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State Laws

California Landlord Tenant Laws

January 17, 2023

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Quick Facts 

Required Disclosures

Lead-based paint 
Landlord/agent ID 
Bedbugs  
Pest control 
Demolition 
Flooding 
Mold 
Methamphetamine contamination 
Shared utilities 
Smoking policy 
Just Cause and Rent Limit 
Ordinance locations  
Deaths on the property  
Pest control 
Sex offenders 

Rent and Fees 

Application Fee Limit: $30, adjusted for inflation
Rent Control: Yes
Late Fee Limit: reasonable
Grace Period Minimum: None

Security Deposits 

Amount Limit: 2- or 3-months’ rent
Interest: N/A
Return Within: 21 days
Fair Housing Protections 

Race
Color
National origin
Religion
Sex
Familial status
Disability
Sexual orientation
Gender identity
Ancestry
Marital status
Source of income
Genetic information
Pregnancy

Entry 

Notice: 24 hours
Permitted Times of Entry: N/A

Evictions 

Rent Demand Notice: 3-day pay-or-quit notice

Other Laws 

Pet deposits and nonrefundable fees are not permitted

California Landlord-Tenant Law

Understand the essential California state landlord tenant laws before enforcing your own rental policies. Find more information in the California state law code.  

Required Disclosures 

Lead-based paint 

(Title X, Section 1018

Landlords in all 50 states must include information about lead-based paint hazards in the rental agreements for most properties built before 1978. Sellers and landlords must distribute an EPA-approved information pamphlet called “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home” and disclose any known lead hazards in the property. These obligations were established by Section 1018 of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. 

Landlord/Agent Identity 

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1962(4)

Landlords must disclose the name, phone number, and street address of all people who are authorized to manage the premises on behalf of the owner, including those who perform services and collect rent. 

Bedbugs 

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1954.603

Landlords must give prospective tenants information about bed bugs, their behavior and biology, and the importance of tenant cooperation for preventing infestations. The disclosure must also urge tenants to submit written reports of suspected infestations as quickly as possible.  

Pest Control 

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1940.8

Landlords who have previously hired a pest control service must provide tenants with a copy of a notice from the company. The notice must describe the pest to be controlled, the pesticide(s) used and their active ingredients, the frequency of the treatment, and a disclosure about the adverse effects of toxic chemicals in pesticides. 

Demolition 

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1940.6

Landlords must disclose in writing their intent to demolish a rental unit. 

Flooding 

(Cal. Gov’t. Code § 8589.45

In leases signed after July 1, 2018, landlords must disclose that a property is in a flood hazard area or an area of potential flooding. The latter may be established by a receipt from a public agency, the landlord’s obtainment of flood insurance, or the landlord’s mortgage holder’s requirement to hold flood insurance. Landlords must also provide certain emergency resources and advise tenants to purchase renter’s insurance, as landlord insurance will not cover tenants’ lost property.  

Mold 

(Cal. HSC § 26147

If the landlord is aware of mold growth that exceeds exposure limits or otherwise poses a health threat according to the department’s guidelines, they must provide tenants with a written disclosure describing it. The disclosure must be provided prior to signing the lease and to current tenants “as soon as is reasonably practical.” 

Methamphetamine Contamination 

(Cal. HSC § 25400.28

If a property has been contaminated by methamphetamine laboratory activities, the landlord must provide a written notice of a remediation order to prospective tenants. The notice should be attached to the rental agreement and acknowledged by the tenant before signing a lease. 

Shared Utilities 

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1940.9

Landlords are obligated to disclose whether gas, electric, or other utilities are shared between units. Landlords must also describe how costs will be fairly allocated if shared between tenants. 

Smoking Policy  

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1947.5

Landlords must disclose the smoking policy in leases signed after January 1, 2012, and state where smoking is allowed, limited, or prohibited. 

Just Cause and Rent Limit  

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1946.2

Landlords of most types of housing must include information about the Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482) in every rental agreement. According to this law, landlords must have “just cause” to evict a tenant. The law also caps annual rent increases at 5% plus the local CPI (inflation rate) or 10% – whichever is lower.  

Ordnance Locations  

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1940.7

Landlords must disclose the locations of former federal or state ordnances (areas used for military training) within a mile of the property. 

Deaths on the property 

(Cal. Civ. Code § 1710.2

Landlords are required to disclose any deaths that have occurred on the property within the past three years. Landlords are not obligated to disclose that a past occupant died from HIV or AIDS. 

Megan’s Law/Sex Offenders  

(Cal. Civ. Code § 2079.10a

Landlords must provide information (a pre-written clause) about the national sex offender registry made available by the Department of Justice.  

Rent and Fees 

  • Rent Due Date: Rent is due at the end of the month, unless the lease says otherwise (Cal. Civ. Code § 1947). 
  • Electronic Payments: California landlords must allow tenants to pay rent and security deposits by at least one method that is neither cash nor electronic funds transfer. There is one exception: if a tenant’s check has bounced in the past, the landlord may require the tenant to pay in cash as the exclusive form allowed for up to three months (Cal. Civ. Code § 1947.3). 
  • Application Fees: Nonrefundable application fees less than $30 (adjusted annually for inflation) are permitted (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.6). The current maximum since March 2022 is $52.46 per applicant. 
  • Rent Increases: California recently instated state-wide rent control. In any given 12-month period, landlords must not increase rent more than 5% plus the percentage change in the cost of living, or more than 10%, whichever is lower (AB 1482). Landlords must also give 30 days’ notice to increase rent by more than 10% of the lowest rent expense during the past year. If the increase is more than 10%, the landlord must give 60 days’ notice (Cal. Civ. Code § 827(b)(2-3)). 
  • Late Fees: Late fees are a subject of confusion in California, even among lawyers. Most agree that late fees are only permitted if the landlord includes them in the lease agreement. They must also be “reasonable” (typically 5-10%), representative of the actual damages suffered by the landlord, and compliant with local rent control laws (Cal. Civ. Code § 1671).  
  • Grace Period: There is no required grace period in California. 
  • NSF/Bounced Check Fee Maximum: Landlords can charge up to $25 for the first bounced check and $35 for each additional one (Cal. Civ. Code § 1719).  
  • Withholding Rent: Tenants may withhold rent if a landlord doesn’t maintain standards of habitability (Green vs. Superior Court, 1974). 
  • Repair and Deduct Remedy: Tenants can make repairs and deduct the cost from rent when a landlord does not. However, the cost of the repair must be less than one month’s rent, and the tenant cannot use this remedy more than twice in the past 12 months (Cal. Civ. Code § 1942). 

Security Deposits 

  • Deposit Limit: 2 months’ rent for unfurnished units; 3 months’ for furnished units. This includes all cleaning and pet fees (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.5, 1940.5g). 
  • Interest: There is no state statute requiring landlords to pay interest on security deposits. However, 15 localities have rent control laws requiring interest payments. 
  • Return Within: 21 days (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.5g). 
  • Deposit Location: California landlords are not required to keep security deposits in a separate bank account. 
  • Withholding: Landlords can withhold amounts from the security deposit that are necessary, reasonable, and not part of ordinary wear and tear. Landlords must also provide an itemized list of damages and charges (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.6). 

Tenant Screening and Fair Housing Protections 

Protected Classes 

Credit Reports 

  • California landlords are subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (15 USC § 1681), which outlines the responsibilities of landlords to protect tenant credit information. According to the Act, landlords may not share tenant credit information with anyone without a legal reason to view it. Landlords must also investigate disputed information, dispose of credit reports after use in tenant screening, and notify applicants when their credit score or history was the reason for their denial. 

Criminal Histories 

  • Criminal history is not currently a protected class under California state law. It is generally legal for housing providers to run criminal background checks; however, some counties and cities in California prohibit landlords from seeking or asking about applicants’ criminal histories. 
  • Criminal checks must be run in a consistent, equal manner and must not have a discriminatory effect, regardless of whether that effect was intentional. Likewise, landlords can only reject applicants for convictions that are “directly related” to their ability to pay rent or be a reliable tenant (Cal. Code Regs. Tit. 2, § 12264-12271
  • California landlords should also follow HUD recommendations for using criminal background checks fairly. This includes avoiding blanket policies for denying applicants with criminal convictions, assessing applicants and their criminal histories on a case-by-case basis, and only denying an applicant when they demonstrate a risk to the safety of other residents or the property. 
  • If passed by the state’s senate, California Assembly Bill 2383 (2022) would make it discriminatory to inquire about criminal history or require an applicant to disclose their criminal record during the initial rental application phase.  

Entry 

  • Advanced Notice: 24 hours (Cal. Civ. Code § 1954a). 
  • Permitted Times: California law does not designate any time-of-day restrictions for entering. 
  • Emergency Entry: In case of emergency, entry is permitted without prior notice (Cal. Civ. Code § 1954b). 

Evictions 

  • Rent Demand Notice: When rent is late, landlords must give tenants a 3-day notice to either pay or move out (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays). If the tenant does not pay rent within the three days, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in accordance with eviction law in California (Cal. CCP § 1161(2)). 

Other Laws and Facts About California 

  • Pet fees and other nonrefundable fees are not permitted in California (Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.5m). 
  • The average rent price in California in 2022 is one of the highest in the nation, at $2,032 per month. 
  • The median rent rate in Los Angeles is $3,183 per month. 

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