Below is a list of California rental laws applicable to residential rental properties. The included links take you directly to the Official State Statutes and other online resources that will help you gain an understanding of the law as it applies to residential rental units.

Please note, the list of California rental laws below is not intended to be an exhaustive list and should not be used in lieu of obtaining qualified legal advice. Laws are subject to change and often times vary from city to city and county to county. You are responsible for your own legal research and for complying with all laws applicable to your situation.

If you do have legal questions or need legal advice you should consult with a qualified lawyer in your area.

Applicable California Rental Laws, Rules and Regulations

Security Deposits:

  • Security Deposit Maximum: 2 months rent for unfurnished dwellings; 3 months rent for furnished dwellings  (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 and 1940.5g)
  • Security Deposit Interest: No state-wide statutes but certain localities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have rent control ordinances requiring you to pay interest, so check local laws (CA Law Regarding Tenant Security Deposits)
  • Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: No statute on point
  • Pet Deposits and Additional Non-refundable Fees: No portion of security can be classified as “nonrefundable”  (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5m)
  • Deadline to Return Security Deposit: 21 days (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5)
  • You can withhold security deposit: (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 and CA Dept. of Consumer Affairs)
    • For unpaid rent;
    • To clean the unit when the tenant moves out (but only to restore it to the state of cleanliness it was upon move in);
    • To repair damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or tenant’s guests; and
    • If the lease/rental agreement allows it (the costs of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, and other personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear.)
  • Written Description/Itemization List of Damages and Charges is Required; Receipts and documentation must be provided as well unless the itemized repairs and cleaning do not exceed $125 or the tenant specifically waived the right to such items in accordance with Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4B (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A)
  • Record Keeping of Security Deposit Withholdings: No statute on point
  • Failure to Comply with the Law: A bad faith claim or retention of security by the landlord may subject the landlord to statutory damages up to twice the amount of the security in addition to actual damages.  (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l))

Lease, Rent and Fees:

  • When Rent is Due: Unless there is a contract to the contrary, and if the lease is for less than one year, rent is due at the end of the month.  Most leases state the rent is due at the beginning of the month.  (Civ. Code §§ 1947 and Civ. Code §§ 1962)
  • Rental Payment Methods: Unless the tenant has previously had insufficient funds payment or stopped payment on a check or money order, a landlord must allow at least one form of payment that is neither cash nor electronic funds transfer.  If there has been an insufficient funds payment or a stopped payment on a check or money order the landlord may require payment in cash.  (Civ. Code §§ 1947.3(1-2))
  • Rent Increase Notice:  (Civ. Code §§ 827(b)(2-3))
    • 30 days notice if the rent increase is less than 10 percent of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months.
    • 60 days notice if the increase is greater than 10 percent of the lowest amount of rent charged in the past 12 months.
  • Late Fees: Late fees are allowed but they must be “reasonable” and in accordance with rent control laws (if applicable in your area).  Late fees are only enforceable if specified in the lease.
  • Application Fees: Maximum fee is adjusted each year based on changes in Consumer Price Index (since January 1, 1998).  In 2017, the maximum allowable fee is $47.72.  (Civ. Code §§ 1950.6(b)).
  • Prepaid Rent: Landlord is allowed to collect one month’s pre-paid rent in addition to two to three months security deposit (depending on whether or not the dwelling is furnished, see Civ. Code §§ 1950.5)
  • Returned Check Fees: Equal to the bank fee or landlord can charge a flat “service” fee of $25 for the first occurrence and $35 thereafter.
  • The Tenant is allowed to withhold rent for failure to provide essential services (heat, water, etc) under the implied warranty of habitability.
  • The Tenant is allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent in an amount no greater than one month’s rent and only twice within a 12-month period.  (Civ. Code §§ 1942)
  • Upon a breach of the lease or abandonment before the end of the lease term a landlord is required to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages, including attempting to re-rent unit.  (Civ. Code §§ 1951.2)

Notices and Entry:

  • Notice to Terminate:
    • Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: Notice unnecessary since the lease automatically expires (but safe to give 60 days notice regardless).
    • Any Periodic Lease of a Year or More: If ALL tenants have lived together more than one year 60 days notice required.  If ANY tenant has lived in the unit less than one year 30 days notice required.
    • Periodic Lease – Month to Month: Landlord required to give 30 days notice; Tenant required to give 30 days notice.  (Civ. Code §§ 1946)
    • Periodic Lease – Week to Week: Landlord is required to give 30 days notice; Tenant is required to give 7 days notice.
    • Lease due to Sale of Property: For periodic tenancies ONLY (e.g. month to month), 30 days notice if ALL below are true:  (Civ. Code §§ 1946.1)
      1. Landlord has contracted to sell the unit to a person who intends to occupy the unit for at least a year after tenancy ends; and
      2. Landlord has opened escrow with a licensed escrow agent or real estate broker; and
      3. Landlord has given 30 days notice no later than 120 days after opening escrow; and
      4. Landlord has not previously given either 30 or 60 days notice; and
      5. Rental unit is one that can be sold separately from any other dwelling unit (eg. A house or condominium)

A landlord can only end a periodic tenancy when a property or unit is sold but not a fixed-term tenancy that has yet to expire.

Disclosures:

  • Bed Bugs:
    • A landlord shall not show, rent, or lease to a prospective tenant any vacant dwelling unit that the landlord knows has a current bed bug infestation.  (Civ. Code §§ 1954.602)
    • Landlords are required to provide written notice regarding information about bed bugs to a prospective tenant.  The wording and format of this written notice are found in Civ. Code §§ 1954.603.
    • Landlords must notify the tenants of the procedure for promptly reporting suspected infestations to the landlord.  (Civ. Code §§ 1954.603 (a))
    • Landlords are required to conduct follow up treatments and inspections of the infected units and all surrounding units until infestation is eliminated.  (Civ. Code §§ 1954.604)
    • Landlords are required to provide written notice of the pest control operator’s findings to the tenants within two business days of receiving it.  (Civ. Code §§ 1954.605)
  • Utilities: (Civ. Code §§ 1940.9)
    • Landlord must disclose if utilities that service a tenant’s unit also service other areas (such as common areas) and must disclose how cost will be fairly divided.
    • Landlord must provide a formula for dividing up utilities when utilities are split among multiple tenants.
  • Mold: Landlord must disclose in writing prior to the lease signing if he knows of any mold in the dwelling that exceeds safety limits or poses health concerns. Landlord must distribute a State Department of Health Services consumer handbook once it is developed and approved.  (Health & Safety Code §§ 26147 and Civ. Code §§ 1941.7)
  • Demolishment: Written notice must be provided to prospective tenants before the landlord accepts any money if the landlord or his agent has applied for a permit to demolish the rental unit.  (Civ. Code §§ 1940.6)
  • Ordnances: Landlords must disclose to in writing the locations of former ordances (weapons or artillery) in the neighborhood.  (Civ. Code §§ 1940.7)
  • Sexual Offenders – Landlords must include the following language in every lease:  “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.” (Civ. Code §§ 2079.10a)
  • Pests: At the time of the lease signing the Landlord must disclose any pest control contracts or disclosures received by pest control companies. If the premises are being treated for pests, the landlord must disclose in writing the pesticides being used and their active ingredients and any warnings associated with them. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.8 and Business and Professional Code §§ 8538)
  • Smoking: if the landlord limits or prohibits smoking the landlord must include a clause in the lease that specifies the areas on or around the premises where smoking is prohibited.  (Civ. Code §§ 1947.5)

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Accepting First Qualified Applicant: The 2012 Fair Housing Handbook of California says on page 24, “The landlord should take the time to check out the information and make a selection based on the first qualified applicant(s),” although it is not law it is recommended.  (2012 Fair Housing Handbook)
  • Copy of Lease: A landlord must provide the tenant a copy of the rental agreement or lease within 15 days of execution.  (Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))
  • Move-In Condition Checklist: Not required but suggested as it is helpful should a dispute arise over physical damage to the dwelling.
  • Domestic violence:
    • Proof of Domestic Violence Status – A Landlord is entitled to proof/documentation of tenant’s domestic violence status if a tenant claims they are a victim.  (Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))
    • Locks – Landlords must change the locks if requested by a domestic violence victim and proof of court order is given. (Civ. Code §§ 1941.5 and 1941.6)
    • Special Treatment – A victim may terminate a lease with 14 days notice and proof of victim status.  (Civ. Code §§ 1946.7(d))
    • A landlord cannot end or refuse to renew a tenancy because a tenant or a member of tenant’s household is a victim of a documented act of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.   (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161.3)
    • Abandoned Property – Rules are lengthy.  Refer to (Civ. Code §§ 19651980 to 1991.)
  • Retaliation: (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5)
    • Courts might assume “retaliation” by a landlord if negative action is taken within 180 days (6 months) after a tenant has filed an official complaint to a Government Authority; has provided the required notice of a bed bug infestation; or has made an oral complaint to the landlord regarding tenantability and a landlord:
      • Terminates the lease;
      • Increases the rent;
      • Decreases services;
      • causes a lessee to quit involuntarily;
      • or brings an action to recover possession.
    • Additionally, it might be considered retaliatory if a landlord does any of the above within 6 months after any of the following:
      • The tenant uses or tells the landlord he intends to use the repair and deduct remedy.
      • The tenant complains about the condition of the rental unit to the landlord or appropriate public agency after giving the landlord notice.
      • The tenant files a lawsuit or begins arbitration based on the condition of the rental unit.
      • The tenant causes an appropriate public agency to inspect the rental unit and/or issue a citation to the landlord.
    • If retaliation is found, the landlord shall be liable to the tenant for damages in a civil action.  (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5(f)

Court Related Issues:

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