Your Ultimate Guide to California Tenants Rights


June 20, 2021

Need help with tenant rights? This guide to California tenants’ rights will help you to begin/end your tenancy, know more about notices, inspections, and more.

Generally, 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 everything you need to know.

Here we go!

How to Begin & 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 Californian tenant screening process for you.

Also, this will ensure that you get the best people to live in your property, along with benefitting from their accrued rental market knowledge of operating in six US cities.

What About the Security Deposit?

California Tenant Rights tenant money

Today, it may be tempting to ask for a large security deposit. California security deposit law can be a real game-changer here!

Charging a security deposit gives you peace of mind. It also gives you the means to take care of any issues that may arise when a tenant rents your property. It’s a good way to make sure that nothing bad happens to the apartment.

While it may be tempting to charge a large amount to keep your investment safe, there is a California security deposit law that prevents you from doing that.

California Security Deposit Law

You have the right to charge a renter a security deposit in California.

However, it must fall within certain parameters.

If the unit is unfurnished, you can only charge a maximum of two months’ rent. If there’s some furniture in the apartment, you can charge up to three months’ rent.

For commercial property, there is no limit on the amount you can charge.

You can’t make the fee non-refundable.

However, you don’t have to keep the fee in a separate account.

Instead, you should store the money – there are no specific rules about how to do that. So don’t have to pay the tenant interest collected from the fee.

One can’t use the security deposit as the last month’s rent unless specifically designated.

As the landlord, you may make an agreement with the tenant that they can use the amount in this manner, but you don’t have to.

If it has been specified that there are funds used for the security deposit and last month’s rent, you have to use the money according to those definitions.

Various Equipment

In California, you don’t have to give tenants written notice after you receive the security deposit. There are several reasons you may keep all or part of the fee, and these include the following:

  1. The tenant has defaulted on rent payments
  2. There is damage to the apartment that goes beyond normal wear and tear
  3. To cover cleaning costs to get the unit to a habitable condition and to what it looked like before this tenant moved in
  4. To cover any future payments that may occur if the tenant violated the lease
  5. Other breaches of the lease that may have occurred

Walk-through Inspections

As a landlord, you can walk through the residence with the tenant to point out any issues that will need to be covered using the fee.

If the tenant opts to get these fixed before the final inspection, they have that right.

So before doing a walk-through inspection, there are some conditions you’ll have to meet.

For example, you must notify the tenant within a reasonable amount of time of your intent to inspect the property. This must occur before the tenant moves out so they have the opportunity to make corrections if they so choose.

Listings Checked

You are required to give the tenant 48-hours notice, in writing, before the inspection. You must also supply the date and time for the inspection.

If both you and the tenant agree, in writing, that notice is not necessary, then you can forgo this step.

The tenants in California don’t have to agree to a walk-through inspection.

However, if they do, it should take place no sooner than two weeks before the tenancy ends.

After the inspection, you must provide the tenant with a list of all repairs that need correction before the final inspection. 

Returning the Security Deposit

After the tenant moves out, you have 21 days to return their fee.

If you don’t return the deposit in this amount of time, the tenant has the ability to take you to small claims court. The returned amount could be less than the amount needed to cover repairs or defaulted rent payments.

In addition to the funds, you must also supply, in writing, the original amount of money received. You must also itemize any deductions that occurred.

If the work is over for repairs to the property, you must provide the tenant with copies of the actual charges that were incurred. You must provide a good faith estimate of how much it will cost if repairs are still in process.

The statement must also show how much of the fee is being returned.

While you have the ability to charge a fee to protect your property, it must abide by California security deposit law.

If you don’t, you open yourself up to lawsuits.

How to end a 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.

In the case, 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.

 

Overall, Here’s What You Should Know About 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.

Also, if repairs are less serious, you have 48 hours to get them fixed.

Furnished room

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 differences 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.

 

30-Day Notice: Landlords’ Legal Rights With Tenants

In general, landlords’ legal duties are directly interrelated with California tenants’ rights.

Sometimes, the situation with a tenant isn’t working out like you may have hoped. Maybe they are constantly late on the rent, noisy, or destructive.

No matter what the issue, if you want them out, you must follow a few steps.

For example, providing a 30-day notice to a tenant in California.

Having a month-to-month lease can be beneficial for both you and the tenant.

If they are unsure how long they will be staying in the property, consider putting a month-to-month agreement in place. They may not be willing to commit to an entire year. This can also be beneficial should the need arise to evict them.

If a tenant wants to get out of a month-to-month lease, they have to give a 30-day notice to a landlord in California.

On the flip side, if a landlord wants the tenant out, they must give the tenant a 30-day notice. Landlords need to give a 60-day notice if the tenant has lived in the home for over a year.

 

Forgoing the 30-day notice

There are ways to get around having to give a 30-day notice to a landlord in California. These suggestions are beneficial for both parties and aren’t against the law. This includes terminating the lease by mutual consent.

Both the tenant and landlord can agree to terminate the lease without the renter staying for another month.

Put the termination agreement into writing if this situation arises. This can include the date of termination, the date the tenant needs to be out of the residence, and any other information that is important. This other information might include whether the tenant forfeits the security deposit or the landlord agrees not to sue the tenant for rent owed.

All in all, both parties should then sign the document. This will ensure that there is no misunderstanding in the termination or problems down the road.

Other circumstances that wouldn’t require a 30-day notice to a landlord in California include if a tenant breaches the lease. There are two types of breaches that can occur: curable and incurable.

In both cases, the landlord will serve the tenant with a three-day notice that says they will be terminating the lease.

Contract torn

If the breach was curable, the tenant has three days to rectify the situation.

Overall, examples of curable breaches include the renter having an unapproved pet on the property or not paying the rent. The lease remains in effect if there’s a need for action to fix the digression.

If not, the landlord can terminate the lease. The landlord must file a lawsuit to evict the tenant if the lease gets terminated and the tenant doesn’t voluntarily leave the premises.

When it comes to a breach that is incurable, including the tenant committing a crime that puts other tenants at risk (such as dealing drugs, stalking, or other unlawful activities), the landlord has to give a three-day notice that they are terminating the lease.

After three days, the tenant must leave the premises.

If they don’t, again, the landlord will have to file a lawsuit to evict the renter.

In the case, if a landlord violates the lease agreement, the tenant can leave at any time without giving notice. These violations generally fall under the regulations of needing a dwelling that is uninhabitable.

In California, that means there is no water or electricity or the residence is exposed to the outside elements.

It is the responsibility of the tenant to notify the landlord of such issues either orally or in writing. The landlord must fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time.

If they don’t, then the tenant can move out without notifying the landlord.

 

Notices based on state law

These notices are based on California law. They ensure that both landlords and tenants have their rights recognized when it comes to renting property to live.

In some cities, including San Francisco, there are other notice requirements that have been put into place that both tenants and landlords have to abide by. These often apply to people who receive state or federal housing assistance, including Section 8 vouchers for housing.

Low-income families needing financial assistance are awarded Section 8 vouchers. They must also go through an application process to find out if they meet the requirements.

Man with an open law book in front of him

In general, California tenants’ rights include quite an easy process for leaving a property.

For instance, they can leave a property at any time, regardless of their lease term.

However, doing so without proper notification can make them liable to pay the rent until their lease period is up. This may not be an issue if the landlord can find another renter in a short amount of time.

However, it could get expensive if the tenant has to pay for two places to live.

 

Know your rights and responsibilities

Being a tenant in California today is not an easy thing!

Knowing your rights and responsibilities will help you stay 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.


Need help with tenant rights? This guide to California tenants’ rights will help you to begin/end your tenancy, know more about notices, inspections, and more.

Generally, 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 everything you need to know.

Here we go!

How to Begin & 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 Californian tenant screening process for you.

Also, this will ensure that you get the best people to live in your property, along with benefitting from their accrued rental market knowledge of operating in six US cities.

What About the Security Deposit?

California Tenant Rights tenant money

Today, it may be tempting to ask for a large security deposit. California security deposit law can be a real game-changer here!

Charging a security deposit gives you peace of mind. It also gives you the means to take care of any issues that may arise when a tenant rents your property. It’s a good way to make sure that nothing bad happens to the apartment.

While it may be tempting to charge a large amount to keep your investment safe, there is a California security deposit law that prevents you from doing that.

California Security Deposit Law

You have the right to charge a renter a security deposit in California.

However, it must fall within certain parameters.

If the unit is unfurnished, you can only charge a maximum of two months’ rent. If there’s some furniture in the apartment, you can charge up to three months’ rent.

For commercial property, there is no limit on the amount you can charge.

You can’t make the fee non-refundable.

However, you don’t have to keep the fee in a separate account.

Instead, you should store the money – there are no specific rules about how to do that. So don’t have to pay the tenant interest collected from the fee.

One can’t use the security deposit as the last month’s rent unless specifically designated.

As the landlord, you may make an agreement with the tenant that they can use the amount in this manner, but you don’t have to.

If it has been specified that there are funds used for the security deposit and last month’s rent, you have to use the money according to those definitions.

Various Equipment

In California, you don’t have to give tenants written notice after you receive the security deposit. There are several reasons you may keep all or part of the fee, and these include the following:

  1. The tenant has defaulted on rent payments
  2. There is damage to the apartment that goes beyond normal wear and tear
  3. To cover cleaning costs to get the unit to a habitable condition and to what it looked like before this tenant moved in
  4. To cover any future payments that may occur if the tenant violated the lease
  5. Other breaches of the lease that may have occurred

Walk-through Inspections

As a landlord, you can walk through the residence with the tenant to point out any issues that will need to be covered using the fee.

If the tenant opts to get these fixed before the final inspection, they have that right.

So before doing a walk-through inspection, there are some conditions you’ll have to meet.

For example, you must notify the tenant within a reasonable amount of time of your intent to inspect the property. This must occur before the tenant moves out so they have the opportunity to make corrections if they so choose.

Listings Checked

You are required to give the tenant 48-hours notice, in writing, before the inspection. You must also supply the date and time for the inspection.

If both you and the tenant agree, in writing, that notice is not necessary, then you can forgo this step.

The tenants in California don’t have to agree to a walk-through inspection.

However, if they do, it should take place no sooner than two weeks before the tenancy ends.

After the inspection, you must provide the tenant with a list of all repairs that need correction before the final inspection. 

Returning the Security Deposit

After the tenant moves out, you have 21 days to return their fee.

If you don’t return the deposit in this amount of time, the tenant has the ability to take you to small claims court. The returned amount could be less than the amount needed to cover repairs or defaulted rent payments.

In addition to the funds, you must also supply, in writing, the original amount of money received. You must also itemize any deductions that occurred.

If the work is over for repairs to the property, you must provide the tenant with copies of the actual charges that were incurred. You must provide a good faith estimate of how much it will cost if repairs are still in process.

The statement must also show how much of the fee is being returned.

While you have the ability to charge a fee to protect your property, it must abide by California security deposit law.

If you don’t, you open yourself up to lawsuits.

How to end a 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.

In the case, 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.

 

Overall, Here’s What You Should Know About 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.

Also, if repairs are less serious, you have 48 hours to get them fixed.

Furnished room

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 differences 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.

 

30-Day Notice: Landlords’ Legal Rights With Tenants

In general, landlords’ legal duties are directly interrelated with California tenants’ rights.

Sometimes, the situation with a tenant isn’t working out like you may have hoped. Maybe they are constantly late on the rent, noisy, or destructive.

No matter what the issue, if you want them out, you must follow a few steps.

For example, providing a 30-day notice to a tenant in California.

Having a month-to-month lease can be beneficial for both you and the tenant.

If they are unsure how long they will be staying in the property, consider putting a month-to-month agreement in place. They may not be willing to commit to an entire year. This can also be beneficial should the need arise to evict them.

If a tenant wants to get out of a month-to-month lease, they have to give a 30-day notice to a landlord in California.

On the flip side, if a landlord wants the tenant out, they must give the tenant a 30-day notice. Landlords need to give a 60-day notice if the tenant has lived in the home for over a year.

 

Forgoing the 30-day notice

There are ways to get around having to give a 30-day notice to a landlord in California. These suggestions are beneficial for both parties and aren’t against the law. This includes terminating the lease by mutual consent.

Both the tenant and landlord can agree to terminate the lease without the renter staying for another month.

Put the termination agreement into writing if this situation arises. This can include the date of termination, the date the tenant needs to be out of the residence, and any other information that is important. This other information might include whether the tenant forfeits the security deposit or the landlord agrees not to sue the tenant for rent owed.

All in all, both parties should then sign the document. This will ensure that there is no misunderstanding in the termination or problems down the road.

Other circumstances that wouldn’t require a 30-day notice to a landlord in California include if a tenant breaches the lease. There are two types of breaches that can occur: curable and incurable.

In both cases, the landlord will serve the tenant with a three-day notice that says they will be terminating the lease.

Contract torn

If the breach was curable, the tenant has three days to rectify the situation.

Overall, examples of curable breaches include the renter having an unapproved pet on the property or not paying the rent. The lease remains in effect if there’s a need for action to fix the digression.

If not, the landlord can terminate the lease. The landlord must file a lawsuit to evict the tenant if the lease gets terminated and the tenant doesn’t voluntarily leave the premises.

When it comes to a breach that is incurable, including the tenant committing a crime that puts other tenants at risk (such as dealing drugs, stalking, or other unlawful activities), the landlord has to give a three-day notice that they are terminating the lease.

After three days, the tenant must leave the premises.

If they don’t, again, the landlord will have to file a lawsuit to evict the renter.

In the case, if a landlord violates the lease agreement, the tenant can leave at any time without giving notice. These violations generally fall under the regulations of needing a dwelling that is uninhabitable.

In California, that means there is no water or electricity or the residence is exposed to the outside elements.

It is the responsibility of the tenant to notify the landlord of such issues either orally or in writing. The landlord must fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time.

If they don’t, then the tenant can move out without notifying the landlord.

 

Notices based on state law

These notices are based on California law. They ensure that both landlords and tenants have their rights recognized when it comes to renting property to live.

In some cities, including San Francisco, there are other notice requirements that have been put into place that both tenants and landlords have to abide by. These often apply to people who receive state or federal housing assistance, including Section 8 vouchers for housing.

Low-income families needing financial assistance are awarded Section 8 vouchers. They must also go through an application process to find out if they meet the requirements.

Man with an open law book in front of him

In general, California tenants’ rights include quite an easy process for leaving a property.

For instance, they can leave a property at any time, regardless of their lease term.

However, doing so without proper notification can make them liable to pay the rent until their lease period is up. This may not be an issue if the landlord can find another renter in a short amount of time.

However, it could get expensive if the tenant has to pay for two places to live.

 

Know your rights and responsibilities

Being a tenant in California today is not an easy thing!

Knowing your rights and responsibilities will help you stay 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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