This is a summary of California Landlord-Tenant laws that apply to residential (non-commercial) rentals. These references were compiled from the California Civil Code, the California Health and Safety Code, and various online sources to serve as a reference and for people wanting to learn about California landlord-tenant laws, California eviction laws, and California renters’ rights. 

However, this guide is not comprehensive and PayRent does not warrant the accuracy of this information. Statutes can change any time the state legislature passes a new law. Additionally, counties and cities may have different regulations. Given its limitations, this guide is not an adequate substitute for legal advice from a knowledgeable lawyer.  If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue, you should seek guidance from a qualified attorney. If you need help finding an attorney, we’ve included a list of attorney referral services in this guide.

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Rules and Regulations Governing California Landlord-Tenant Laws

California Lease Terms Provisions

Security Deposits

  • What is the maximum allowable security deposit?
    The security deposit cannot exceed two months’ rent for unfurnished dwellings and 3 months rent if the dwelling is furnished. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5)
  • Are security deposits required to earn interest?

Not statewide. There is no California law requiring security deposits to earn interest, however, some local ordinances require it.

  • Do landlords need to store security deposits in a separate bank account? 

No. There is no California law requiring security deposits to be stored in a separate bank account. 

  • Are non-refundable fees, such as pet fees, prohibited?

Yes. California law prohibits landlords from charging non-refundable fees.   (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(m))

  • How long do landlords have to return security deposits?

21 days.  (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(g))

  • Can landlords withhold security deposits?

Yes. Landlords can use the deposit to cover unpaid rent, to repair of damages beyond normal wear and tear, to clean the rental unit after the tenant moves out, and to pay the cost of resorting or replacing furniture, furnishings, and other personal property damage beyond normal wear and tear if the lease specifies that the deposit can be used for this purpose.  (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(b))

  • Are landlords required to itemize damages and fees deducted from security deposits?

Yes. An itemized list, detailing the amount withheld and the reasons for withholding, must be furnished to the tenant via personal delivery or first class mail within 21 days.  (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(g)(1))

  • Do landlords have to issue receipts upon receiving security deposits?

No. There is no California law requiring landlords to issue receipts for security deposits.

  • Are there any specific requirements for record-keeping for deposit withholdings?

Yes. If repairs and cleaning costs are more than $125, receipts and documentation of the amounts spent must be included with the itemized list of deductions. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(g))

  • What happens when a landlord does not return a security deposit within the required 

The tenant may recover up to twice the amount of the original security deposit in addition to actual damages. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l))

Rent

  • Is there a cap on how much landlords can charge for rent? (rent control)

Yes. California has statewide rent control laws, and many localities have rent control ordinances. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1947.12)

  • When is rent due?

Unless they agree to a different arrangement, rent is due at the termination of the holding, when it does not exceed one year. If the holding is by the day, week, month, quarter, or year, rent is payable at the termination of the respective periods, as it successively becomes due. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1947)

  • Does rent need to be paid using a certain method of payment?

Landlords must allow tenants to pay their rent using a form of payment that is not cash or an electronic funds transfer (EFT) payment. If the tenant had an insufficient funds payment or a stopped payment on a money order, the landlord can then require that rent be paid in cash. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1947.3)

Fees

  • Can landlords charge late fees when rent is late?

Yes. There is no California law forbidding late fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.

  • Do landlords have to allow for a grace period for paying rent before charging late fees?

No. There is no California law requiring a grace period before assessing late fees.

  • Can landlords charge application fees?

Yes. Landlords can charge an application fee up to $30. (Cal Civ. Code §§ 1950.6(b))

  • Can landlords charge returned check fees?

Yes. Landlords can charge a late fee up to $25 for the first returned check and $35 for each subsequent check. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1719)

California Landlord-Tenant Relations

Notices

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms?

Yes. Landlords must provide 30 days notice of a rent increase less than 10 percent of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months, and 60 days notice of a rent increase more than 10 percent of the lowest amount of rent charged during the last 12 months. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 827(b))

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the property?

No. There is no California law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the rental property.

  • What notice is required to terminate a fixed-end lease?

No notice is required — the lease ends on the date stated in the lease.

  • What notice is required to terminate a week-to-week periodic lease?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the lease with 7 days written notice. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1946)

  • What notice is required to terminate a month-to-month periodic lease?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the lease with 30 days written notice.  (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1946)

  • Is notice of the date and time of the move out inspection required?

Yes. Landlords must provide at least 48 hours’ notice.  (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(f))

Entry Provisions

  • When can landlords enter the rental premises with notice?
    • To make necessary or agreed to repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements.
    • To supply necessary or agreed services. 
    • To show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen, or contractors.
    • To periodically inspect smoke alarms.
    • To inspect waterbeds for compliance with state law.  (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1954(a))
  • What notice must a landlord give a tenant before entering the rental unit?

The landlord must provide “reasonable notice” before entering. 24 hours notice is presumed to be reasonable. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1954(d))

  • When can landlords enter the rental premises without providing notice to their tenants?

Landlord’s Duties (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1941.1)

  • Landlords must ensure the dwelling has the following characteristics:
    • Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors.
    • Plumbing or gas facilities that conformed to applicable law in effect at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
    • A water supply that is approved under applicable law that is under the control of the tenant, capable of producing hot and cold running water.
    • Heating facilities that conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
    • Electrical lighting, with wiring and electrical equipment that conformed with applicable law at the time of installation, maintained in good working order.
    • Building, grounds, and appurtenances kept in every part clean, sanitary, and free from all accumulations of debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin.
    • An adequate number of appropriate receptacles for garbage.
    • Floors, stairways, and railings are maintained in good repair.
    • A locking mail receptacle for each residential unit in a residential hotel

Tenant’s Duties  (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1941.2)

  • Tenants must keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permits.
  • Tenants must dispose of all rubbish, garbage, and other waste cleanly and safely.
  • Tenants must properly use and operate all electrical, gas, and plumbing fixtures and keep them as clean and sanitary as their condition permits.
  • Tenants must not willfully or wantonly destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the premises; or permit any guest to do so.
  • Tenants must occupy the premises as their abodes, utilizing portions thereof for living, sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes only which were respectively designed or intended to be used for such occupancies.

Required Landlord Disclosures

  • Landlords must provide prospective tenants with a written notice containing specific information about bed bugs and the procedure for reporting suspected infestations to the landlord. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1954.603)
  • A landlord must provide a copy of the rental agreement or lease to the tenant within 15 days of its execution by the tenant. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))
  • A landlord must disclose if the utilities that service a tenant’s unit also provide service to other areas, and disclose how costs will be fairly divided. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1940.9)
  • Landlords must disclose knowledge of any mold in the dwelling that exceeds safety limits or poses a health concern before the lease is signed. (Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 26147)
  • If a landlord or agent has applied to any public agency for a permit to demolish a rental unit, the landlord must provide written notice to prospective tenants before accepting any money or entering into a rental agreement. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1940.6)
  • Landlords must disclose to prospective tenants the locations of any former ordnances (weapons and artillery) in the neighborhood of which they have actual knowledge. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1940.7)
  • Landlords must provide each new tenant that occupies the unit with a copy of the notice provided by a registered structural pest control company if a contract for periodic pest control service has been executed.  The notice contains information regarding the pest to be controlled, the pesticides to be used, the frequency with which the treatment will be done, and certain required language regarding the toxicity of pesticides. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1940.8); (Cal. Business and Professions Code §§ 8538)
  • Landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on lead-based paint hazards.

California Renters’ Rights

  • What rights do tenants have if their landlords breach their duties? (See Landlord’s Duties)

If a landlord does not remedy untenantable conditions within a reasonable time after the tenant provides notice to the landlord of the conditions, the tenant may vacate the premises. The tenant will be discharged from further payment of rent or performance of other conditions as of the date of vacating the premises. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1942(a))

  • Are tenants allowed to withhold rent for needed repairs or other breaches of their landlords’ duties?

Yes. If a landlord does not remedy untenantable conditions within a reasonable time after the tenant provides notice to the landlord of the conditions, the tenant may make the repairs and deduct the amount from the next month’s rent, so long as the amount does not exceed one month’s rent and the tenant does use this remedy more than twice in 12 months.   (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1942(a))

  • Are tenants permitted to sublease their rental units?

Yes, but only with consent. Restrictions on subletting in the lease are permitted. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1951.4)

  • What are the protections for tenants against retaliation from their landlords for exercising their California renter’s rights?

If tenants exercise their renter’s rights or complain to an appropriate agency as to tenantability of their rental unit, California law prohibits landlords from retaliating against the tenant by attempting to evict, causing to leave involuntarily, increasing the rent, or decrease any services within 180 days of any of the following:

  • The date when the tenant provided notice of a suspected bed bug infestation or made an oral complaint to the landlord regarding tenantability.
  • The date when the tenant filed a written complaint, or an oral complaint which is registered or otherwise recorded in writing, with an appropriate agency regarding tenantability.
  • The date of an inspection or issuance of a citation, resulting from a complaint to an agency that the lessor did not know about.
  • The date when the tenant filed appropriate documents commencing a judicial or arbitration proceeding involving the issue of tenantability.
  • The date of entry of a judgment or the signing of an arbitration award, if any, when in the judicial proceeding or arbitration the issue of tenantability is determined adversely to the lessor. (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1951.4)

California Eviction Laws

  • What notice must landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process in California?
  • For evictions based on illegal activity, landlords must give 3-day notice of termination of the lease before starting the eviction process. Landlords do not have to permit the tenant to cure these types of breaches. (Cal. Code of Civ Proc §1161(4))
  • For evictions based on a holdover tenancy, except for expired fixed-term leases, landlords must provide a 30-day notice to terminate a month-to-month tenancy if the tenant has lived in the rental unit less than one year, and 60-day notice if the tenant has lived there for over a year. If the tenant remains on the rental property after the termination date, the landlord can begin the eviction process without providing additional notice. (Cal. Civ. Code §1946.1)
  • For evictions based on the foreclosure of the rental property, landlords must provide 90 days’ notice before starting the eviction process. (Cal. Code of Civ Proc §1161b)
  • Are landlords permitted to recover damages from an evicted tenant?

Yes.  In California, a landlord may recover actual damages but has to mitigate the damages.  (Cal. Civ. Code §1951.2)

  • Are landlords permitted to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities? 

No. If a landlord evicts a tenant using self-help methods, the landlord is liable for actual damages sustained, up to $100 a day, and reasonable attorney’s fees.  (Cal. Civ. Code §789.3)

COVID-19 Changes to California Landlord-Tenant Laws

  • The CDC has passed a national eviction ban through December 31, 2020, that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants  who meet the following criteria for nonpayment:
    • Have used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent.
    • Expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return).
    • Are unable to pay their full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of income or employment, or extraordinary medical bills.
    • If evicted, will have no other housing options.
  • The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires landlords to provide a 30-day notice to tenants before eviction. However, the CARES Act only applies to properties that are supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or the United States Treasury (Low Income Housing Tax Credit), and properties with federally-backed mortgages, such as FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.
  • California has passed statewide legislation (AB 3088) stating that no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021, as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction.

Related Links

Government 

Realtor and Landlord-Tenant Associations

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