling unit, a landlord must provide a written notice to a prospective tenant about bed bugs. The required notice must include general information about bed bug identification, behavior and biology, the importance of cooperation for prevention and treatment, and the importance of, and for prompt written reporting of, suspected infestations to the landlord. If a landlord suspects that a rental unit contains bed bugs, or if they somehow learn of a possible bed bug infestation, the landlord must inspect the rental unit for bed bugs.107 If bed bugs are found, a landlord cannot show, rent or lease the rental unit until the bed bugs are eradicated.

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THE RENTAL APPLICATION

 

Before renting to you, most landlords will ask you to fill out a written rental application. A rental application is different from a rental agreement  The rental application is like a job or credit application that the landlord will use to decide whether to rent to you.

 

A rental application usually asks for the following information:

 

• The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your current and past employers. NOTE: Because California’s fair housing law prohibits discrimination on the basis of source of income, tenants who will pay some or all of the rent from other than employment income must be given the opportunity to provide verification of their income from those non-employment sources.

 

• The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your current and past landlords.

 

• The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of people whom you want to use as references.

 

• Criminal history information.

 

• Tax identification number, which may be Social Security number.

 

• Your driver’s license number.

 

There may be instances where an applicant cannot provide a social security or driver license number. In such cases, an applicant may provide a “government-issued” photo identification such as a passport or a foreign driver license instead which would allow the landlord to verify the applicant’s identity without inquiring about the applicant’s immigration status, which is prohibited under the law (see page .

 

Criminal History

 

Generally, a housing provider may check the criminal history of an applicant, although there are some types of criminal history information that providers may not seek or consider. For example, landlords are prohibited from considering certain types of criminal history including: 1) arrests that did not lead to a conviction 2) participation in a pretrial or post-trial diversion program 3) any record of a conviction that has been sealed by the court, or 4) any conviction that came from the juvenile justice system.17 Landlords are also prohibited from having “blanket bans” on all applicants with criminal histories.18 Instead, landlords must look at the individual circumstances involving a conviction to decide whether it is directly related to an applicant’s ability to be a good tenant.19 For more information please visit: https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wpontent/uploads/sites/32/2020/04/CriminalHistoryWebinarRe mediated.pdf.

If a housing provider intends to deny someone housing (or otherwise take an adverse action against someone) based on past criminal history, it must be based on a past criminal conviction. The law requires the landlord to follow certain guidelines. Most importantly, the conviction the landlord is concerned about must be a “directly-related conviction.” This means a criminal conviction that has a direct and specific negative bearing on a substantial, legitimate, and nondiscriminatory interest or purpose of the housing provider, such as the safety of other residents, the housing provider’s employees, or the property.

 

Landlords should be able to provide a copy of their policy on the use of criminal history information and offer you an opportunity to present additional (mitigating) information that could inform their decision. They should also delay considering criminal history information until after your financial and other qualifications have been verified.

Prepaid Rental Listing Services

 

Businesses known as “prepaid rental listing services” sell lists of available rental units. These businesses are regulated by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) and must be licensed.20 You may check the status of a license issued to a prepaid rental service on the DRE website (www.dre.ca.gov) to ensure that the service is licensed. A prepaid rental listing service must enter into a contract with you before accepting any money from you.21 The contract must describe the services that the prepaid rental listing service will provide you and the kind of rental unit that you want them to find. For example, the contract must state the number of bedrooms in the unit that you want and the highest rent that you are willing to pay. Contracts with prepaid rental listing services cannot be for more than 90 days.

 

Before you enter into a contract with a prepaid rental listing service, check to see that they are licensed and that their list of rentals is current. The law requires a prepaid rental listing service to provide you with a list of at least three currently available rentals within five days of entering into a contract.

 

If the list you purchased from a prepaid rental listing service does not contain three available rental units of the kind that you described in the contract, you are entitled to a refund.22 You must demand a refund from the prepaid rental listing service within 15 days of signing the contract. Your refund demand must be in writing and must be personally delivered to the prepaid rental listing service, or sent via certified or registered mail. (Note, you are not entitled to a refund if you located a rental using the services of the prepaid rental listing service.)

 

If you do not locate a rental unit from the list you purchased, or if you locate a rental through another source, the prepaid rental listing service can keep only $50 of the fee you paid. While you are entitled to a refund of the balance, you must request the refund in writing within 10 days after the end of the contract. Your refund request must include documentation that you did not move or that you did not find your new rental using the services of the prepaid rental listing service. If you cannot provide this documentation, you can fill out and swear to a form that the prepaid rental listing service will give you for this purpose (or that you can locate yourself by reviewing the form language set forth in Business and Professions Code section 10167.10). You can deliver your request for a refund personally or by mail (preferably by certified or registered mail with return receipt requested). Look in the contract for the mailing address. The service must make the refund within 10 days after it receives your request, or they are subject to statutory and actual damages.

Other Rental Application Considerations

 

The rental application may contain an authorization for the landlord to obtain a copy of your credit report, which will show the landlord how you manage your financial obligations.

 

The landlord may ask you questions about your employment, your monthly income, and other information to establish your ability to pay rent. It is illegal, however, for the landlord to discriminate against you based upon sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, whether you have persons under the age of 18 living in your household, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, veteran or military status, age, medical condition, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status. Other than your source of income and the number of persons in your household and how many are adults, it is also unlawful for a landlord to refuse to rent to you based on having or planning to have a family child care home.25 A landlord may not ask you questions (either orally or in writing) about any of these characteristics, including your immigration or citizenship status.

 

California and federal law also makes it illegal for landlords to discriminate against potential tenants because they are survivors of domestic violence; doing so disproportionately impacts women, who comprise the vast majority of survivors, giving rise to a claim of sex discrimination.

 

In the context of a number of federally assisted housing programs, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) offers protections to applicants from being denied housing based on one’s status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. VAWA protects survivors regardless of gender.

 

Although a landlord may not discriminate on the basis of the source of your income, a landlord is allowed to ask you about your level of income and the source of your income.

 

The landlord may also ask you about the number of people who will be living in the rental unit. In order to prevent overcrowding of rental units, California has adopted the Uniform Housing Code’s occupancy requirements. Generally, a landlord can establish reasonable standards for the number of people in a rental unit, but the landlord cannot use overcrowding as a pretext for refusing to rent to tenants with children if the landlord would rent the unit to the same number of adults.

 

Landlords are forbidden by law from asking questions about your age or medical condition (see “Unlawful Discrimination,” pages 18-22).

 

Landlords are also prohibited from discriminating against a tenant by refusing to rent to someone on the basis that they receive Section 8 assistance or participate in other similar housing voucher programs. This means that a landlord now cannot refuse to accept a tenant on the basis that a tenant receives rental assistance from a voucher program.

 

CREDIT CHECKS

 

Credit reporting agencies (or “credit bureaus”) keep records of people’s credit histories, called “credit reports.” Credit reports state whether a person has a history of paying bills late, has been the subject of an unlawful detainer lawsuit or has filed for bankruptcy.34 The landlord or property manager will probablyuse the tenant’s rental application to check their credit history and past landlord-tenant relations. The landlord may obtain the tenant’s credit report from a credit reporting agency to assist the landlord with the screening process.

 

Some credit reporting agencies, called tenant screening services, collect and sell information about tenants. This information may include whether tenants paid their rent on time; damaged previous rental units; or were the subject of an unlawful detainer lawsuit (eviction lawsuit). Tenant screening services and landlords cannot use an alleged COVID-19 rental debt as a negative factor in their evaluation of a tenant. 

 

The landlord may use this information to make a final decision on whether to rent to you. Generally, landlords prefer to rent to people who have a history of paying their rent and bills on time. However, there are circumstances where the court seals the record of an eviction (called “masking”). For example, the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act masks unlawful detainer actions filed between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 based on a failure to pay rent and civil actions for recovery of COVID-19 rental debt. 37When the record of an eviction is masked, credit reporting agencies are barred from including this information in a tenant screening report. Tenants can sometimes demonstrate rental history by presenting evidence of having paid rent on time and can demonstrate financial ability to pay by showing proof of income.

 

A landlord usually does not have to give you a reason for refusing to rent to you. However, if their decision is based partly or entirely on negative information from a credit reporting agency or a tenant screening service, the law requires the landlord to give you a written notice stating all of the following:

 

• The decision was based partly or entirely on information in such a report; and

 

• The name, address, and telephone number of the credit reporting agency or screening service; and

 

• A statement that you have the right to obtain a free copy of the report relied upon from the reporting agency that prepared it and to dispute the accuracy or completeness of information contained in the credit report.  

 

If the landlord refuses to rent to you based on your credit report, it is recommended that you get a free copy of your credit report and correct any erroneous or fraudulent information that could lead to the further denials. Additionally, if you paid an application fee you have a right to request a copy of that credit report from the landlord. 

 

Also, if you know what is contained in your credit report, you may be able to explain any problems when you fill out the rental application. For example, if you know that your credit report says that you never paid a particular bill, you can provide a copy of a canceled check to show that you actually paid the bill. Your credit score is also important. The landlord probably will consider your credit score in deciding whether to rent to you.

 

Your credit score is a numerical score that is based on information from a credit reporting agency. Landlords and other creditors use credit scores to gauge how likely a person is to meet his or her financial obligations, such as paying rent. You can request your credit score when you request your credit report (you may have to pay a reasonable fee for your score) or purchase your score from a vendor

APPLICATION SCREENING FEE

 

When you submit a rental application, the landlord may charge you an application screening fee to cover the cost of obtaining information about you, such as checking your personal references and obtaining a credit report about you. 

 

The application screening fee cannot legally be more than the landlord’s actual out-ofpocket costs, including the cost of obtaining a consumer credit report, and the reasonable value for the time spent by the owner or the owner’s agent in gathering information concerning the applicant. The amount is adjusted annually commensurate with an increase in the Consumer Price Index.43 In 2020, an application screening fee cannot exceed $52.46. The landlord must give you a receipt that itemizes the cost of obtaining and processing the information about you. The landlord must return any unused portion of the fee (for example, if the landlord does not check your references or does not run your credit).

 

The landlord cannot charge you an application screening fee when the landlord knows or should know that there is no vacancy, or that there will be no vacancy within a reasonable time. However, the landlord is permitted to charge an application screening fee under these circumstances if you provide informed written consent.

 

A landlord who has obtained your consumer credit report must provide you with a copy of the report upon your request. As explained in the section on “Credit Checks,” it is recommended that you obtain a copy of your credit report from the landlord so that you know what is being reported about you. Before paying an application screening fee, ask the landlord the following questions:

 

• How long will it take to get a copy of your credit report?

 

• How long will it take to review the credit report and decide whether to rent to you?

 

• Is the fee refundable if the credit check takes too long and you’re forced to rent another place?

 

• If you already have a current copy of your credit report, will the landlord accept it and either reduce the fee or not charge it at all?

 

If you do not like the landlord’s policy on application screening fees, you may want to look for another rental unit. A landlord is required to return any unused portion of the screening fee. If you decide to pay the application screening fee, any agreement regarding a refund should be in writing.

 

HOLDING DEPOSIT

 

A holding deposit is a deposit tendered by the tenant/applicant and held by the landlord to take an available rental unit off of the market while the applicant’s application is being processed or, once the landlord has approved the application and the parties have signed a rental agreement, hold the rental unit available for a stated period of time if the tenant is unable to move in immediately. Most landlords utilize a holding deposit agreement, which the parties sign, to govern how the holding deposit will be used. The holding deposit agreement requires the landlord to take the rental unit off of the market. If the application is not approved, it will direct the landlord to refund the holding deposit. If the application is approved and the parties sign a rental agreement, it will direct the landlord either to apply the holding deposit towards the first month’s rent or security deposit or refund the holding deposit. If the application is approved, but the applicant fails to sign the rental agreement, it may permit the landlord to retain some or all of the holding deposit.

 

Ask the following questions before you pay a holding deposit:

 

• Will the deposit be applied to the first month’s rent or security deposit? If the answer is yes, ask the landlord for a receipt and written confirmation of this agreement. Applying the deposit to the first month’s rent is a common practice.

 

• Is any part of the holding deposit refundable if you change your mind about renting? As a general rule, if you change your mind, the landlord can keep some (and perhaps all) of your holding deposit. The amount that the landlord can keep depends on the costs that the landlord incurred in holding the unit such as additional advertising costs to find a new tenant or lost rent.

 

You may also lose your deposit if something happens and you cannot pay rent (for example, you lose your job).

 

If you and the landlord agree that all or part of the deposit will be refunded in the event that you change your mind or cannot move in, make sure that the written receipt clearly sets forth your agreement.

 

If you make an agreement to pay a holding deposit, always get a copy of this agreement in writing. When you pay the deposit, ask for a written receipt.

 

A holding deposit merely guarantees that the landlord will not rent the unit to another person for a stated period of time. It does not give the tenant the right to move into the rental unit. The tenant must pay the first month’s rent and all other required deposits within the holding period before occupying the unit. Otherwise, the landlord can rent the unit to another person and keep all or part of the holding deposit, depending on the agreement

 

Suppose that the landlord rents to somebody else during the holding deposit period, and you are still willing and able to move in. The landlord should, at a minimum, return the entire holding deposit to you. You may also want to talk with an attorney, legal aid organization, tenant-landlord program, or housing clinic about whether the landlord is responsible for damages you incurred due to the loss of the rental unit.

 

If you give the landlord a holding deposit when you submit your rental application, but the landlord does not accept you as a tenant, the landlord must return the entire holding deposit

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It is very important to make sure you are operating within Fair Housing Standards to protect yourself as well as your business. There are always unhappy tenants as well as competitive landlords who are sneaky and will try to get you in trouble. These standards are relatively easy to adhere to and will save you some headaches to be in compliance. Click the box below to review these if you are unsure of your standing!

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UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION

What is unlawful discrimination?

 

A landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant, or provide unequal terms to a tenant, for a discriminatory purpose. The law also safeguards certain protected classes from discrimination. In California, protected groups, or “classes”, include:

 

• Race, color

 

• Ancestry, national origin

 

• Religion • Disability, mental or physical

 

• Sex, gender

 

• Sexual orientation

 

• Gender identity, gender expression

 

• Genetic information

 

• Marital status

 

• Familial status

 

• Source of income (including housing vouchers)

 

• Military or veteran status

Additionally, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which applies to private housing, prohibits discrimination on the basis of citizenship, immigration status, primary language, age, medical condition, or any other arbitrary personal characteristic.46 Discrimination on the basis of specified personal characteristics, is also prohibited.47 Indeed, the California Legislature has declared that the opportunity to seek, obtain, and hold housing free of unlawful discrimination is a civil right protected under the United States and California Constitutions.

Discrimination can take many forms. Discrimination may mean treating a person or people differently because of a particular protected characteristic. Examples of different treatment could be a landlord failing to make repairs for tenants of a specific ethnicity or singling out tenants over a certain age for eviction. Discrimination also includes actions that were not meant to be discriminatory, but that harm protected groups. For example, having very strict rules against how many people can live in a housing unit may result in excluding many families with children.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the federal fair housing law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, and disability. Additionally, HUD's Equal Access Rule requires equal access to HUD programs without regard to a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. To contact HUD, look in the governmental section of the phone book under United States Government Offices, or go to www.hud.gov.

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UNLAWFUL DISCRIMINATION

 

What is unlawful discrimination?

 

A landlord cannot refuse to rent to a tenant, or provide unequal terms to a tenant, for a discriminatory purpose. The law also safeguards certain protected classes from discrimination. In California, protected groups, or “classes”, include:

 

• Race, color

 

• Ancestry, national origin

 

• Religion • Disability, mental or physical

 

• Sex, gender

 

• Sexual orientation

 

• Gender identity, gender expression

 

• Genetic information

 

• Marital status

 

• Familial status

 

• Source of income (including housing vouchers)

 

• Military or veteran status

 

Additionally, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which applies to private housing, prohibits discrimination on the basis of citizenship, immigration status, primary language, age, medical condition, or any other arbitrary personal characteristic.46 Discrimination on the basis of specified personal characteristics, is also prohibited.47 Indeed, the California Legislature has declared that the opportunity to seek, obtain, and hold housing free of unlawful discrimination is a civil right protected under the United States and California Constitutions.

 

Discrimination can take many forms. Discrimination may mean treating a person or people differently because of a particular protected characteristic. Examples of different treatment could be a landlord failing to make repairs for tenants of a specific ethnicity or singling out tenants over a certain age for eviction. Discrimination also includes actions that were not meant to be discriminatory, but that harm protected groups. For example, having very strict rules against how many people can live in a housing unit may result in excluding many families with children.

 

Under California law, it is unlawful for a landlord, managing agent, real estate broker, or salesperson to discriminate against or harass a person because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to them) disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, veteran or military status, or genetic information disability California law also prohibits discrimination based on any of the following:

 

• A person’s age, medical condition, citizenship, primary language, immigration status,; or personal characteristics, such as a person’s physical appearance or other characteristics that may be termed as ‘arbitrary’ discrimination;

 

• A perception of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, veteran or military status, or genetic information, or a perception that a person is associated with another person who may have any of these characteristics; or

 

• Having or planning to have a family child care home.

 

A landlord cannot apply rules, regulations or policies to unmarried couples or couples who are registered domestic partners that do not apply to married couples. For example, if a landlord allows married couples to combine their incomes to qualify for a unit, the landlord must also allow people who are unmarried (i.e., domestic partners, same-sex couples, roommates, etc.) to combine their income to qualify on the same basis as married couples.

 

Except as may be specifically required by federal law for certain housing programs, a landlord may not inquire as to the immigration or citizenship status of the tenant or prospective tenant, or require that a tenant or prospective tenant make any statement concerning his or her immigration or citizenship status.55 However, a landlord can request information or documents in order to verify an applicant’s identity and financial qualifications.Whether or not a landlord can inquire about an existing or prospective tenant’s immigration status, it is unlawful for a landlord for purposes of influencing a tenant to vacate his/her rental unit to threaten to disclose information regarding the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, occupant, or other person associated with the tenant or occupant. It also is unlawful for a landlord to harass, intimidate, or retaliate against an existing or prospective tenant by disclosing that person’s immigration or citizenship status to federal, state or local law enforcement officials, including federal immigration officials.

 

In the case of a government rent subsidy, a landlord who is assessing a potential tenant’s eligibility for a rental unit must use a financial or income standard that is based on the portion of rent that the tenant would pay.

 

A landlord cannot apply special rules to family child care homes or refuse to rent to someone because they plan to have a family child care home. Under California law, a family child care home is considered a residential use of property, not a business use. Any lease provisions directly prohibiting, restricting, or indirectly limiting the use of the property as a family child care home are void. Therefore, even if a lease says, for example, “for residential use only" or “no businesses allowed,” a tenant is not violating their lease by operating a family child care home because these lease provisions cannot be enforced. If your rights as a provider under the above law are being violated, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing. You can also sue whoever is violating your rights as a family childcare provider.

 

It is illegal for landlords to discriminate against families who have or care for children under the age of 18. However, housing for senior citizens may exclude families with children. “Housing for senior citizens” includes housing that is occupied only by persons who are at least age, or housing that is operated for occupancy by persons who are at least age 55 and that meet other occupancy, policy, and reporting requirements stated in the law.

 

Landlords also cannot discriminate against tenants due to their status, or perceived status, as a survivor of domestic violence, because this may be an example of sex discrimination under both California and Federal law. These laws are subject to the limited exceptions described below. 

 

Limited exceptions for single rooms and roommates

 

If the owner of an owner-occupied, single-family home rents out a single room in his/her home to a roommate or boarder, and there are no other roommates or boarders paying rent to live in the household, with a limited exception, the owner is not subject to 19 the California Fair Employment and Housing Act of the federal Fair Housing Act. The exception is that the owner cannot make oral or written statements, or use notices or advertisements which indicate any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, veteran or military status, or genetic information.67 Further, the owner cannot discriminate on the basis of age, medical condition, citizenship, primary language, immigration status, mental or physical disability or personal characteristics, such as a person’s physical appearance or other characteristics that may be termed as ‘arbitrary’ discrimination.

 

A person in a single-family dwelling who advertises for a roommate or a boarder may express a preference on the basis of sex, if living areas (such as the kitchen, living room, or bathroom) will be shared by the roommate.69 This provision of the law does not permit a person to advertise for a roommate regarding other preferences such as their religion, whether they are in college, or whether they have children. No law allows advertisement for such preferences.

 

Resolving housing discrimination problems

 

If you are a victim of housing discrimination (for example, if a landlord refuses to rent to you because of your race or national origin), you may have several legal remedies, including:

 

• Recovery of out-of-pocket losses.

 

• An injunction prohibiting the unlawful practice.

 

• Access to housing that you were denied.

 

• Damages for emotional distress.

 

• Civil penalties or punitive damages.

 

• Attorney’s fees.

 

Sometimes, a court may order the landlord to take specific action to stop unlawful discrimination. For example, the landlord may be ordered to advertise vacancies in minority or local newspapers, or place fair housing posters in the rental office.

 

A number of resources are available to help resolve housing discrimination problems:

 

• Local fair housing organizations (often known as fair housing councils). Look in the business or commercial section of the phone book, use online resources, or dial 4-1-1 for directory assistance. The National Fair Housing Alliance maintains an interactive map of local organizations that advocate for fair housing at https://nationalfairhousing.org/member-directory/.

 

• Landlords may look for local California apartment association chapters. Look in the business or commercial section of the phone book. The California Apartment Association maintains a list of local apartment association chapters at www.caanet.org.

 

• Local government agencies. Look in the governmental section of the phone book under City or County Government Offices, search your city and county website for fair housing information, or call the offices of local elected officials (for example, your 20-city council representative or your county supervisor) or dial 4-1-1 for directory assistance.

 

• The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) investigates housing discrimination complaints (but not other kinds of landlord tenant problems). DFEH enforces the Fair Employment and Housing Act which prohibits discrimination based upon the following categories: ancestry, national origin, marital status, citizenship, mental or physical disability, primary language, familial status, race, color, gender identity, gender, religious expression, sex, gender, genetic information, sexual orientation, immigration status, and source of income. If you feel that you have been the subject of housing discrimination, contact DFEH. The DFEH Housing Enforcement Unit can be reached at (800) 884-1684 TTY (800) 700-2320. You can learn about DFEH’s complaint process at https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/complaintprocess/.

 

• The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces the federal fair housing law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, and disability. Additionally, HUD's Equal Access Rule requires equal access to HUD programs without regard to a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. To contact HUD, look in the governmental section of the phone book under United States Government Offices, or go to www.hud.gov.

 

• Legal aid organizations provide free legal advice, representation, and other legal services in noncriminal cases to economically disadvantaged persons. Legal aid organizations are located throughout the state. Look in the business or commercial section of the phone book under Attorneys or go to https://lawhelpca.org. The Legal Aid Association of California also maintains a directory of legal aid organizations at www.laaconline.org, as does the Department of Real Estate at www.landlordtenant.dre.ca.gov.

 

• Private attorneys. You may consider hiring a private attorney to take legal action against a landlord who has discriminated against you. For the names of attorneys who specialize in housing discrimination cases, contact your county bar association or an attorney referral service.

 

You must act quickly if you believe that a landlord has unlawfully discriminated against you. The time limits for filing housing discrimination complaints are short. For example, a complaint to the DFEH must be filed within one year from the date of the discriminatory act. Make sure you document the unlawful discrimination when it occurs. First, write down what happened, including dates and the names of those involved. Then, contact one of the resources listed above for advice and help.

 

Common Rule of Law in Real Estate

In real estate law, real property (also known as realty, real estate, or immovable property) refers to property that is intrinsically linked to land. It also includes buildings, machines, and equipment attached to the land. In the United States, each State (with the notable exception of Louisiana) regulates and legally protects real estate primarily through common law and real estate law.

The common law and real estate law regulate the liability of an owner in regard to the safety of a third person party on their property. Within the common law, there are three different types of third parties that can be found on land. The liabilities associated for a landowner vary greatly depending on the status of the third person party. Contact real estate lawyers for legal advice and assistance.

 

Trespasser

 

A trespasser is defined in common law as a third person party that enters a property without the knowledge or invitation of a landowner for personal purposes. Landowners typically have no duty to warn adult trespassers of dangers on a property or to make their property safe for adult trespassers. Although the duty is lighter than for a licensee or an invitee, a landowner is responsible to ensure the safety of the property if the owner believes trespassers could be on the property, especially in the case of children.

In the case of child trespassers, the owner is held to a higher standard in protecting the child from harm by ensuring the safety the property. Properties that might boast features that would attract child trespassers, such as ponds or pools, are often required to ensure the safety of their property to a higher degree.

Licensee

A licensee is defined in common law as a third person party that is invited on to and remains on a property for any reason other than a commercial or business reason. Thus, a guest would be a licensee, and not an invitee. Licensees are protected more than trespassers, and the landowner owes a higher degree of duty in maintaining the safety of a property and warning licensees of the dangers on a property.

Property owners are often found liable under real estate law and common law for damage or harm to a licensee or a licensee's property if the owner neglected to ensure the safety of a known danger on the property, failed to inform the licensee of the dangers on a property, or if a licensee did not have a reasonable understanding or notice of the dangers on a property.

Invitee

An invitee is defined in common law as a third person party that is invited on to and remains on a property for business or commercial purposes that will benefit the owner of the property. These invitations could be either implicit or explicit. For example, "open" signs and open doors are both considered invitations for these purposes.

Invitees are protected with the highest regard and owners have the highest liability to this class of third person parties. If the risk of harm or damage for an invitee or an invitee's property is considered unreasonable and the unsafe conditions of the property are explicitly known and understood by the owner, the owner must protect the invitee from any harm or damage. Invitees can also be classified as public invitees in real estate law, where their presence is legitimized by the use of a land for a public purpose.

  • Abandonment 

    A landlord may consider rental property as abandoned by the tenant once rent has not been paid for a set time along with visual evidence of the tenant’s disappearance such as the accumulation of unopened mail, unkempt premises, or statements from neighbors. Usually, the landlord must make a good faith effort to locate the tenant for a reasonable time, usually 30 days, before reclaiming the property and disposing of or selling any of the tenant’s unclaimed possessions. 

  • Assignment of Rent 

    A clause found in trust deeds whereby rent is included as addtional security to the real property described in a trust deed. The clause transfers to the lender the right to collect rental income from the income-producing property if there is a default on the note or other secured obligation that is held by the beneficiary or lender. 

  • Complaint in Unlawful Detainer 

    A formal lawsuit used by a landlord after having given appropriate written notice to a tenant to vacate leased property within a set time based on the tenant’s breach of a material provision of the lease or by nonpayment of rent. It is typically a summary proceeding where the tenant has a shortened period to file a written answer or response to the lawsuit and to appear in court for an eviction hearing within a short period after service of the action or the filing of a response by the tenant. 

  • Contract for Deed 

    Also referred to as a land contract or installment land contract, it is a contract for the sale of real property whereby the seller finances the transaction instead of a third party lender. The seller retains legal title to the property until the contract is satisfied and can more easily cancel the contract and repossess the property should the buyer fail to make the required payments or not fulfill other obligations without the need for foreclosure action or judicial action. 

  • Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment 

    An implied covenant in every residential lease agreement that a tenant has the right to undisturbed use of the rental property including excluding others from the premises, to peace and quiet, and to a safe and clean unit along with essential services such as hot water, heat, plumbing and electricity. A breach of this convenant by a landlord may entitle the tenant to withhold rent until the conditon is remedied or to vacate the property and terminate the lease. 

  • Default Judgment 

    A court issued judgment in favor of the landlord in cases where a tenant fails to respond to a summons and complaint for unlawful detainer or other eviction action, or where the tenant fails to appear at an eviction hearing, and which allows the landlord to request an order that the tenant vacate the premises. A tenant also may receive a default judgment if the landlord fails to appear at the hearing. 

  • Demurrer 

    A legal pleading used by tenants in some eviction cases wherein a party may agree with the underlying facts of a lawsuit but objects to certain allegations or counts in a complaint by arguing that it lacks legal sufficiency, validity or does not contain enough facts to support the opposing party’s cause of action. If sustained by the court, most courts will allow the opposing party to attempt to amend its complaint to cure the deficiency. 

  • Discriminatory Eviction 

    An unlawful eviction based upon a person’s protected status, which includes race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual preference, pregnancy, marital status, children or disability. 

  • Eviction 

    A legal or judicial process by which a landlord or landowner forces a tenant to vacate the leased property and terminate the rental agreement for failure to pay rent, to follow certain terms of the lease or who has stayed beyond the expiration of the lease term. 

  • Eviction Notice 

    A written statement that must be properly served or delivered to a tenant that contains certain language required by that jurisdiction, typically including the landlord’s declaration that the tenant has breached a specific material provision of the lease, has failed to pay a specified amount of rent on time, or committed some other substantial breach of the landlord/tenant relationship, and that the tenant must either vacate by a certain date or remedy the breach before a set date or the lease agreement will terminate. It must also state that legal proceedings will commence to expel the tenant from the leased property. 

  • Fair Housing Act 

    The Fair Housing Act is part of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and was designed to eliminate bias and discrimination in renting and in home sales on the basis of a person’s personal characteristics including race, religion, creed, national origin, gender, family status or disability. Suspected violations are reported to fair housing councils in a local area, a state’s department of fair employment and housing or to a private attorney for civil remedies. 

  • Forcible Entry 

    Entry by a landlord upon leased property without the consent of the occupier or tenant. It also refers to a tenant who remains on the property after termination of the lease or after receiving written demand of possession by the landlord. 

  • Forfeiture 

    A concept whereby a landlord may claim that a tenant has forfeited his or her rights under a rental agreement because of nonpayment of rent, violation of a material provison in the lease, or by committing criminal acts on the premises. It is also a concept in land contract cases where the seller declares the buyer to have forfeited the contract if the obligations of the contract are not fulfilled or has engaged in conduct that violates the contract. 

  • Holdover 

    A holdover is a tenant who has remained on leased property after expiration of the rental term, who has used the premises for illegal activity or who has violated a provision of the lease other than nonpayment of rent. Some states use holdover petitions to evict a tenant. 

  • Landlord 

    A person or entity that leases or rents property to another person or organization and is referred to as a lessor. A landlord has certain obligations to the tenant either through a written rental agreement or which are implied or specified by state law. 

  • Lease 

    A written or implied contract with a certain duration that allows a lessee to use or occupy property subject to its terms. 

  • Lease Option 

    A contract wherein the buyer pays the seller of real property money to secure an option to purchase the property at a later time, usually at an agreed future price, and to lease the property for a set rental amount over a predetermined time. The buyer is not obligated to buy the property during the option period and no other person may buy it until the option expires. 

  • Leasehold 

    A form of temporary right to property acquired under a lease or rental agreement for a set time at a certain price or rent. A leasehold is considered personal property. 

  • Low Income Tax Credit Properties 

    An affordable housing program also known as LIHTC for low income renters that permits investors to take a dollar-for-dollar tax reduction or credits pursuant Section 42 of the tax code and which currently accounts for the majority of affordable rental housing in the US. Most tax credit projects are able to qualify for government subsidies at below market interest rates. 

  • Nuisance 

    Any conduct or activity by a tenant that usually must be egregious in nature that materially affects the health or safety of other tenants or other people in the community. This could include unhealthy habits leading to infestations of vermin or insects, foul odors, chronic excessive noise or other conduct that interferes with another person’s right to quiet enjoyment of their property. 

  • Retaliatory Eviction 

    An unlawful eviction based on a tenant’s complaining to the landlord or to a governmental agency, or for participating in or joining a tenant’s union. 

  • Section 8 Housing 

    A federal housing program that provides rental subsidies to qualified, low-income renters and homeowners who must demonstrate that their income is below 50 percent of the applicant’s area median income. A Section 8 housing voucher may be used in any housing authority in the US, regardless of where the recipient received it. 

  • Self-Eviction 

    Unlawful activities or conduct by a landlord or the landlord’s representatives that are designed to forcibly evict or cause a tenant to vacate the leased property without using the judicial process. This includes shutting off the utilities, denying the tenant access to the property, threatening the tenant or creating conditons that make the property unfit to live in. 

  • Sublease 

    A rental agreement between the tenant or lessee and a third party that allows that party, called the sublessee, to use the lessee’s rental unit or property for a set time and who is obligated to the lessee. A lessee is still responsible for paying rent to the lessor or landlord for the duration of the underlying lease term. 

  • Tenancy 

    The period of a tenant’s right to possess and use the property of another under a lease and usually upon payment of rent or the performance of services. 

  • Tenant 

    A person or entity that leases property from another and who is referred to as a lessee, who by paying rent has rights of possession and limited use of the property for a set time, usually pursuant to a written lease or oral agreement. A tenant has certain obligations to the landlord to abide by the terms of the lease. 

  • Trade Fixtures 

    An item or piece of equipment used by a tenant in his or her trade or business that may be removed from the leased business property at the expiration of the lease term. Such fixtures may ordinarily be considered part of the real property and not removeable if not for their business or trade status. 

  • Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act 

    A model code or legislative act that addresses residential landlord and tenant interactions and which has been adopted with many variations by most states. The act was designed to introduce more fairness and uniformity in landlord/tenant laws and to specify the statutory obligations of tenants and landlords.

 

  • Warranty of Habitability 

    An implied obligation by the landlord in every rental agreement to provide and maintain an apartment or unit in a safe and habitable condition. This includes providing running water, electricity, heat and a structurally sound premises. The landlord’s failure to provide these services or essentials may permit a tenant to unilaterally terminate a lease, pay reduced rent, make self-repairs and deduct the costs from the rent or withhold the entire rent until the conditions are remedied. 

  • Writ of Possession 

    A court order granted after an eviction hearing or default whereby the landlord is granted possession of rental property and which advises the tenant to vacate the leased property by a certain date or be subject to forcible removal by the sheriff. A writ is served on the tenant by the sheriff or authorized law enforcement personnel. 

BEFORE YOU AGREE TO RENT

 

Before you decide on a rental unit, there are several other points to consider. For example: Is an oral rental agreement legally binding? What are the differences between a lease and a rental agreement? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each? This section answers these and other questions.

 

RENTAL AGREEMENTS AND LEASES

 

General information

 

Before a tenant can rent a rental unit, the landlord and tenant must enter into a rental agreement or lease. A "lease" generally refers to a written agreement while a "rental agreement" generally includes both oral and written agreement. However, these terms are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. For purposes of this guide, the term "rental agreement" is used to describe both a "rental agreement" and a "lease".

 

The tenant’s right to use and possess the landlord’s rental unit is called a tenancy. The rental agreement includes the terms and conditions that will govern the tenancy, including the length of the tenancy, the amount of the rent, the timing when the rent payments are due, and the amount of the security deposit. Although the different types of rental agreements and tenancies are discussed below, before entering into an agreement with a landlord, the tenant may want to seek advice from an attorney, legal aid organization, housing clinic, or tenant-landlord program to make sure that they understand all of the rental agreement provisions, each party's obligations, and any risks that either party may face.

 

Oral and Written Agreements

 

The rental agreement may be oral or written, however, it is strongly recommended that the parties have a written rental agreement. The landlord is required to provide the tenant with a signed copy of the rental agreement within 15 days of its execution. The landlord and tenant should retain copies of the signed rental agreement for their records.

 

An oral agreement is an agreement where the terms are agreed upon by spoken communication. This is in contrast to a written agreement where the terms are set forth in a written document. A tenancy term of more than one year must be in writing. Oral agreements for a tenancy term of more than a year are unenforceable.  

 

If you have an oral agreement, the landlord must give you a written statement regarding the name, street address, and phone number of the landlord or agent for receipt of legal notices; the contact information for the person who will accept the rent; and how the rent is to be paid (for example by cash, check or money order). One disadvantage of an oral agreement is that parties will have no written proof of the terms of their rental agreement if they get into a dispute with the other party. Also, once the oral agreement is made, any change of its terms by a landlord, or its termination by either party, must still be made by a properly served and legally sufficient written notice. 

 

Tenants with special circumstances may especially want to avoid an oral agreement. For instance, tenants may prefer a written agreement if they plan to reside at the rental unit for an extended period (i.e., several months up to one year), the landlord permits 22 the tenant to have pets or water-filled furniture (i.e., waterbed), or the landlord has agreed to pay any of the expenses (i.e., utilities or garbage removal) or provide any services (i.e., gardening).

 

Again, a written agreement is preferred and is in the best interest of both parties. The key problem with an oral agreement is that the obligations of the landlord to the tenant, and vice-a-versa, are not spelled out in an easily verifiable form.

 

Fixed Term and Periodic Tenancies

 

Whether the parties choose an oral or written agreement, either agreement must address the length of the tenancy or rental period. There are two types of tenancies, a tenancy for a fixed term and a tenancy for a periodic term. Fixed-term tenancies are tenancies that last for a set amount of time and have a defined expiration date, such as six months or one year. It is important to understand that the tenant is bound by the agreement until the agreement expires, which means that the tenant must pay the rent and perform all of the tenant's obligations under the agreement during the entire tenancy. There are some advantages to having a fixed-term tenancy. For instance, the landlord cannot raise the tenant's rent during the tenancy, unless the rental agreement expressly allows rent increases. Also, the landlord cannot terminate the tenancy while the rental agreement is in effect unless the tenant breaches a term in the rental agreement (for example, the tenant fails to pay rent, damages the property, or commits illegal activity on the premises). A fixed-term tenancy gives the tenant the security of a long-term agreement at a known cost. Even if the rental agreement allows rent increases, the rental agreement should specify a limit on how much and how often the rent can be raised. One disadvantage of a fixed-term tenancy is that the rental agreement may be more difficult to break, especially if another tenant cannot be found to take over your tenancy, if you need to move before the end of the fixed-term. If you move before the fixed-term ends, you could be liable for the rent for the rest of the term or until such time as the landlord rents the unit to a new tenant.

 

 Periodic tenancies are tenancies that continue for successive periods until the landlord or tenant gives the other party proper notification that they want to end the tenancy. Examples of periodic tenancies are tenancies that run from week to week or month to month. A periodic-term tenancy does not state the total number of weeks or months that the rental agreement will be in effect. The tenant can continue to live in the rental unit as long as the tenant continues to pay rent and the landlord does not provide proper notice of termination in a manner provided by law.

 

If a tenant is protected by just cause eviction protections, a landlord cannot ask a tenant to leave for no reason even during a month-to-month tenancy. Many tenants have city or county just cause eviction protections or have tenancies that qualify for eviction protections under the recently enacted Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482) (hereinafter referred to as the “Tenant Protection Act”). In these circumstances, a monthto-month tenancy will continue indefinitely unless a landlord has one of the good causes for eviction specified in the law and gives the tenant a valid termination notice.

 

As for rental payments, the landlord and tenant should agree on the timing of the rental payments. Where the term of a tenancy for a rental unit is not specified, it is presumed to have been for the time period between rental payments.77 Thus, the term of a periodic-term tenancy with rent paid monthly is presumed to be for month to month.78 23

 

State law provides for the amount of advance notice that the landlord and tenant must give to the other party to terminate the tenancy or change the terms (except the rental amount) of their rental agreement (see pages 64-68).79 Special rules govern the amount of advance notice that a landlord must give to a tenant before the landlord can increase the rental amount, and by how much the rent can be increased (see pages 35- 37).

 

SHARED UTILITY METERS

 

Some buildings have a single gas or electric meter that serves more than one rental unit. In other buildings, a tenant’s gas or electric meter may also measure gas or electricity used in a common area, such as the laundry room or the lobby. In situations like these, the landlord must disclose that utility meters are shared before you sign the rental agreement or lease, or as soon as the landlord discovers the shared metering. When utilities are apportioned among multiple rental units, a tenant may consider asking the landlord to provide them with information about how the charges are apportioned. A landlord cannot charge more than the actual cost of the utilities.

 

The landlord and tenant should discuss and agree upon which party will be responsible for paying the shared utilities and memorialize their understanding in writing. The options available to the landlord and tenant include:

 

• The landlord can pay for the utilities provided through the meter for your rental unit by placing the utilities in the landlord’s name;

 

• The landlord can have the utilities in the area outside your rental unit put on a separate meter in the landlord’s name; or

 

• You can agree to pay for the utilities provided through the meter for your rental unit to areas outside your rental unit.

 

If the landlord fails to do this, the tenant may bring a legal action and ask for remedies such as an order that the utilities be put in the landlord's name, or that the tenant be compensated for the tenant's payment of utilities outside the dwelling unit. If a public municipal utility company provides utility service to a rental dwelling, and the utility service is in the landlord’s name, a tenant may be able to become the customer of record on the account in order to avoid utility shut-off if the landlord falls behind on payments.

 

Rental units in older buildings may not have separate water meters or submeters. Ask the landlord if the rental unit that you plan to rent has its own water meter or submeter. If it does not, and if the landlord will bill you for water or sewer utilities, be sure that you understand how the landlord will calculate the amount that you will be billed. Under California law, a landlord is required to make specific disclosures to a tenant about the billing of water when there is a water submeter for the rental unit.

 

Translation of Proposed Rental Agreement

 

Although most lease negotiations are conducted in English, English may not be the primary language spoken by some landlords and tenants. Parties to a rental agreement may negotiate in another language. If the parties specifically negotiate in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese or Korean, the landlord must give the tenant a written translation of the proposed written agreement in the language used in the negotiation before the tenant signs the agreement. This rule applies whether the negotiations are oral or in writing. The rule does not apply if the rental agreement is for a period of one month or less. This rule only applies if Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese or Korean is used. It does not apply if the parties negotiate in some other language, such as Russian.

 

The landlord must give the tenant the written translation of the rental agreement whether or not it is requested by the tenant. The translation must include every term and condition in the rental agreement, but may retain elements in English such as names, addresses, numerals, dollar amounts and dates. It is never acceptable for the landlord to give the written translation of the rental agreement to the tenant after the tenant has signed the lease. Rather, the landlord must provide the tenant with the written translation of the rental agreement prior to the execution, or signing, of the rental agreement.

 

However, the landlord is not required to give the tenant a written translation of the lease or rental agreement if all of the following are true:

 

• The Spanish-, Chinese-, Tagalog-, Vietnamese-, or Korean-speaking tenant negotiated the rental agreement through his or her own interpreter; and

 

• The tenant’s interpreter is able to speak fluently and read with full understanding English, as well as Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean (whichever language is used in the negotiation); and

 

• The interpreter is not a minor (under 18 years of age); and

 

• The interpreter is not employed or made available by or through the landlord.

 

If a landlord who is required to provide a written translation of a lease or rental agreement in one of these languages fails to do so, the tenant can rescind (cancel) the agreement.

 

WHEN YOU HAVE DECIDED TO RENT

 

Before signing a rental agreement or a lease, the parties should read it carefully so that each party understands all of its terms. What kind of terms should be included in the rental agreement or lease? Can the rental agreement or lease limit the basic rights that the law gives to all tenants? How much can the landlord require you to pay as a security deposit? This section answers these and other questions.

 

WHAT THE RENTAL AGREEMENT SHOULD INCLUDE

 

Most landlords use printed forms for their rental agreements; however, printed forms may vary from form to form. There is no standard rental agreement. Some agreements may have terms that are only invoked through the checking of a box, placing a party’s initials or otherwise marking the agreement. Also, some sections may require filling in one or more blanks before a term is complete and understandable. Therefore, carefully read and understand the entire document before signing it. And make sure you are given a complete and exact copy to keep before signing it. Do not sign an agreement on which any relevant blanks are not completed.

 

The written rental agreement should contain all of the promises that the landlord or the landlord’s agent has made to you and should not contain anything that contradicts 25 what the landlord or the agent told you. If the rental agreement refers to a separate document, such as “tenant rules and regulations,” get a copy and read it before you sign the written agreement.

 

Do not feel rushed into signing. Make sure that you understand every term before signing the rental agreement. If you do not understand something, ask the landlord to explain it to you. If you still do not understand, discuss the agreement with an attorney, legal aid organization, tenant-landlord program, or housing clinic before signing it.

 

Key terms

 

The written rental agreement should contain key terms, such as the following:

 

• The names of the landlord and the tenant.

 

• The address of the rental unit.

 

• The amount of the rent.

 

• When the rent is due, to whom it is to be paid, and where it is to be paid.

 

• The amount and purpose of the security deposit (see pages 74-76).

 

• The amount of any late charge or returned check fee (see page 40).

 

• Whether pets are allowed. The law does not treat assistance animals and service animals as pets.

 

• The number of people allowed to live in the rental unit.

 

• Whether attorney’s fees can be collected from the losing party in the event of a lawsuit between you and the landlord.

 

• Who is responsible for paying utilities (gas, electric, water, and trash collection).

 

• If the rental is a house or a duplex with a yard, who is responsible for taking care of the yard.

 

• Any promises by the landlord to make repairs, including the date by which the repairs will be completed.

 

• Contact information for reporting problems or necessary maintenance or repairs, including an emergency number.

 

• Other items, such as whether you can sublet the rental unit (see page 45-46) and the conditions under which the landlord can enter the rental unit (see pages 44-45).

 

In addition, the rental agreement must disclose:

 

• The name, address, and telephone number of the authorized manager of the rental property and an owner (or an agent of the owner) who is authorized to receive legal notices for the owner.

 

• If you may make your rent payment in person, the rental agreement must state the usual days and hours that rent may be paid in person. Or the document may state the name, street address, and account number of the financial institution where rent payments may be made (if it is within five miles of the unit) or information necessary to establish an electronic funds transfer for paying the rent.

• The form in which rent payments must be made (for example, by check or money order).89 Except when there has been an issuance of a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or 26 Quit or a dishonored payment instrument, the landlord cannot require that you make rent payments in cash, or by electronic funds transfer, without offering other options (see pages 38-39).A tenant should never pay rent in cash without getting a receipt every single time.

• Certain required disclosures, including bed bugs and flood hazards. 

 

If the rental agreement is oral, the landlord or the landlord’s agent must give the tenant, within 15 days, a written statement containing the information in the foregoing three bullet points. The tenant may request a copy of this written statement each year thereafter.

 

Every rental agreement also must contain a written notice that the California Department of Justice maintains a website at www.meganslaw.ca.gov that provides information about specified registered sex offenders. This notice must contain the legally required language.

 

A rental agreement may contain other terms. Examples include whether you must park your car in a certain place, pool or clubhouse hours, whether storage is available, or when quiet hours begin. A landlord may lawfully prohibit smoking anywhere on the rental property. If the landlord chooses to do so, then the rental agreement must specify where on the property smoking is prohibited. If a landlord chooses to prohibit smoking after a rental agreement is entered into, the landlord must provide you with adequate notice of this change. A landlord cannot prevent you from posting political signs involving, for instance, noncommercial messages associated with people or issues up for public vote. As long as the sign is less than six square feet in size and is not otherwise prohibited by law, it may be posted. If no local ordinance gives time limits for how long you may post the sign, your landlord may establish a reasonable time limit for the posting and removal of the sign. A “reasonable” time period means at least 90 days before the election or vote to which the sign refers and at least 15 days after.95

 

It is important that you understand all of the terms of your rental agreement before you sign it. If you do not comply with them, the landlord may have grounds to evict you.

 

Do not sign a rental agreement if you think that its terms are unfair or you believe that one or more terms violate the law. If a term does not fit your needs, try to negotiate a more suitable term (for example, a smaller security deposit or a lower late fee). It is important that any agreed-upon change in terms be included in the rental agreement that both you and the landlord sign. If you and the landlord agree to change a term in the rental agreement, the change can be made in handwriting. Both you and the landlord should initial or sign in the area immediately next to the change to show your approval of the change. Alternatively, the document can be retyped with the new term included therein but will need to be signed by all the parties.

 

If you do not agree with a term in the rental agreement and cannot negotiate a better term, carefully consider the importance of the term, and decide whether or not you want to sign the document.

 

The owner of the rental unit or the person who signs the rental agreement on the owner’s behalf must give you a copy of the document within 15 days after you sign it.96 Be sure that your copy shows the signature of the owner or the owner’s agent, in addition to your signature. Keep the document in a safe place and do not ever discard it. 27

 

A good idea is to email a scanned copy to yourself. Tenants are also entitled to receive one copy of the lease from the landlord every calendar year upon request

Alterations to Accommodate a Tenant with a Disability

 

Under fair housing laws, housing providers must make reasonable exceptions to neutral policies, practices or services, or to make certain reasonable physical modifications when necessary to provide persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. A reasonable accommodation could include changing the rental due date or waiving a no animals policy in order to allow a service or emotional support animal to reside in the unit. A landlord must also allow a tenant with a disability to make reasonable modifications - physical changes - to the premises to the extent necessary to allow the tenant “full enjoyment of the premises.”Except at properties that receive ‘federal financial assistance’, as that term is defined by law, the tenant must pay for the modifications. However, the landlord is required to make structural modifications if required by a separate provision of the law related to structural access standards. It is important to recognize that a modification is distinct from a reasonable accommodation - a change to a policy or practice - which the property owner cannot charge for, even if they involve some costs. As a condition of making certain modifications, the landlord may require the tenant to enter into an agreement to restore the interior of the rental unit to its previous condition at the end of the tenancy. Yet, most modifications will not require restoration. The landlord cannot require an additional security deposit in this situation. However, the landlord can require that some form of financial guarantee be put in place that is sufficient to pay for the properly required restoration. This can take the form of requiring that the tenant pay into an interest bearing escrow account, over a reasonable period, a reasonable amount of money not to exceed the cost of the restorations, where the interest in any such account shall accrue to the benefit of the tenant. 

 

Assistance animals and service animals, used by persons with disabilities as a reasonable accommodation for a disability, are not pets and are not subject to a no pets policy. A refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when these accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with disabilities equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, violates fair housing laws.

 

For more information on reasonable accommodations, review https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2010/12/14/joint_statement_ra.pdf and https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/reasonable_modifications_mar08.pdf.

Tenant’s basic legal rights

 

Tenants have basic legal rights that are always present, no matter what the rental agreement states. These rights include all of the following:

 

• Limits on the amount of the security deposit that the landlord can require you to pay (see pages 31-34).

 

• As of January 1, 2020, most rental units are covered by the Tenant Protection Act which places a cap on annual rent increases equal to 5% plus inflation, or 10%, whichever is lower, and no more than two rental increases within a 12-month period (see page 35-37).99 Tenants living in cities with rent stabilization programs might have additional rent protections available to them. See Appendix 2 in this guidebook for a comprehensive list of California cities and counties with rent stabilization protections.

 

• Limits on the landlord’s right to enter the rental unit (see pages 44-45).

 

• The right to a refund of the security deposit, or a written accounting of how any of it was used by the landlord, after you move out (see pages 74-77).

 

• The right to sue the landlord for violations of the law, or your rental agreement.

 

• The right to repair serious defects in the rental unit and to deduct certain repair costs from the rent, under appropriate circumstances, provided the tenant gives the landlord reasonable advance notice (see pages 51-60).

 

• The right to withhold rent under appropriate circumstances (see pages 55-57). • Rights under the warranty of habitability (see pages 47-50).

 

• The right to the implied rental agreement covenant of ‘quiet enjoyment’ (see pages 61-62).

 

• Protection against retaliatory eviction (see pages 102-104).

 

• Most tenants are protected from being evicted without just cause, which means that the landlord must have a valid legal reason for an eviction (see pages 67-68, AB 1482).

 

• Right to request a reasonable accommodation.

 

• Right to fair housing rights and protections against unlawful discrimination. These and other rights will be discussed throughout the rest of this booklet. The duty of good faith and fair dealing

 

Every rental agreement requires that the landlord and tenant deal with each other fairly and in good faith. Essentially, this means that both the landlord and the tenant must treat each other honestly and reasonably. This duty of good faith and fair dealing is implied by law in every rental agreement even though the duty is typically not expressly stated in the agreement. A typical legal description of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing is that neither party will do anything that will unreasonably interfere with the right of the other party to receive the benefits of the agreement. To put it another way, the implied covenant imposes upon each party the obligation to do everything that the contract presupposes they will do to accomplish its purpose.

LANDLORD’S DISCLOSURES

 

There are many state-wide disclosures landlords are required by law to make prior to the tenancy commencing. There may be other local disclosure requirements depending on the city or county in which the rental unit is located. These required disclosures often show up as Addendums or Attachments to lease agreements. Here are some you may encounter.

 

Lead-based paint

 

If the rental unit was constructed before 1978, the landlord must comply with all of the following requirements:

 

• The landlord must disclose the presence of known lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards in the dwelling before the tenant signs the rental agreement.101 The landlord must also give the tenant a copy of the federal government’s pamphlet, “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home” (available by calling (800) 424- LEAD, or online at https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-lead-your-home), before the tenant signs the rental agreement.102

 

• The landlord is not required to conduct any evaluation of the lead-based paint, or to remove it.103

 

• The rental agreement must contain a lead warning statement in legally-required language.104

 

• The landlord also must give potential tenants and tenants a written Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards.105

 

Periodic pest control treatments

 

A pest control company must give written notice to the landlord and tenants of rental property regarding pesticides to be used when the company provides an initial treatment as part of an ongoing pest-control service contract. The landlord must give a copy of this notice to every new tenant who will occupy a rental unit that will be serviced under the service contract. If the landlord fails to do so, the new tenant might be able to sue the landlord for costs incurred, moving costs, and an additional penalty of up to $2,500.106

 

Bed Bugs

 

Prior to creating a new tenancy for a dwelling unit, a landlord must provide a written notice to a prospective tenant about bed bugs. The required notice must include general information about bed bug identification, behavior and biology, the importance of cooperation for prevention and treatment, and the importance of, and for prompt written reporting of, suspected infestations to the landlord. If a landlord suspects that a rental unit contains bed bugs, or if they somehow learn of a possible bed bug infestation, the landlord must inspect the rental unit for bed bugs.107 If bed bugs are found, a landlord cannot show, rent or lease the rental unit until the bed bugs are eradicated.

 

Asbestos

 

Residential property built before 1981 may contain asbestos. Landlords of properties built before 1981 are strongly urged to disclose the presence of asbestos whenever they discover or reasonably suspect the presence of asbestos at the property

Carcinogenic material

 

In 1986, California voters approved the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (known as “Proposition 65”). The act requires any person or entity with 10 or more employees to provide a warning of possible exposure to chemicals (listed by the State of California) that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm if that person or entity knows or suspects the chemical is present at a workplace, business or rental housing. Examples of listed chemicals include, but are not limited to, arsenic, asbestos, benzene, and lead. For landlords with 10 or more employees, the landlord must provide the notice in one or more conspicuous locations at the rental property to warn tenants, prospective tenants and others of possible exposure to the listed chemical. For more information, please visit the State of California’s Proposition 65 website at https://www.p65warnings.ca.gov/.”

 

Methamphetamine contamination

 

Residential property that was used for methamphetamine production may be significantly contaminated.

 

A local health officer who inspects a rental property and finds that it is contaminated with a hazardous chemical related to methamphetamine laboratory activities must issue an order prohibiting the use or occupancy of the property. This order must be served on the property owner and all occupants. The owner and all occupants then must vacate the affected units until the officer sends the owner a notice that the property requires no further action.

 

The owner must give written notice of the health officer’s order and a copy of it to potential tenants who have completed an application to rent the contaminated property. Before signing a rental agreement, the tenant must acknowledge in writing that they received the notice and order. The tenant may void (cancel) the rental agreement if the owner does not comply with these requirements. The owner must comply with these requirements until they receive a notice from the health officer that the property requires no further action.110

 

Demolition permit

 

The owner of a dwelling who has applied for a permit to demolish the dwelling must give written notice of this fact to a prospective tenant before accepting any fee from the tenant or entering into a rental agreement with the tenant. (The owner must give notice to current tenants, including tenants who have yet to move in, before applying for a permit.) The notice must state the earliest approximate date that the owner expects the demolition to occur, and that the tenancy will end.111

 

Military base or explosives

 

A landlord who knows that a rental unit is within one mile of a closed military base in which ammunition or military explosives were used must give written notice of this fact to a prospective tenant. The landlord must give the tenant this notice before the tenant signs a rental agreement.

 

Death in the rental unit

 

California law requires a landlord to disclose to a prospective tenant a death and the manner of such death that occurred at the rental unit within the last three years. The landlord is not required to disclose that an occupant of the rental unit was living with human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”) or died from AIDS-related complications. The law does not protect an owner, however, from liability for making any intentional misrepresentations in response to a direct inquiry from a prospective tenant who asked about a death at the rental unit.

 

Condominium conversion project

 

A rental unit may be in a condominium conversion project. A condominium conversion project is an apartment building that has been converted into condominiums or a newly constructed condominium building that replaces demolished residential housing. Before the potential tenant signs a rental agreement, the owner or subdivider of the condominium project must give the tenant written notice that:

 

• The unit has been approved for sale, and may be sold, to the public, and

 

• The tenant’s rental agreement may be terminated (ended) if the unit is sold, and

 

• The tenant will be informed at least 90 days before the unit is offered for sale, and

 

• The tenant normally will be given a first option to buy the unit.

 

The notice must be in legally required language. This notice requirement applies only to condominium conversion projects that have five or more dwelling units and that have received final approval.If the notice is not given, the tenant may recover actual moving expenses not exceeding $1,100 and the first month’s rent on the tenant’s new rental unit, if any, not to exceed $1,100. These notice provisions do not apply a) to projects of four dwelling units or less, or b) as a result of transfers due to court order (including probate proceedings), foreclosure proceedings, or trusts.115

 

In some cities, additional requirements for condominium conversion may apply, or certain types of condominium conversions may be prohibited.

 

Flood Hazard

 

In all rental agreements entered into after July 1, 2018, if the owner has actual knowledge that the rental unit is located in a flood hazard zone, the landlord must disclose to the tenant that they live in a special flood hazard area or an area of potential flooding.

 

Megan’s Law

 

A landlord must include the following language in every rental agreement: "Notice: 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 he or she resides."

 

BASIC RULES GOVERNING SECURITY DEPOSITS

 

At the beginning of the tenancy, the landlord can, and most likely will, require you to pay a security deposit. The landlord can use the security deposit, for example, if you move out owing rent, damage the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear, or leave the rental unit less clean than when you moved in.

Under California law, a rental agreement cannot say that a security deposit is nonrefundable.119 This means that when the tenancy ends, the landlord must return to you any payment that is a security deposit, unless the landlord uses the deposit for a lawful purpose, as described on pages 68-70 and 74-76.

 

Almost all landlords charge tenants a security deposit. The security deposit may be called last month’s rent, security deposit, pet deposit, key fee, or cleaning fee. The security deposit may be a combination, for example, of the last month’s rent plus a specific amount for security. But note that if a tenant is living with a service or emotional support animal, they cannot be charged a separate pet deposit. No matter what these payments or fees are called, the law considers them all, as well as any other deposit or charge, to be part of the security deposit.120 The one exception to this rule is stated in the next paragraph. Tenants should not believe that they have somehow pre-paid their last month’s rent if the landlord has used this term with respect to the security deposit. The landlord will almost always be able to insist a tenant pay rent for their last month or partial portion thereof.

 

EXCEPTION: The law allows the landlord to require a tenant to pay an application screening fee, in addition to the security deposit (see pages 15-16).121 The application screening fee is not part of the security deposit. However, any other fee charged by the landlord at the beginning of the tenancy to cover the landlord’s costs of processing a new tenant is part of the security deposit.122 Here are examples of the two kinds of fees:

 

• Application screening fee—A landlord might charge you an application screening fee to cover the cost of obtaining information about you, such as checking your personal references and obtaining your credit report (see pages 15-16). The application screening fee is not part of the security deposit. Therefore, it is not refundable as part of the security deposit.

 

The law limits the total amount that the landlord can require you to pay as a security deposit. The total amount allowed as security depends on whether the rental unit is unfurnished or furnished and whether you have a waterbed.

 

• Unfurnished rental unit: The total amount that the landlord requires as security cannot exceed two months’ rent. If you have a waterbed or any other liquid-filled bedding, the total amount allowed as security can be up to two-and-a-half times the monthly rent.

 

• Furnished rental unit: The total amount that the landlord requires as security cannot exceed three months’ rent. If you have a waterbed or any other liquid-filled bedding, the total amount allowed as security can be up to three-and-a-half times the monthly rent.

 

• The foregoing maximum security deposit amounts may be reduced by one month’s rent if the tenant’s household consists only of a service member and any of their spouse, parent, domestic partner, or dependents. Service members with a poor credit or tenant history may be charged up to the regular maximum deposit amount. The landlord can require you to pay the first month’s rent in addition to the security deposit.123 If you choose to pay in cash, which is not recommended, be sure to get a receipt at the time you make the payment. The above security deposit limitations and rules also apply to family child care homes.

 

Security deposit examples:

 

• Suppose that you agreed to rent an unfurnished apartment for $1,000 a month. Before you move in, the landlord can require you to pay up to two times the amount of the monthly rent as a security deposit ($1,000 x 2 = $2,000). The landlord also can require you to pay the first month’s rent of $1,000, plus an application screening fee of up to $52.46, in addition to the $2,000 security deposit. This is because the first month’s rent and the application screening fee are not part of the security deposit.

 

• Suppose the landlord requires you to pay $2,000 security deposit (the maximum allowed by law for an unfurnished unit when the rent is $1,000). The landlord cannot then add to this $2,000 deposit additional deposit fees such as another $200 cleaning fee, $25 key deposit, $50 mail box deposit fee, or other similar fees. The $2,000 plus the added fees would be prohibited by state law.

 

A landlord cannot require that a security deposit is nonrefundable However, when you move out of the rental, the law allows the landlord to keep all or part of the security deposit for the following:

 

• You owe rent;

 

• You leave the rental less clean than when you moved in;

 

• You damaged the rental beyond normal wear and tear;

 

• You have made alterations and did not return the unit to the original condition; or

 

• You fail to restore personal property (such as keys or furniture), other than because of normal wear and tear.

 

If none of these circumstances are present, the landlord must return the entire amount that you paid as security. However, if you left the rental very dirty or damaged beyond normal wear and tear, for example, the landlord can keep an amount that is reasonably necessary to clean or repair the rental.125 Deductions from security deposits and the time periods when the landlord must notify the tenant of any deductions are discussed in detail on pages 71-76.

 

Make sure that your rental agreement clearly states that you paid a security deposit to the landlord and correctly states the amount that you paid. Most landlords will give you a written receipt for all amounts that you pay as a security deposit. Keep a copy of both the receipt, if any, and your rental agreement in case of a dispute.126

 

California law provides survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, or elder/dependent adult abuse the ability to terminate their lease early without penalty. A landlord may not charge a tenant a penalty for breaking their lease, regardless of what is stated in their lease, if the tenant is breaking their lease because of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, or elder/dependent adult abuse. The tenant must tell the landlord in writing that they are ending the rental agreement early because of the domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, or elder/dependent adult abuse they’ve experienced, and provide the landlord a copy of a restraining order no more than 180 days old, a police report no more than 180 days old, or a statement from a qualified third-party. Qualified third parties include domestic violence or sexual assault advocates, doctors, registered 34 nurses, psychologists, or licensed clinical social workers. However, the landlord can require the tenant to pay rent for 14 days after providing this notice (which must be refunded if the landlord re-rents the unit within that time). Tenants can also break their lease early if it is necessary because the tenant’s household member is a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, or elder/dependent adult abuse.127 The National Housing Law Project has created an Early Lease Termination Toolkit, available at: https://www.nhlp.org/wp-content/uploads/00-CA-Civil-Code-1946.7- Toolkit-Jan-2016updated.pdf.

 

Normal security deposit law applies in cases where a survivor has to break their lease early.128 In addition, if the tenant is a survivor of domestic violence, a landlord may not penalize the tenant for property damage, nor deduct the cost from the security deposit to repair those damages, caused by the domestic violence survivor’s abuser if the domestic violence survivor (i.e., tenant) did not invite the abuser onto the property.

 

If your building changes owners during your tenancy, your prior landlord is responsible for either transferring your security deposit to your new landlord or returning the security deposit to you, minus any lawful deductions.

 

If your landlord fails to return part or all of a security deposit without having a reason allowed by law, you may be able to recover your deposit in court, such as by filing a lawsuit in small claims court.131 If the landlord withheld the security deposit in bad faith, the court may award the tenant up to twice the amount of the security deposit, plus any monetary damages that the tenant suffered

THE INVENTORY CHECKLIST

 

While not legally required, it is a good practice for you and the landlord, or the landlord’s agent, to fill out the Inventory Checklist, such as the example on pages 123- 126 (or one like it). Generally, the landlord will have such a form available. It is best to do this before you move in, but it can be done two or three days later, if agreed to by the landlord. You and the landlord or agent should walk through the rental unit together and note the condition of the items included in the checklist in the “Condition Upon Arrival” section. In addition to noting conditions on the checklist, it is recommended that you take pictures of conditions needing attention.

 

Both the landlord and tenant should sign and date the checklist, and both of you should keep a copy. Carefully completing the checklist at the beginning of the tenancy will help avoid disagreements about the condition of the unit when you move out. You should complete the Inventory Checklist and take pictures of any issues even if the landlord does not want to complete a walk through with you.

 

RENTER’S INSURANCE

 

Renter’s insurance protects the tenant’s personal property from losses caused by fire or theft. It also protects a tenant against liability (legal responsibility) for many claims or lawsuits filed by the landlord or others alleging that the tenant negligently (carelessly) injured another person or damaged the person’s property. Renter’s insurance usually only protects the policyholder. A roommate must take out his or her own renter's insurance policy to protect his or her personal property. Many landlords will require a tenant to have renter’s insurance, specifically liability coverage, and will set the minimum 35 terms of coverage. Be sure to factor the cost of this insurance into what it will cost you to live at the property.

 

Accidentally leaving on a portable room heater which causes a fire that destroys the rental unit, or another tenant’s property, is an example of negligence for which the tenant could be held legally responsible.  The tenant could be required to pay for the losses that the landlord or other tenants suffer due to the tenant’s negligence. Renter’s insurance would cover some or all of your liability to pay the other party their losses. For that reason, it is recommended that a tenant purchase renter’s insurance.

 

Note, however, that several cases in rent control jurisdictions have held that the landlord cannot evict a tenant for the tenant’s failure to purchase tenant insurance that covers their own possessions.

 

If the tenant elects to purchase renter’s insurance, the tenant should make certain that it provides the protection the tenant wants, meets any requirements set by the landlord, and is reasonably priced. The tenant should check with more than one insurance company, since the price and type of coverage may differ widely among insurance companies. The price also will be affected by how much insurance protection you decide to purchase.

 

Your landlord probably has insurance that covers the rental unit or dwelling, but you should not assume that the landlord’s insurance will protect you. If the landlord’s insurance company pays the landlord for a loss that you cause, the insurance company may then sue you to recover what it has paid the landlord.

 

If you want to use a waterbed, or you have pets, the landlord can require you to obtain an insurance policy to cover possible property damage.

 

Landlords also cannot require that family child care providers get liability insurance. However, a family child care provider must add their landlord to their liability insurance policy if the following conditions are met:

 

● The family child care provider already has or is getting a liability insurance policy;

 

● The landlord asks in writing to be added to the family child care provider’s insurance policy;

 

● The insurance policy will not be canceled if the landlord is added, and

 

● The landlord will pay the additional amount if adding them causes the family child care provider to pay a higher premium.

 

LIMITS TO RENT INCREASES AND LOCAL RENT STABILIZATION PROGRAMS

 

In 2019, the California Legislature approved and the Governor signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1482 (known as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019) (hereinafter referred to as the “Tenant Protection Act”), which took effect on January 1, 2020.138 The Tenant Protection Act caps gross rental increases at covered properties within a 12-month period at 5% plus the change in the cost of living pursuant to the Consumer Price Index, or 10%, whichever is lower.139 Landlords are also prohibited from increasing rent more than two times in a 12-month period

 

Under the new law, landlords can still establish the initial rental rate at any amount they 36 choose. The cap on gross rental increases is only applicable to rental increases after the initial rental rate has been established,141 the rent cap does not apply to the following types of properties:

 

• Some types of government-subsidized housing.142

 

• Housing that is limited by agreement or other restriction to providing affordable housing for persons and families of very low, low, or moderate income.

 

• College dormitories.

 

• Housing subject to a local rent stabilization law that has more restrictive limits on rent increases.

 

• Housing that is less than 15 years old, unless it is a mobilehome.

 

• A duplex in which the owner occupied one of the units as their principal place of residence at the beginning of your tenancy and the owner still lives there.

 

• Single family home or condominium if the owner is not a real estate investment trust (REIT), a corporation, or an LLC in which at least one member is a corporation, and the owner gave the tenant written notice stating the unit is exempt from this law. You can find out the members of an LLC through a search on the California Secretary of State business search website.

 

The rent cap applies to all rent increases occurring on or after March 15, 2019. Tenants, however, are not entitled to a credit for rent overcharges paid between March 15, 2019 and January 1, 2020. The law expires on January 1, 2030, unless extended.

 

Some California cities have rent stabilization ordinances that limit or prohibit rent increases.145 Each jurisdiction’s ordinance is different. Local rent stabilization ordinances that were enacted before September 1, 2019 will take precedence over the statewide measure, regardless whether the protections offered are stronger or weaker. Local ordinances enacted after that date take precedence over the Tenant Protection Act only if they offer stronger protections. To the extent a local ordinance applies, some local ordinances specify procedures that a landlord must follow before increasing a tenant’s rent. Some cities have rent boards that have the power to approve or deny increases in rent. Other city ordinances allow a certain percentage increase in rent each year. Under state law, all units are subject to “vacancy decontrol.” This means that the landlord can re-rent a unit at the market rate when the tenant moves out voluntarily, abandons the unit, or when the landlord evicts a tenant because of a breach of the rental agreement, terminates the tenancy for nonpayment of rent or other allowed reasons.

 

A rent stabilization ordinance may impact the landlord-tenant relationship in other important ways besides those described herein. Find out if you live in a city or county with rent stabilization or other rental housing laws (see the list of cities and counties with rent stabilization in Appendix 2). Contact your local housing officials or rent stabilization program for information. Most cities and counties post information about their rent stabilization ordinances on their website (for example, information about City of Los Angeles’ rent stabilization ordinance is available at https://hcidla.lacity.org/). 37

 

Another law that places limits on the amount a landlord can increase rent is Penal Code section 396. This section covers the 30-day period following a state of emergency declared by the President, Governor, or local governing body vested with authority to make that declaration (i.e., City Council, Board of Supervisors, etc.) and prohibits a landlord from increasing rental prices to existing or prospective tenants by more than 10 percent.146 Known as the “anti-price gouging” statute, the protections set forth in this statute are intended to prevent sellers of goods or providers of services from charging exorbitant prices for necessities if a state of emergency is declared following a pandemic, wildfire, earthquake or other natural disaster. This rental increase prohibition does not apply if the landlord can prove that an increase of more than 10 percent is directly attributable to additional costs for repairs or additions beyond normal maintenance that were amortized over the rental term that caused the rent to increase by more than 10 percent

LIVING IN THE RENTAL UNIT

 

As a tenant, you must take reasonable care of your rental unit and any common areas that you use. You must also repair all damage, other than normal wear and tear, that you cause, or that is caused by anyone for whom you are responsible, such as your family, guests, or pets.147 These important tenant responsibilities are discussed in more detail under “Dealing with Problems,” pages 47-62.

 

This section discusses other issues that can come up while you’re living in the rental unit. For example, can the landlord enter the rental unit without notifying you? Can the landlord raise the rent even if you have a rental agreement? What can you do if you have to move out before the end of the term of your rental agreement?

 

PAYING THE RENT

 

When is rent due?

 

Most rental agreements require that rent be paid at the beginning of each rental period. For example, in a month-to-month tenancy, rent usually must be paid on the first day of the month. However, your rental agreement can specify any day of the month as the day that rent is due (for example, the 10th of every month in a month-to-month rental agreement, or every Tuesday in a week-to-week rental agreement).

 

As explained above on page 21, the rental agreement must state the name and address of the person or entity to whom you must make rent payments (see page 21). If this address does not accept personal deliveries, you can mail your rent payment to the owner at the stated name and address. If you can show proof that you mailed the rent to the stated name and address (for example, a receipt for certified mail), the law assumes that the rent was received by the owner on the date of postmark.148

 

It is very important for you to pay your rent on or before the due date. Not paying rent on time might lead to a negative entry on your credit report.149 late fees (see page 39), or even eviction

Check, money order, electronic funds transfer, or cash?

 

The landlord or landlord’s agent normally cannot require you to pay rent in cash or to use electronic funds transfer. They must allow you to pay by some other means such as a personal check, a money order or cashier’s check. The manner of payment of your rent will usually be specified in your rental agreement. The landlord must also accept payment on your behalf by a third party, if that third party provides a legally required written acknowledgment that the payment gives the third party no rights of tenancy.

 

However, the landlord or agent can require you to pay rent in cash if, within the last three months, you paid the landlord or agent with a check that was dishonored by the bank. (A dishonored check is one that the bank returns without paying because you stopped payment on it or because your account did not contain sufficient funds.)

 

In order to require you to pay rent in cash, the landlord must first give you a written notice stating that your check was dishonored and that you must pay cash for the period of time stated by the landlord. This period cannot be more than three months after you:

 

• ordered the bank to stop payment on the check, or

 

• attempted to pay with a check that the bank returned to the landlord because of insufficient funds in your account.

 

The landlord must attach a copy of the dishonored check to the notice. If the notice changes the terms of your rental agreement, the landlord must give you the proper amount of advance notice (see pages 64-68).

 

These same rules apply if the landlord requests you to pay the security deposit in cash.

 

Example: Suppose that you have a month-to-month rental agreement and that your rent is due on the first of each month. Suppose that the rental agreement does not specify the form of rent payment (check, cash, money order, etc.) or the amount of notice required to change the terms of the agreement (see pages 21-23). On April 1, you give your landlord your rent check for April. On April 11, your landlord receives a notice from his or her bank stating that your check was dishonored because you did not have enough money in your account. On April 12, the landlord hands you a notice stating that your check was dishonored and that you must pay rent in cash or money order for the next three months. What are your rights and obligations under these facts? What are the landlord’s rights and obligations?

 

Unfortunately, the law that allows the landlord to require payments in cash or by money order does not clearly answer these questions. The following is based on a reasonable interpretation of the law.

 

The requirement that you pay rent in cash or by money order arguably changes the terms of your rental agreement and takes effect in 30 days (on May 12) (see pages 38-39). Therefore, you might argue you could pay your May 1 rent payment by check. However, this might cause the landlord to return your check and serve a three-day notice to pay or quit or decide to serve you with a 30-day or 60-day notice to end the tenancy (see pages 85-89). It would be better to interpret the maximum 3- month period for cash payment or payment by money order to include May’s rent payment. The requirement that you pay rent in cash or by money order continues for a maximum of three months as specified by the landlord after the landlord received the notice that your check was dishonored (through July 10). You very well might have to pay your June and July rent in cash or by money order, and, if you tried to claim you were not required to do so in May, the August payment as well, if the tenancy continues. It would be prudent to not insist that you do not need to pay in cash or by money order for May.

 

What about your April 1 rent check that was returned by the landlord’s bank? As a practical matter, you should make the check good immediately. Otherwise, the landlord can serve you with a three-day notice to pay or quit, which is the first step in the eviction process

Obtaining receipts for rent payments

 

If you pay rent in cash or with a money order, you should ask your landlord for a signed and dated receipt at the same time that you pay your rent. Legally, you are entitled to a written receipt whenever you pay rent.153 If you pay with a check, you can use the canceled check as a receipt. Keep the receipts or canceled checks forever, so that you have a record of your payments in case of a dispute.

 

Late fees and dishonored check fees

 

While there is a legal argument that a rental agreement cannot include a predetermined late fee, most rental agreements contain a late fee provision. This is because there is an exception to this rule when it would be difficult to figure out the actual cost to the landlord caused by the late rent payment, and the landlord has made an effort to determine that cost. Even then, the predetermined late fee should not be more than the reasonable estimate of costs that the landlord will face as a result of the late payment. A late fee that is so high that it amounts to a penalty is not legally valid.154 It is common for rental agreements to provide a ‘grace period’ before the late fee becomes effective. A typical grace period waives the fee if the rent is paid before the 6th. Be sure to read and understand the rental agreement’s late fee provisions.

 

Additionally, in some communities, late fees are limited by local rent control ordinances (see “Rent Control,” pages 117-118).

 

What if you’ve signed a rental agreement that contains a late-fee provision, and you’re going to be late for the first time paying your rent? If you have a good reason for being late (for example, your paycheck was late), explain this to your landlord. Some landlords will waive (forgive) the late fee if there is a good reason for the rent being late, and if the tenant has been responsible in other ways. If the landlord isn’t willing to forgive or lower the late fee, ask the landlord to justify it (for example, in terms of administrative costs for processing the payment late). However, if the late fee is reasonable, it may be valid.

 

The landlord also can charge the tenant a fee if the tenant’s check for the rent (or any other payment) is dishonored by the tenant’s bank. A dishonored check is often called a “bounced” or “NSF” (non-sufficient funds) or “returned” check. In order for the landlord to charge the tenant a returned check fee, the rental agreement must authorize the fee, and the amount of the fee must be reasonable.

 

For example, a reasonable returned check fee would be the amount that the bank charges the landlord, plus the landlord’s reasonable costs because the check was returned. Under California’s “bad check” statute, the landlord can charge a service 40 charge instead of the dishonored check fee described in this paragraph. The service charge can be up to $25 for the first check that is returned for insufficient funds, and up to $35 for each additional check

Partial rent payments

 

You will violate your rental agreement if you do not pay the full amount of your rent on time. If you cannot pay the full amount on time, you may want to offer to pay part of the rent. However, the law allows your landlord to refuse a partial payment or to take the partial payment and still give you a three-day notice to pay or quit.156

 

If your landlord is willing to accept a partial rent payment and give you extra time to pay the balance, it is important that you and the landlord agree on the details in writing, and that you save this writing forever. The written agreement should state the amount of partial rent that you paid, the date by which the rest of the rent must be paid, the amount of any late fee due, and the landlord’s agreement not to take any action to evict you if you pay the amount due by the specified date. Both you and the landlord should sign the agreement, and you should keep a copy forever. An agreement of this kind is legally binding.

 

SECURITY DEPOSIT INCREASES

 

Whether the landlord can increase the amount of the security deposit after you move in depends on what the rental agreement says, how much of a security deposit you have paid already, what the reason for the increase is and whether local law permits such an increase.

 

If you have a rental agreement, the security deposit cannot be increased unless increases are permitted by the terms of the rental agreement.

 

In a periodic rental agreement (for example, a month-to-month agreement), the landlord can increase the security deposit unless prohibited by the agreement. The landlord must give you proper notice before increasing the security deposit. (For example, 30 days’ advance written notice normally is required in a month-to-month rental agreement.). In a rental agreement for a fixed-term a change in deposit can typically only occur upon renewal of the agreement, unless the rental agreement provides otherwise.

 

However, if the amount that you already paid as a security deposit equals two times the current monthly rent for an unfurnished unit or three times the current monthly rent for a furnished unit, then your landlord cannot increase the security deposit, no matter what the rental agreement says. Limits on security deposits may vary for tenants who are active duty military service personnel (see the discussion of the limits on security deposits, page 81). Local rent stabilization ordinances may also limit or prohibit increases in security deposits.

 

The landlord must give you proper advance written notice of any increase in the security deposit (see “Proper Service of Notices,” pages 89-90).

 

The landlord normally cannot require you to pay the security deposit increase in cash or by electronic funds transfer, without offering other options (see page 38). 41

 

RENT INCREASES

 

How much can rent be raised?

 

If you are covered by the Tenant Protection Act (State rent limits), which applies to a significant percentage of rental properties, the landlord can only raise rent in a 12-month period by 5% plus the inflation rate or 10 percent, whichever is lower.157 If the rate of inflation exceeds 5%, the maximum rent increase will be 10% for properties covered by the Act.

 

The rent limit does not apply to certain types of properties, as discussed on pages 67-68 of this guide.

 

How often can rent be raised?

 

This depends on whether your rental unit is subject to local or state rent stabilization laws and the terms of your rental agreement.

 

For rental agreements with a fixed term (i.e., 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc.), the landlord cannot increase the rent during the rental term unless the rental agreement permits rent increases. Rent may be increased if the rental agreement is renewed.

 

For rental agreements with periodic terms (e.g., week-to-week or month-to-month), properties subject to the Tenant Protection Act require 30 days’ written notice prior to any proposed rent increase. If the property is exempt from the State rent limit and no local rent stabilization ordinances apply, the landlord must provide the tenant with either 30 days’ notice (if the rent increase is 10 percent or less) or 90 days’ advanced written notice (if the rent increase is more than 10 percent).158 Under these circumstances, there is no limit on how many times the landlord may raise the rent, except for the required advance written notice is required, and increases cannot be retaliatory or discriminatory. The actual number of days of advance notice will depend on the amount that the landlord increases the rent. The written notice must tell you how much the rent will increase and when the increase will go into effect.

 

In order to calculate the percentage of the rent increase, you need to know the lowest rent that your landlord charged you during the preceding 12 months, and the combined total of the new increase and any other increases during that period.

 

Example for when 30 days’ notice required: Assume that your rent has been $3,000 per month since June of last year. Your landlord wants to increase your rent by $150, to $3,150, beginning on June 1. Here’s how to calculate the percentage of the rent increase and the amount of notice that the landlord must give you:

 

First, calculate the percentage increase in the rent by dividing the amount of the proposed increase by the lowest rent charged in the past 12 months. It is: 150 3000 = 5% The current rent increase ($150) does not exceed 10 percent of the lowest rent charged in the past 12 months ($3,000). Therefore, your landlord must give you at least 30 days’ advance written notice of the rent increase

The 30-day notice requirement essentially applies for any rent increase of 10% or less, regardless of whether your rental unit is subject to the State rent limit or is exempt from the State rent limit.

 

Example for when 90 days’ notice required: Assume that you live in a property that is exempt from the rent limit of the Tenant Protection Act (e.g.., a rental unit that was built within the previous 15 years), so your landlord is allowed to raise your rent by more than 10%. Assume that your rent was $2,500 last June 1, and that your landlord raised your rent by $250, to $2,750, last November. Your landlord wants to increase your rent again by $250 on June 1 to $3,000 per month. Here’s how to calculate the percentage of the rent increase and the amount of notice that the landlord must give you:

 

The percentage increase in the rent must be calculated by adding all the rental increases made in the 12 months previous to the effective date of the increase, June 1. The combined rent increase is: $ 250 + 250 $ 500 The percentage of increase is calculated using the lowest rent charged during the preceding 12 months. The lowest rent charged was $2,500. The percentage of increase equals: 500 2500 = 20% Since the increase is greater than 10%, the landlord must give you at least 90 days’ notice.

 

 

A landlord must give proper advance written notice of the increase in rent, and the increase cannot be retaliatory (see pages 102-104). If the rental unit is subject to a local rent stabilization ordinance instead of the Tenant Protection Act, the local ordinance may impose stricter rent limits and additional requirements on the landlord.

 

Increases in rent for government-subsidized housing usually are restricted. If a tenant lives in government-subsidized housing, the tenant should check with the local public housing authority, housing counseling agency, legal aid organization, tenant-landlord program, or housing clinic to find out whether there are any restrictions on rent increases.

 

 43 Rent increase; notice and effective date

 

A landlord’s notice of rent increase must be in writing. The landlord can deliver a copy of the notice to you personally.160 In this case, the rent increase takes effect in 30 or 90 days, as just explained.

 

The landlord also can send you a notice of rent increase by first class mail. In this case, the landlord must mail a copy of the notice to you, with proper postage, addressed to you at the rental unit. The landlord must give you an additional five days’ advance notice of the rent increase if the landlord mails the notice and the place of mailing is within California. The period of notice may be longer if notice is mailed from outside of California (10 days), or from outside of the United States (20 days). Therefore, if notice is mailed from within California, the landlord would have to give you at least 35 days’ notice from the date of mailing if the rent increase is 10 percent or less. If the rent increase is greater than 10 percent, the landlord would have to give you at least 95 days’ notice from the date of mailing.

 

Example of a rent increase

 

Most notices of rent increases state that the increase will go into effect at the beginning of the next rental period. For example, a landlord who wishes to increase the rent by 5 percent in a month-to-month rental effective on October 1 must make sure that notice of the increase is delivered to the tenant personally by September 1 or mailed to the tenant by August 27. However, a landlord can make the increase effective at any time in the month if proper advance notice is given.

 

If the increase in the rent becomes effective in the middle of the rental period, the landlord is entitled to receive the increased rent for only the last half of the rental period. For example:

 

• Rental period: month-to-month, from the first day of the month to the last day of the month.

 

• Rent: $2,500 per month.

 

• Rent increase: $125 (from $2,500 to $2,625) per month (a 5 percent increase).

 

• Date that the notice of rent increase is delivered to the tenant personally: March 17 (that is, the middle of the month).

 

• Earliest date that the rent increase can take effect: April 16.

 

If the landlord delivers the notice on March 17, the increase becomes effective 30 days later, on April 16. The landlord is entitled to the increased rent beginning on April 16. On April 1, the tenant would pay $1,250 for the first half of April (that is, 15 days at the old rent of $2,500, from April 1 to 15), plus $1,312.50 for the last half of April (that is, 15 days at the new rent of $2,625, from April 16-30). The total rent for April that is due on April 1 would be $2,562.50. Looking at it another way, the landlord is entitled to only one-half of the increase in the rent during April, since the notice of rent increase became effective in the middle of the month.

 

Of course, the landlord could deliver a notice of rent increase on March 17 which states that the rent increase takes effect on May 1. In that case, the tenant would pay $2,500 rent on April 1, and $2,625 rent on May 1

WHEN CAN THE LANDLORD ENTER THE RENTAL UNIT?

 

California law states that a landlord can enter a rental unit only for certain specified reasons. The landlord does not have the right to enter to conduct a general inspection. Only the following reasons for entry are permitted:

 

• In an emergency.

 

• When the tenant has surrendered or abandoned the rental unit.

 

• To make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements or supply necessary or agreed-upon services.

 

• To show the rental unit to prospective tenants, purchasers, or lenders, to provide entry to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit, or to conduct an initial inspection requested by the tenant before the end of the tenancy (see Initial Inspection sidebar, pages 71-73).

 

• If a court order permits the landlord to enter.162

 

• To install, repair, replace, maintain, or read the submetering of water service.163

 

• To inspect elevated balconies or decks.164

 

• To inspect an area where the resident is engaging in personal agriculture.165

 

• To repair, test and/or maintain smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors.166

 

• If the tenant has a waterbed, to inspect the installation of the waterbed when the installation has been completed, and periodically after that to assure that the installation meets the requirements of the law.

 

The landlord or the landlord’s agent must give the tenant reasonable advance notice in writing before entering the unit and can enter only during normal business hours (generally, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days per week). The notice must state the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry.168 However, advance written notice is not required under any of the following circumstances:

 

• To respond to an emergency.

 

• The tenant moved out or abandoned the rental unit.

 

• The tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time of entry.

 

• The tenant and landlord agreed that the landlord will make repairs or supply services, and agreed orally that the landlord may enter to make the repairs or supply the services. The agreement must include the date and approximate time of entry, which must be within one week of the oral agreement.169 The landlord or agent may use any one of the following methods to give the tenant written notice of intent to enter the unit:

 

• Personally deliver the notice to the tenant; or

 

• Leave the notice at the rental unit with a person of suitable age and discretion (for example, a roommate or a teenage member of the tenant’s household); or

 

• Leave the notice on, near, or under the unit’s usual entry door in such a way that it is likely to be found; or 45

 

• Mail the notice to the tenant.170

 

Absent evidence to the contrary, the law considers 24 hours’ advance written notice to be reasonable in most situations.

 

If the notice is mailed to the tenant, mailing at least six days before the intended entry is presumed to be reasonable, in most situations.171 The tenant can consent to shorter notice and to entry at times other than during normal business hours.

 

Special rules apply if the purpose of the entry is to show the rental to a purchaser. In that case, the landlord or the landlord’s agent may give the tenant notice orally, either in person or by telephone. Absence evidence to the contrary, the law considers 24 hours’ notice to be reasonable in most situations. However, before oral notice can be given, the landlord or agent must first notify the tenant in writing that the rental is for sale and that the landlord or agent may contact the tenant orally to arrange to show the rental. This written notice must be given to the tenant within 120 days of the oral notice. The oral notice must state the date, approximate time and purpose of entry.172 The landlord or agent may enter only during normal business hours (typically between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days per week), unless the tenant consents to entry at a different time.173When the landlord or agent enters the rental pursuant to oral notice, they must leave written evidence of entry, such as a business card.174

 

The landlord cannot abuse the right of access allowed by these rules, or use this right of access to harass (repeatedly disturb) the tenant.175 Also, the law prohibits a landlord from significantly and intentionally violating these access rules in an attempt to influence the tenant to move out.176

 

If your landlord violates these access rules, talk to the landlord about your concerns. If that is not successful in stopping the landlord’s misconduct, send the landlord a formal letter asking the landlord to strictly observe the access rules stated above, and retain a copy of the letter for your records. If the landlord continues to violate these rules, you can talk to an attorney or a legal aid organization, or file suit in small claims court to recover the damages that you suffered due to the landlord’s misconduct. If the landlord’s violation of these rules was significant and intentional, and the landlord’s purpose was to influence you to move from the rental unit, you can sue the landlord in small claims court for a civil penalty of up to $2,000 for each violation.177

 

SUBLEASES AND ASSIGNMENTS

 

Sometimes, a tenant with a rental agreement may need to move out before the term ends, or may need help paying the rent. In these situations, the tenant may want to sublease the rental unit or assign the rental agreement to another tenant. The tenant may sublease the rental unit or assign the rental agreement unless the terms of the rental agreement precludes the tenant from doing so without the prior consent of the landlord.

 

Subleases

 

A sublease is a separate rental agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant who moves in temporarily (for example, for the summer), or who moves in with the original tenant and shares the rent. The new tenant is called a subtenant. 46

 

With a sublease, the agreement between the original tenant and the landlord remains in full force and effect. The original tenant is still responsible for paying the rent to the landlord, and functions as a landlord to the subtenant. Any sublease agreement between a tenant and a subtenant should be in writing to avoid disputes.

 

Many rental agreements contain a provision that prohibits (prevents) tenants from subleasing or assigning rental units. This kind of provision allows the landlord to control who rents the rental unit. If your rental agreement prohibits subleases or assignments, you must get your landlord’s permission before you sublease or assign the rental unit.

 

Even if your rental agreement does not contain a provision prohibiting you from subleasing or assigning, it is wise to discuss your plans with your landlord in advance. Subleases and assignments usually do not work out smoothly unless everyone has agreed in advance in writing. A lease provision requiring the landlord’s consent to assign or sublease, but providing no standard for giving or withholding consent, is construed to contain an implied standard that such consent will not be unreasonably withheld.

 

You might use a sublease in two situations. In the first situation, you may have a larger apartment or house than you need, and may want help paying the rent. Therefore, you want to rent a room to someone. In the second situation, you may want to leave the rental unit for a certain period and return to it later. For example, you may be a college student who leaves the campus area for the summer and returns in the fall. You may want to sublease to a subtenant who will agree to use the rental unit only for a particular period of time.

 

Under a sublease agreement, the subtenant agrees to make payments to you, not to the landlord. The subtenant has no direct responsibility to the landlord, only to you. Generally, the subtenant should not be given any greater rights than you do as the original tenant. To do so might create a conflict with your terms and obligations under your rental agreement. For example, if you have a month-to-month rental agreement, you should not promise the subtenant a fixed-term. If your rental agreement does not allow you to have a pet, then the subtenant cannot have a pet, as it creates a violation of your agreement with the landlord. In any sublease situation, it is essential that both you and the subtenant have a clear understanding of your obligations. To help avoid disputes between you and the subtenant, this understanding should be put in the form of a written sublease agreement that both you and the subtenant sign. The sublease agreement should cover things like the amount and due date of the rent, where the subtenant is to send the rent, who is responsible for paying the utilities (typically, gas, electric, water, trash, and telephone), the dates the agreement begins and ends, a list of any possessions that you are leaving in the rental unit, and any conditions of care and use of the rental unit and your possessions. It is also important that the sublease agreement be consistent with the rental agreement, so that your obligations under the rental agreement are fully performed by the subtenant (assuming that is what you and the subtenant have agreed upon).

 

Assignments

 

An assignment is a transfer of your rights as a tenant to someone else. You might use an assignment if you have a rental agreement for one year and need to move permanently before the term ends. Like a sublease, an assignment is a contract between the original tenant and the new tenant (not the landlord).

 

However, an assignment differs from a sublease in one important way. If the new tenant accepts the assignment, the new tenant is directly responsible to the landlord for the payment of rent, for damage to the rental unit, and so on. Nevertheless, an assignment does not relieve the original tenant of his or her legal obligations to the landlord unless the landlord explicitly releases the original tenant from his/her obligations. If the new tenant does not pay rent, or damages the rental unit, the original tenant (unless released from his/her obligations by the landlord) remains legally responsible to the landlord.

 

In order for the original tenant to be relieved of his/her obligations under the original rental agreement, the landlord, the original tenant, and the new tenant all must agree that the new tenant will be solely responsible to the landlord under the assignment. This agreement is called a novation, and must be in writing.

 

Short Term Rentals

 

It is important to understand that most rent agreements also prohibit you from using your unit as a short term rental, such as renting the unit through websites like AirBnB and VRBO. Many local laws also prohibit rental units from being rented in this way and carry with them heavy fines for violating the law.

 

Remember: Even if the landlord agrees to a sublease or assignment, the original tenant is still responsible for the rental unit unless there is a written agreement (a novation) that states otherwise. For this reason, think very carefully about who you consider subleasing or assigning your rental unit to

DEALING WITH PROBLEMS

 

All tenants have a right to a safe rental unit. Most landlord-tenant relationships go smoothly. However, problems sometimes do arise. For example, what if the rental unit’s furnace goes out in the middle of the winter? What happens if the landlord sells the building or decides to convert it into condominiums? This section discusses these and other possible issues and problems that may arise in the landlord-tenant relationship.

 

REPAIRS AND HABITABILITY

 

A rental unit must be fit to live in; that is, it must be habitable. In legal terms, “habitable” means that the rental unit is fit for occupation by human beings and that it substantially complies with state and local building and health codes that materially affect tenants’ health and safety.

 

California law makes landlords and tenants each responsible for certain kinds of repairs, although landlords ultimately are legally responsible for ensuring that their rental units are habitable. 

 

Landlord’s responsibility for repairs

 

Before renting a rental unit to a tenant, a landlord must make the unit fit to live in, or habitable. Additionally, while the unit is being rented, the landlord must repair problems that make the rental unit unfit to live in, or uninhabitable.

 

The landlord has this duty to repair because of a California Supreme Court case, called Green v. Superior Court, 181 which held that all residential leases and rental agreements contain an implied warranty of habitability. Under the “implied warranty of habitability,” the landlord is legally responsible for repairing conditions that seriously affect the rental unit’s habitability.182 That is, the landlord must repair substantial defects in the rental unit and substantial failures to comply with state and local building and health codes.183 However, the landlord is not responsible under the implied warranty of habitability for repairing damages that were caused by the tenant or the tenant’s family, guests, or pets.

 

Generally, the landlord also must complete maintenance work which is necessary to keep the rental unit livable.Whether the landlord or the tenant is responsible for making less serious repairs is usually determined by the rental agreement.

 

The law is very specific as to what kinds of conditions make a rental unit uninhabitable. If you believe that your landlord is providing you with an uninhabitable home, it is best to document those conditions with photographs or written repair requests with descriptions and date of the problem and how long that condition has been occurring. These are discussed in the following pages.

 

Tenant’s responsibility for repairs

 

Tenants are required by law to take reasonable care of their rental units, as well as common areas such as hallways and outside areas. Tenants must act to keep those areas clean and undamaged. Tenants also are responsible to repair all