As a landlord in California, one of the most important parts of your job is ensuring you are compliant with the law.
There are many laws that impact real estate and property management. In fact, the federal and state governments both regulate the relationship between a landlord and a tenant. Regardless of what your lease agreement says, you must follow state landlord tenant laws.
California’s landlord-tenant laws are extensive, which makes it even more important that you familiarize yourself with these laws.
For example, if you rent properties in California, you must know which disclosures you’re required to include in your lease, how much you can charge for a security deposit, and how much notice you must give tenant before entering for an inspection.
Here are the primary landlord-tenant laws every landlord in California should know.
A required disclosure is something a landlord is required to tell tenants in the lease agreement. These tend to be health and safety-related disclosures such as whether the property has recently flooded or been treated for bedbugs. Other disclosures include the specific policies of the landlord.
The only federally mandated disclosure is lead-based paint: landlords are required to include information about lead-based paint hazards in every lease and include a corresponding pamphlet from the government.
In California, landlords are required to make at least 14 other disclosures. These include:
- The identity of the landlord or agent
- Any bedbug infestations
- Any pest control services and pesticides used on the premises
- Whether the landlord intends to demolish a unit
- If the property is in a flood hazard area
- Any known mold growth
- Any prior methamphetamine contamination
- Whether utility costs are shared between units
- The landlord’s smoking policy
- Information about the Just Cause and Rent Limit in the Tenant Protection Act of California
- The locations of state ordnances (areas used for military training)
- Any deaths on the property
- Information about the national sex offender registry
Rent and Security Deposits
Rent and Fees
Some of the most important laws for landlords in California relate to rent and security deposits.
Notably, California is one of the few states with a state-wide rent control policy. Landlords in California must give at least 30 days’ notice to increase rent more than 10% of the lowest rate during the past year. If the increase is more than 10%, 60 days’ notice is required (Cal. Civ. Code § 827(b)(2-3)).
In addition to following these rent control regulations, landlords cannot charge any more than $30 for an application fee. Given that the average rent price in California is $2,032, this limit is higher than most other states.
Additionally, late fees in California must be reasonable.
The key security deposit laws in California include:
- Amount limit: Landlords can charge up to 2 months’ rent for unfurnished units, and 3 months’ rent for furnished units (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1950.5 and 1940.5g).
- Interest: California law doesn’t require landlords to pay interest on security deposits, but 15 localities do.
- Return Period: Security deposits must be returned within 21 days after move-out.
- Withholding: Landlords can withhold funds from the security deposit that are necessary, reasonable, and not part of ordinary wear and tear, so long as they provide an itemized list of damages (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.6).
Fair Housing Protections
Fair housing laws in California are more extensive than in many other states. In addition to the fair housing protections provided by the federal government (race, color, sex, national origin, religion, familial status, and disability), California also prohibits discrimination based on:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Marital status
- Source of income
- Genetic information
What do these protections mean? It is illegal to discriminate against renters because of their membership in any of the above classes. These protections apply not only during tenant screening, but also for rent increases, evictions, rental advertisements, and showings.
Landlords in California must give at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property (such as for an inspection, showing, or maintenance request (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1954a).
If there is an emergency, this requirement doesn’t apply. For instance, if you believe there is an urgent danger to one of your tenants’ units (such as a fire, burst pipe, or other time-sensitive matter), you may enter without advance notice or consent.
Evictions are in general a complex process, so we won’t get into all the details of the California eviction process here. However, according to eviction law in California, landlords must send a 3-day rent demand notice to defaulting tenants before filing for eviction (Cal. CCP § 1161(2)). If the tenant pays their overdue rent within those three days, the eviction notice is cancelled.
It may seem like dull work to read through your state’s law code, but as a landlord, it’s unfortunately necessary. There’s no better way to protect your business from legal issues than to follow these California laws closely and carefully.