california landlord-tenant law

California is known for its beautiful landscapes and diverse culture. With over 39 million residents, it’s no surprise that California has a bustling rental market. If you’re a landlord or tenant in California, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities under California landlord-tenant law.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of California landlord-tenant law, including lease agreements, security deposits, rent control, evictions, and more.

Lease Agreements

A lease agreement is a contract between a landlord and tenant that outlines the terms of the rental agreement. In California, a lease agreement can be oral or written. However, if the lease is for longer than one year, it must be in writing.

A lease agreement should include the following information:

  • Names of the landlord and tenant
  • Address of the rental property
  • Amount of rent and due date
  • Security deposit amount and terms
  • Length of the lease
  • Any additional terms or conditions

It’s important to note that California has specific laws regarding lease agreements. For example, landlords cannot include clauses that waive their responsibility for maintaining the property or require tenants to pay for repairs that are the landlord’s responsibility.

Security Deposits

A security deposit is an amount of money that a tenant pays to a landlord to cover any damages to the rental property beyond normal wear and tear. In California, landlords are limited in the amount they can charge for a security deposit. The maximum amount for an unfurnished rental unit is two months’ rent, while the maximum amount for a furnished unit is three months’ rent.

Landlords must return the security deposit within 21 days of the tenant moving out, minus any deductions for damages or unpaid rent. If a landlord fails to return the security deposit, the tenant can sue for up to three times the amount of the deposit, plus attorney’s fees.

Rent Control

Rent control is a set of laws that limit the amount a landlord can charge for rent. In California, rent control is determined at the local level. Some cities and counties have rent control ordinances, while others do not.

If a city or county has a rent control ordinance, it usually applies to multi-unit buildings built before a certain date. Rent increases are usually limited to a certain percentage each year. Landlords must provide notice of any rent increases, usually 30 to 60 days in advance.


Evictions are the process of legally removing a tenant from a rental property. In California, landlords can only evict tenants for certain reasons, such as nonpayment of rent, violating the terms of the lease, or engaging in illegal activities on the property.

Before a landlord can file for eviction, they must provide the tenant with notice. The type of notice depends on the reason for the eviction. For example, if a tenant has not paid rent, the landlord must provide a three-day notice to pay or quit. If the tenant does not pay or vacate the property within three days, the landlord can file for eviction.

Tenants have the right to contest an eviction in court. If a tenant wins in court, they can stay in the rental property. If a tenant loses in court, they must vacate the property within a certain amount of time.


Discrimination is illegal in California. Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants based on their race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, or disability.

Landlords cannot refuse to rent to a tenant based on any of these factors. They also cannot charge a higher rent or security deposit or provide different services based on these factors.

If a tenant believes they have been discriminated against, they can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Maintenance and Repairs

Landlords are responsible for maintaining the rental property in a habitable condition. This means that the property must have adequate heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, and it must be free from pests and hazardous conditions.

Tenants have the right to request repairs from their landlord. Landlords must respond to repair requests in a reasonable amount of time. If a landlord fails to make necessary repairs, tenants can file a complaint with the local housing authority or sue the landlord for damages.

Termination of Tenancy

Tenants have the right to terminate their tenancy by providing notice to their landlord. The amount of notice required depends on the length of the tenancy and the terms of the lease agreement.

If a tenant terminates their tenancy before the end of the lease term, they may be responsible for paying rent until the end of the lease or until the landlord finds a new tenant.

Landlords also have the right to terminate a tenancy for certain reasons, such as nonpayment of rent or violation of the lease agreement. However, landlords must follow the legal eviction process before removing a tenant from the property.

In Summary

California landlord-tenant law is complex and can be difficult to navigate. Both landlords and tenants should familiarize themselves with the laws that govern their rights and responsibilities.

Lease agreements, security deposits, rent control, evictions, discrimination, maintenance and repairs, and termination of tenancy are all important aspects of California landlord-tenant law that should be understood and followed.

If you have questions about California landlord-tenant law, it’s always best to consult with a qualified attorney or housing counselor who can provide guidance and advice based on your specific situation.

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