Whilst California doesn’t have a legal requirement specifying that landlords collect a deposit landlords should for the two following reasons:
In California, a landlord can withhold a security deposit for three reasons:
For the above reasons you’ll find that most landlords in California do collect a security deposit. The normal security deposit amount is one month’s rent. Though a portion of landlords set it higher.
Interest Earned on Security Deposit: (reference)
Commingling of Security Deposit
Returning the Deposit: (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g)
Withholding Deposit: (Handbook)
An itemized list of damages and charges must be supplied to the tenant if any of the deposit is being withheld. Receipts and documentation are not needed however if the amount in question is under $126. (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5g 4A)
Failure to Comply: (Civ. Code §§ 1950.5(l))
A bad faith claim or retention by a landlord may subject the landlord to statutory damages of up to twice the amount of the security, in addition to actual damages.
Payment Methods: (Civ. Code §§ 1947.3(1-2))
Late Fees: (Guidebook)
Rent Upfront: (Guidebook)
California passed statewide rent control in October 2019. Annual rent increases are limited to 5% plus inflation each year until 2030. This works out to be around 9% annually.
It’s important to note that this only applies to older apartments, those built before 2004. Also, owner-occupied single-family homes or duplexes are exempt.
Cities that already had rent control policies in place before the statewide legislation (like Los Angeles and San Francisco) will keep their rent control laws — they are not superseded by the newer statewide legislation.
As stated above those cities that had prior rent control laws in place keep their laws regardless of the statewide legislation.
Therefore, by following state law you may not comply with city laws. The two cities in particular that are worth investigating further are Los Angeles and San Francisco. Landlords in either of these cities should be aware of both state and city-specific laws to remain in compliance.
In Los Angeles, the landlord’s property may be subject to additional regulation under the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) and the Systematic Code Enforcement Program (SCEP).
In San Francisco, the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance subjects landlords to additional regulations for their rentals.
Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease:
Notice to Terminate Any Periodic Lease of a Year or More:
Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Month-to-Month:
Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Week-to-week:
Notice to Terminate Lease due to Sale of Property:
Eviction Notice for Nonpayment:
Eviction Notice for Lease Violation:
The Three-Day Notice must state:
This is when the rental unit is in bad condition – uninhabitable – and the landlord refuses to repair it, or does not make repairs fast enough after a request has been made. In this scenario, the tenant may be able to repair it themselves and deduct the cost of the repairs from future rent.
Under certain circumstances, the tenant has the right to abandon the rental unit. Generally, this is under similar conditions that would allow a tenant to use the repair and deduct remedy.
In this scenario, the tenant has the right to abandon the rental without notice and without being obligated to pay future rent. Normally, this remedy is used when repairs would cost more than a month of rent, although this is not a requirement for the use of the remedy.
The requirements that must be met to allow a tenant to withhold rent are similar to the above “repair and deduct” remedy. However, the situation and conditions that allow a tenant to withhold rent must be more serious than conditions that the tenant could get fixed and deducted. Normally, what this means is that the conditions pose a serious health or safety risk to the tenant.
When a tenant withholds rent, the dispute will likely be resolved in the courts. And even if the judge ruled in the tenant’s favor they may rule that not all the rent should have been withheld. So, the tenant in this situation should not spend any of the withheld rent in the expectation that some will need to be paid to the landlord.
In any of the above situations, the tenant should be aware that if they do use one of the remedies talked about but the conditions are not serious enough to warrant the action taken, the landlord can sue them for the remaining rent.
Landlords cannot retaliate against a tenant if they withhold rent or complain about the conditions of the rental unit. Whether that’s to a government body (ie. they are complaining about health code violations or a tenant union.
Examples of illegal retaliatory acts include but are not limited to:
A landlord is deemed to have retaliated if they take actions against the tenant (like those listed above) and the tenant can prove they have exercised one or more of the following tenant rights within the last 6 months:
Tenants have the right to sue the landlord for damages if they believe the landlord has taken retaliatory actions against them. If a landlord is found to have retaliated against their tenant the possible damages under the California Fair Housing and Employment Act include attorney fees and punitive damages ranging from $100 to $1000 for each retaliatory act.
If you are sued in California Small Claims Court, seek legal counsel and consider whether a settlement is appropriate, or whether a counter-sue is justified. If your defenses are solid and you have plenty of evidentiary documentation and witnesses, you may understandably wish to take your chances with the court and defend yourself.
Yes, but not more than the cost of one month’s rent, and the tenant cannot use this remedy more than twice in a 12-month period. (Civ. Code §§ 1942)
Yes, because the property is under the “implied warranty of habitability.” (handbook)
Yes (Civ. Code §§ 789.3d)
Yes (Civ. Code §§ 1951.2)
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).” It is recommended then to have strict tenant screening guidelines.
A copy of the rental agreement must be provided to the tenant within 15 days of its execution. (Civ. Code §§ 1962(4))
If there are communal areas and shared utilities the landlord must notify the tenant of these shared services and disclose how the costs will be fairly distributed. For example, there is an outside light used by all inhabitants of the building. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.9)
If the utilities are to be split amongst multiple tenants the landlord must also provide a formula for deciding the costs of these utilities so that no one party is paying an unfair portion.
In San Francisco, rental units must have a permanent source of heat able to provide and maintain a rental unit with a temperature of at least 68 degrees,
The Housing Code specifically requires this level of heat to be provided 13 hours a day, from 5 AM to 11 AM and also from 3 PM to 10 PM. The landlord does not comply with these requirements by allowing or providing portable space heaters. (Source)
It is recommended but not a law that a landlord provides a move-in checklist for the tenants to complete. Having a physical copy of this will make it much easier should disputes arise at a later date.
The landlord must disclose, before lease signing, knowledge of any mold in the dwelling that exceeds safety limits or poses a health concern. The 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)
If a landlord or agent has applied for a permit to demolish a rental unit, the landlord must provide written notice to prospective tenants before accepting any money. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.6)
The landlord must disclose the locations of former ordinances (weapons and artillery)in the neighborhood. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.7)
Landlords are required to include the following language in the lease: “Notice: Under 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)
At lease signing, the Landlord must disclose any pests control contracts or disclosures received by pest control companies. If the premise is being treated for pests, the landlord must disclose the pesticides used and their active ingredients, and any warnings associated with them. (Civ. Code §§ 1940.8, and Business and Professional Code §§ 8538)
If the landlord limits or prohibits smoking, the landlord must include a clause that specifies the areas on or on the premise where smoking is prohibited. (Civ. Code §§ 1947.5) (Guide: How Landlords Can Prohibit Smoking)
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 based upon the fact that the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household is a victim of a documented act of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. (Civ. Procedure Code §§ 1161.3)
In California, there are no laws about rekeying the premises before a new tenant moves in. While the law does not require landlords to change their locks, most landlords (68%) change the locks on a unit after a tenant moves out.
Although recreational marijuana use is legal in California as of January 1, 2018, landlords do not have to allow marijuana use on their property. Proposition 64 expressly allows owners of private property to prohibit marijuana use and cultivation on their property. If a landlord plans to prohibit or partially restrict marijuana use on their property, the rental agreement should clearly state the landlord’s policy regarding marijuana.
If the rental unit is subsidized with federal funds, allowing marijuana use on the property may put your subsidy at risk since marijuana use is still against federal law. Landlords should consult with an attorney when crafting a marijuana use policy for federally subsidized housing.
Victims of domestic violence have special rights. Landlords have limited rights to evict the victims of domestic abuse. Additionally, victims of domestic violence may ask their landlord to split the lease and evict the abuser, but not the victim of domestic violence. The victim may also ask the landlord to change the locks. However, the landlord is entitled to proof of domestic violence status. Landlords are not allowed to refuse to rent to a victim of domestic violence.
Below you’ll find helpful California landlord-tenant law resources:
This article is designed to convey information, and not to provide legal advice. You should not consider any information in this article to be legal advice. Readers should consider obtaining specific legal advice from an attorney for any decision or course of action contemplated.