Essential California Tenant Rights

April 26, 2019

Both landlords and tenants should know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the law. Should any type of dispute or issue arise, both parties should be aware of the basics. When it comes to tenants’ rights in California, here is what you need to know.


Beginning and ending a tenancy

Even before a tenant signs a lease to rent your property, they have rights. This includes potential discrimination of rental applicants. You cannot deny a person the right to rent your property because of their sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, or ethnicity.

Interview process

As a landlord, you have the ability to decide who will move into your property. However, you must be careful what questions you ask in the interview process. Even if they seem innocent, such as if the person is married, this can be viewed as discrimination. Talking to a lawyer and having them help create questions could be beneficial. In addition, you might consider partnering with a company like Blueground. They will take care of furnishing and renting out your space, including the tenant screening process for you. This will ensure that you get the best people to live in your property, along with benefitting from their accrued rental market knowledge from operating in six US cities.

Security deposit

California Tenant Rights tenant money

As a landlord, you are only allowed to charge so much for a security deposit. While this deposit is important to ensure that your property doesn’t get damaged, you can’t charge an exorbitant amount. On average, the security deposit can’t be more than two months’ rent. After the tenancy has ended, the security deposit, less the amount needed for repairs, has to be returned in a fixed amount of time. This is often within 21 days.

Ending the tenancy

If you decide to end a tenancy, you must give the person ample notice. This includes 60 days if other people in the residence have lived there for more than one year. If they haven’t, then you are only required to give the tenant a 30-day notice. If the occupants have a lease, the notice will depend on what the lease says. When it comes to eviction, you must follow the process. The tenant has three days to leave the property.


Living conditions

When it comes to the property, there are certain things you have to supply to make it habitable. This includes maintaining compliance with applicable building codes. If the property should fall below the standards, you have to make the repairs to get it back up to code.

Tenant recourse

Should you fail to maintain the building in proper condition, the tenant has some recourse. They must first request in writing that the repairs be made. Should you refuse or not make the repairs, they have the option of reporting you to a local building inspector. They also have the opportunity to contact a lawyer.

In addition, should you not make the needed repairs to make the place habitable, they have the option of withholding rent. The amount that is withheld can’t be more than what’s needed to make the repairs. If the full rent has already been paid, the tenant could request funds back to cover the needed repairs.

If you attempt to evict the people because they have withheld rent due to a habitation violation, the violations could be used against you. It’s best to make needed repairs to ensure the property meets the habitation guidelines.


Making a property habitable

Making a property habitable means that the plumbing, heating, and appliances are in working order. It also means that the building is structurally sound. If there is an issue with the plumbing or heating, these need to be addressed within 24 hours. If repairs are less serious, you have 48 hours to get them fixed.

a living area with a dark green accent wall and a dark grey couch next to a brown leather chair

The residence also needs to be clean. People have a right to live in sanitary conditions. Since everyone has a different definition of clean, knowing what the laws say can be beneficial in protecting you and your tenants from unrealistic or difference in opinion when it comes to cleanliness.

Before entering a rental, you must give the people 24-hour’s notice. You are only allowed to enter the residence in case of an emergency or to make repairs. You can show it to potential buyers or tenants or to give access to workers. Otherwise, you aren’t allowed to enter the property without permission.


Know your rights and responsibilities

Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a landlord is incredibly important and will ensure that you are protected should a conflict arise. However, tenants have rights too, and staying in compliance with the law will ensure that you don’t get sued over a dispute.

Talking to a lawyer is the best way to ensure that you are in compliance with the law. Every so often, these may change. Staying up to date will keep you out of trouble and keep your property safe.

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