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Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in California

California landlords are legally required to offer and maintain habitable rentals. Tenants may withhold rent, move out without notice, sue the landlord, call state or local health inspectors, or exercise the right to “repair and deduct” (amounts from rent) if a landlord fails to take care of important repairs, such as a broken heater. While this sounds fairly straightforward, issues that arise between landlords and tenants can be fairly complicated. Who is in the right and who is not often becomes a matter for the courts to determine.

The Basics of California Landlord-Tenant Laws*

  • Rent Control caps rent increases statewide for qualifying units at 5% plus inflation, or 10% of the lowest gross rental rate can be charged at any time during the 12 months before the increase.
  • Application Fees are justified by reasonable out-of-pocket costs for tenant credit checks.
  • A criminal history can be researched on a consistent, non-biased basis.
  • Security deposits are allowed up to 2 months’ rent for unfurnished units and 3 months’ rent for furnished units.
  • Interest on security deposits is required in some places but not all.
  • Cleaning fees and pet fees are considered part of the security deposit, and the total of any fees—whether they are called pet fees, cleaning fees, or security deposits—must be no more than the applicable security deposit maximum. These fees are refundable under the same rules that apply to security deposits in general.
  • California landlords have 21 calendar days after the tenant has vacated the premises to provide the tenant with an itemized statement indicating the amount of and use of the security deposit and to return any remaining portion of the security deposit.
  • Individuals can sue in small claims court up to $10,000; a plaintiff (the party who is suing) cannot file a claim over $2,500 more than twice a year.
  • Landlords are not required to give a late rental payment grace period. The state regulates late and bounced check fees, requires timely notification of rent increases, and a three-day notice before the start of eviction proceedings.
  • Late rent fees and demands for cash rental payment are allowed with proper notification.
  • Tenants may withhold rent if a landlord does not make required reasonable repairs. A tenant can make repairs and deduct their cost from the rent.
  • Eviction can occur for lease violations and failure to pay rent. A landlord may choose a three-day unconditional quit notice should the tenant illegally sublet the unit, commit a waste or nuisance violation, or engage in illegal activity.
  • Landlords can enter the property if there is an emergency and if the tenant has vacated the apartment without notice. Entries into the apartment must be preceded by written notice.
  • The law prohibits landlord retaliation for legitimate tenant complaints and must abide by state law regarding abandoned property left behind by vacating tenants.

If you are a landlord or tenant living in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Westwood, and the surrounding greater Los Angeles area and have questions about your rights under the law, call EJP Law, P.C., P.C. now at (213) 784-3640.

All information provided on this page is for educational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Each situation is dependent on the specific facts and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

* Since COVID-19, some of the laws cited have changed.