An Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in California

It’s always better if landlords and tenants can sort out legal problems without going to court. But some landlord-tenant problems leave one party or the other with no other option. Both sides should know the basics of renting a place, how to collect or pay for a security deposit, and the basics of fair housing laws, etc. This overview of the California landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.

Under California law, landlords must reveal specific information to tenants, like about toxic mold levels or other safety risks. Tenants may need help understanding their right to tenant protections, the return of security deposits, and when a landlord can evict them. California has passed many tenant-friendly laws. This article provides information and support for both parties involved in landlord-tenant relationships.

Lease Agreements

The lease outlines the primary legal parameters of a rental situation, protecting the interests of both parties. The provisions of a General California Lease Agreement include:

  • Name of the two parties involved, landlord and tenant(s)
  • Location and information on a rental property
  • The rent amount and the date on which it will be paid each month
  • Amount of security deposit
  • Whether pets are allowed

California and Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

Even before a landlord-tenant relationship is set, note that both California and the federal government require anti-discrimination laws on the tenant-selection process. When deciding whether or not to lease to a possible tenant, a landlord may not discriminate based on the tenant’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Special accommodations for senior citizen housing
  • Familial status
  • Disability

Security Deposits Limit

Most landlords require the payment of a security deposit before moving in, but there are limits. The security deposit is separate and different from the last month’s rent. Any deduction for repairs or expenses associated with cleaning must be paid in full out of the deposit. If you need to provide a deposit, you should sign a statement with your landlord outlining the exact condition of the unit at the end of the lease term.

California law limits deposits to an amount equivalent to two or three months’ rent. The law also states that with other restrictions on tenant deposits, the security deposit must be returned within 21 days of the tenant’s leaving. Tenants can sue landlords in a claim court up to $10,000 to repay their deposit. Landlords who bring security deposit lawsuits should be well-versed on these security-deposit laws.

Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent in California

Tenants can delay rent, move without notice, sue the landlord, and call the local health inspectors for “repair and deduct” if a landlord does not fix severe problems that make the dwelling inhabitable, such as a malfunctioning heating system.

California Termination and Eviction Rules

State laws define when and how a landlord may cancel a tenancy. For example, a landlord may give a California tenant who has been assigning or leasing without permission an actual quit notice. This will give the tenant three days to move out before the landlord can file for eviction in court.

Many other landlord-tenant laws in California affect both property owners and tenants.

  • Restrictions on a landlord’s right to access the rental property. In California, landlords must give 24 hours notice of entry or 48 hours for the primary move-out inspection.
  • If a tenant needs protection against landlord retaliation, such as when a tenant complains about unsafe living conditions.
  • Tenants may need special protections if they are victims of domestic violence.

Getting Legal Help from a California Attorney

If you are a landlord or tenant, you may want to take a look on the Internet for more detailed information on California landlord-tenant advice. Several websites give advice to both or either parties. If you are involved in a dispute and need legal information or advice in California, consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer with Express Evictions to represent your interests.

Talk to an Expert Landlord-Tenant Law Attorney

This article is intended to be useful and informative. But even normal legal matters can become complicated and stressful. A qualified landlord-tenant lawyer can discuss your appropriate legal needs, clarify the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step and contact a landlord-tenant attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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