2024 California Landlord Tenant Law: Key Updates and Rules

Explore the latest updates and essential information on California landlord-tenant laws for 2024, covering everything from rent control to eviction processes. This guide provides landlords the knowledge to navigate rental rights and responsibilities effectively in the Golden State.

By
Rachel Robinson
|
Last Updated
April 9, 2024
2024 California Landlord Tenant Law: Key Updates and Rules

Are you venturing into California's rental market? Knowing the state's stringent rent control laws and robust tenant protections is essential for any property owner aiming for success. Despite its reputation for being challenging, California has opportunities for informed and compliant landlords.

This guide outlines your rights and responsibilities to effectively navigate California's legal landscape. From understanding rent collection to the specifics of eviction processes, we cover the essentials you need to maintain a profitable and lawful rental business.

Stay with us as we present the fast facts, explore the details of California landlord-tenant laws, and look into the rental process in the Golden State. Arm yourself with the knowledge to make the most of California's real estate market. Begin your journey to becoming a proficient landlord in California now!

Is California considered a landlord-friendly state?

California's reputation as not particularly landlord-friendly primarily stems from its stringent rent control laws and robust tenant protections. These regulations aim to safeguard renters but can present challenges for landlords, particularly in eviction processes. 

Understanding and navigating these laws is vital to successful property management. However, landlords can still find opportunities in California's active real estate market with informed strategies and compliance. 

As we transition to the specifics of landlord-tenant laws, these details will illuminate the path for landlords operating in this vibrant state.

California landlord tenant law fast facts

Here's a quick rundown of key points in California's landlord-tenant laws you should know:

* No state business license is required to rent a property, but local city regulations, such as in Sacramento, may demand a rental license. Non-compliance can lead to fines, liens, or legal action. Landlords should verify local requirements, mainly if operating in multiple locations.

A real estate license is usually necessary for property management unless employed by the property owner. 

Understanding landlord rights and responsibilities in California

Next, let's dive into California landlord rights and responsibilities, covering everything from rent collection to property access. These are vital for navigating the legal landscape and maintaining a successful rental business.

California landlord rights

In California, property owners hold authoritative rights that give them the leverage they need to manage their rentals effectively. Some of those fundamental rights include:

  • Collection of rent payments: Landlords maintain the right to collect rent, providing a consistent income from their properties. This includes late fees, which must be reasonable and outlined in the lease agreement.
  • Security deposits: As of 2024, landlords can charge a security deposit of up to one month's rent for any rental unit, ensuring protection against potential damages or unpaid rent. This amount is standardized for furnished and unfurnished units, with certain exceptions for small property owners.
  • Eviction process: Landlords can initiate an eviction process for lease violations or breaches of landlord-tenant laws. New regulations, like Senate Bill 567, dictate more stringent guidelines for no-fault evictions, requiring landlords or their family members to occupy the property for a certain duration post-eviction.
  • Property access: Landlords are permitted to access their properties for emergencies, scheduled repairs, maintenance, and showings, provided proper notice is given to tenants.
  • Rent control: While the California Tenant Protection Act imposes caps on rent increases and provides eviction protections, it also delineates landlords' rights within these boundaries.

Understanding and exercising these rights within the framework of current legislation is key for landlords to manage their properties effectively and legally.

California landlord responsibilities

California landlords are held to specific legal responsibilities when it comes to their property and their tenants. They are as follows:

  • Prompt repairs: Property owners must complete necessary repairs within 30 days or immediately for urgent health or safety issues, like broken heaters or plumbing. Tenants may use remedies like "repair and deduct" or rent withholding for unaddressed urgent repairs but must follow legal protocols. Landlords are presumed retaliatory if evicting after repair complaints, underscoring their duty to maintain habitable conditions as per state and local codes.
  • Privacy consideration: Property owners must give a 24-hour notice for entry, detailing the date, time, and purpose, except in emergencies like fire or flooding. Entry should occur during business hours unless under specific exceptions. Notice delivery can be in person, near the entrance, or via mail six days prior.
  • Security deposit refunds: California landlords must refund security deposits within 21 days post-tenancy and provide valid documentation for any deductions. Non-compliance may result in penalties up to three times the deposit amount. These measures enhance renter protections state-wide.
  • Rent control: Property owners are subject to rent control laws that limit how much they can raise rent. According to state law AB 1482, the maximum annual rent increase is limited to 5% plus the local cost-of-living adjustment.

California renters rights

Renters in California have numerous rights that contribute to their safety and respect while residing in a rental unit. Some of their significant rights include:

  • The right to a safe and habitable living space.
  • The right to privacy and quiet enjoyment.
  • The right to dispute eviction notices.
  • A capped security deposit of one month's rent (Assembly Bill 12).
  • Protection against eviction for contacting law enforcement or suspected criminal activity.
  • Stricter conditions for owner move-in evictions.

California tenant responsibilities

California tenants also shoulder specific responsibilities to ensure a smooth tenancy. Their key responsibilities include:

  • Keeping the rental unit in clean and habitable condition
  • Keeping fixtures clean and sanitary
  • Using the rental unit for living, sleeping, cooking, or dining purposes only
  • Paying rent on time 
  • Respecting neighbors and other renters' privacy and quiet enjoyment

Tenants are also responsible for promptly reporting any necessary repairs to the landlord.

California landlord tenant laws through the rental cycle

Exploring California's landlord-tenant laws offers valuable insights for navigating the rental cycle, encompassing lease agreements and termination. Let’s break it down:

California rental application and tenant screening laws

Rental property owners are authorized to vet prospective tenants through a rental application process, which may include charging a fee to cover expenses related to screening, such as personal reference checks and consumer credit reports. 

As of April 2024, the maximum allowable charge for application fees is $65.37 per applicant, which is annually adjusted in line with the Consumer Price Index. Landlords must adhere to the California Civil Code §1950.6 regulations regarding these fees.

While, as a landlord, you may collect these fees, you must also provide an itemized receipt and are bound by certain refund conditions. If an applicant is not screened or the actual screening costs are less than the fee, a refund for the appropriate amount must be made. 

Additionally, California laws safeguard tenants by prohibiting landlords from requesting certain personal information on applications, aligning with the Federal Fair Housing Act's stipulations against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, or source of income.

Landlords retain the right to perform background and credit checks. However, they must remain mindful of local ordinances that might impose further restrictions, such as Oakland's prohibition on criminal background checks in tenant screening. 

California lease agreement laws

Lease agreements are governed by specific laws that clarify landlords' and tenants' responsibilities and rights. California state law mandates that the agreement be written for any lease exceeding one year. However, oral and written agreements are recognized for leases under a year.

In oral agreements, landlords must provide tenants with a written notice detailing the landlord's or rental manager's name, street address, and phone number.

As a rental property owner, you retain the right to alter the terms of the rental agreement. Still, any changes must be communicated to tenants through a written notice with a minimum duration equal to the interval between rent payments. 

Tenants, in turn, are expected to comply with all terms and conditions specified in the lease agreement. This includes restrictions on pets, subletting, and making alterations to the property, which typically require prior written approval from the landlord.

Upon reaching the lease term's end, the California agreement automatically expires. Tenants planning to renew or terminate their lease must follow the procedures in the agreement. 

California security deposit laws

In California, the laws regarding security deposits for rental properties stipulate that landlords can charge up to two months' rent for unfurnished properties and up to three months' rent for furnished properties as a security deposit. 

However, starting from July 1, 2024, new legislation under California's AB 12 will limit security deposits to one month's rent for furnished and unfurnished units. However, small landlords can charge up to two months' rent.

Other important aspects of California's security deposit laws include:

  • Landlords are not obligated to provide receipts for security deposits, pay interest on them, or keep them in separate bank accounts.
  • Upon termination of the lease, landlords must return the security deposit within 21 days, along with an itemized statement of deductions for any damages beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent, or necessary cleaning to restore the property to its original state.
  • Landlords are prohibited from unjustly withholding security deposits and must adhere to the allowable deductions. Failure to comply can lead to penalties, ensuring tenants are protected against unfair practices.

The updates to California's security deposit laws aim to balance tenant affordability and protection with landlords' rights to cover potential losses from damages, unpaid rent, or necessary cleaning. Compliance with these laws is crucial for maintaining fair and lawful rental practices.

California rent control laws

California's approach to local rent control laws is among the most stringent in the United States, impacting landlords and tenants state-wide. The core legislation, AB 1482, or the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, sets the legal framework for rental increases and tenant rights.

  • Annual rent increase cap: Effective from January 1, 2020, and scheduled to expire on January 1, 2030, AB 1482 limits annual rent increases to the lesser of 5% plus the local Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 10% of the lowest rent charged in the last 12 months, whichever is lower.  Rent can also be increased twice in a 12 month period.
  • Rent payment and cash policies: Typically, the lease agreement will specify when rent is due, often at the beginning of the month. California landlords are prohibited from mandating cash-only rent payments unless specific conditions are met, and they must provide written receipts for cash transactions.
  • Late fees and grace periods: The state does not mandate a grace period for late rent payments. Late fees are permitted but must be reasonable and outlined in the lease agreement. They should reflect the costs incurred by the landlord due to the late payment.
  • Bounced check penalties: California allows landlords to charge $25 for the first dishonored check and $35 for subsequent bounced checks, as specified in the California Civil Code 1719.
  • Withholding rent for repairs: Tenants may withhold rent or conduct "repair and deduct" actions if the landlord fails to make necessary repairs affecting the unit's habitability. This should be approached cautiously and ideally with legal consultation, involving specific legal processes and potential ramifications.

As the state continues to balance the needs of landlords and tenants, these regulations serve as a framework for fair rental practices. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, landlords, tenants, and real estate professionals are encouraged to consult legal experts and official resources, as local laws and ordinances may enhance these state-wide regulations.

California repair and maintenance laws

Maintaining habitable living conditions is a shared responsibility between landlords and tenants, governed by stringent laws and established legal precedents.

  • Landlord responsibilities: Implied warranty of habitability: Stemming from the pivotal case Green v. Superior Court, California landlords must ensure rental properties are in good repair and meet basic structural, health, and safety standards. This obligation includes maintaining essential services such as plumbing, heating, and electrical systems.
  • Tenant duties: Tenants are responsible for keeping the rental unit clean and sanitary. They are expected to undertake minor repairs and maintenance, such as replacing light bulbs and keeping the premises tidy. Tenants should promptly report more significant issues to the landlord.
  • Repair timeline: Upon notification of a necessary repair, landlords generally have a reasonable time, up to 21 days, to address the issue. The timeframe can vary depending on the severity of the problem and the impact on habitability.
  • Repair and deduct remedy: If a landlord fails to make necessary repairs, tenants might employ the "repair and deduct" remedy, allowing them to undertake repairs and deduct the cost from subsequent rent. This remedy is limited to the value of one month's rent and can be used up to twice in any 12 months. It's crucial that the issues qualify under the implied warranty of habitability and that tenants provide documentation and notice to the landlord.
  • Abandonment remedy: As of April 1, 2024, new tenant protections include the right to abandon a rental unit that's in substandard condition, posing severe health and safety hazards. Proper abandonment relieves tenants from future rent obligations. This remedy underscores the seriousness of maintaining habitable conditions and provides a recourse for tenants when those conditions are not met.

For all remedies, clear communication and written documentation of landlord tenant disputes are essential. Tenants should provide detailed notice and evidence of issues, while landlords should document all repairs and communications.

These laws are designed to balance the rights and responsibilities of both parties, ensuring safe and habitable living environments.

California notice of entry laws

Rental owners in California have the right to enter the rental unit for specific reasons, such as conducting repairs, inspections, or showing the property to prospective tenants, provided they give proper 24-hour notice to the tenant. Only in cases of an emergency can rental owners enter the property without a notice.

It’s important to note that landlords cannot excessively intrude upon a tenant's privacy or engage in disruptive behavior that interferes with the tenant's quiet enjoyment. This would be considered landlord harassment.

California Eviction Laws

Evictions in California are regulated to protect tenants while allowing landlords to reclaim their property under certain conditions. Here are the primary reasons for eviction and the associated processes:

  • Failure to pay rent: Landlords can issue a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit if tenants fail to pay rent by the due date. If the rent remains unpaid, landlords may proceed with eviction.
  • Lease violations: For lease infractions, landlords may provide a 3-day notice to cure the violation or vacate. Failure to remedy the issue can lead to an eviction lawsuit.
  • Illegal activity: Landlords can issue a 3-day unconditional notice to quit in response to illegal activities on the property. If tenants do not vacate, formal eviction proceedings can commence.
  • End of lease term: At the lease's conclusion, landlords can evict tenants who refuse to leave. A 30-day notice is required for month-to-month leases, while tenants residing in the unit for more than a year require a 60-day notice.

Self-help evictions, including forcibly removing tenants or their belongings, are illegal in California.

2024 legal updates:

  • Just cause evictions (Effective April 1, 2024): Evictions are more challenging under the no-fault just cause policy. This policy mandates certain conditions, such as a family member moving into the property within 90 days and residing for at least 12 months.
  • Grace period for eviction: After the Writ of Execution (the final step in the eviction process) is served, tenants have a 5-day grace period to vacate the property.
  • Lease termination notices: Required notices for eviction, such as the 3-day notice for unpaid rent or 30/60-day notices for ending a lease, remain intact.

These changes reflect California's ongoing efforts to balance tenant protections with landlords' rights. The new regulations aim to make housing more secure and accessible while ensuring landlords can manage their properties effectively.

Additional California landlord tenant laws

California's landlord-tenant regulations extend beyond general issues like repairs and security deposits, addressing specific areas such as renter discrimination and landlord retaliation. Understanding these laws ensures both parties know their rights and responsibilities, fostering a fair and equitable rental environment.

Renter discrimination laws

Landlords in California must comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act and additional state laws prohibiting discrimination against tenants based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.

This commitment to equality ensures all prospective and current tenants receive fair treatment and opportunities in housing without bias.

Retaliation

Retaliatory actions by landlords are illegal in California. This means landlords cannot increase rent, decrease services, or attempt eviction in response to tenants exercising their legal rights, such as reporting housing code violations or participating in tenant organizations. 

If such retaliation occurs within 180 days of a tenant's action, courts generally presume the landlord's actions are retaliatory. Affected tenants may be entitled to up to $2,000 in additional damages per act, with potential tripling if the tenant is known to be elderly or disabled.

Required landlord disclosures

Landlords must provide several disclosures to tenants in their rental units, ensuring awareness and safety regarding potential health or legal issues:

  • Lead-based paint: Disclosure is required for properties built before 1978, informing tenants of any known lead paint hazards.
  • Bed bugs: Landlords must give written information about bed bugs, adhering to specific language requirements.
  • Mold: Any known mold in the rental unit must be disclosed to tenants.
  • Common utility use and payment: Tenants should understand how utilities are calculated and allocated.
  • Asbestos, meth, and fentanyl: Disclosures are required for buildings with known asbestos (pre-1979) or any property with known drug contamination.
  • Sex offender registry: Tenants have the right to access the registry, and landlords must inform them of this right.
  • Demolition, military ordinance, and death: Disclosures are needed for properties facing demolition, located near explosive ordinance, or with non-HIV/AIDS-related deaths within the past three years.
  • Pest control and flood zone: Tenants should be informed about pesticide use in their unit and if the property is in a known flood zone.
  • Smoking policy: Landlords should disclose any imposed smoking policies.

For detailed information and guidance on landlord-tenant laws, consulting resources like "California Tenants – A Guide to Residential Tenants' and Landlords' Rights and Responsibilities," the California Civil Code, the California Department of Consumer Affairs, and the California State Bar are highly recommended. 

These authoritative sources provide a comprehensive overview of the various aspects of landlord-tenant relations, ensuring that both parties navigate their agreements lawfully and conscientiously.

A mutual understanding of California’s landlord-tenant laws

Understanding the intricacies of landlord-tenant laws in California is crucial for maintaining a healthy landlord-tenant relationship. While these laws are comprehensive, they are designed to protect rental property owners' and tenants' rights and responsibilities.

By knowing and following these rules, California landlords can protect their investments, maintain strong relationships with their renters, and efficiently manage their properties. Simultaneously, tenants are empowered to assert their rights, ensuring their healthy and respectful living environment.

Landlords and renters in the Golden State should continue their due diligence and stay on top of ever-changing housing laws and regulations as the California rental landscape remains dynamic and subject to updates that may impact their rights and responsibilities.

Still have questions?

‍Contact one of Azibo's association partners for expert advice on California rental property laws.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this guide is based on the California landlord-tenant laws as of 2024 and is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice. For specific legal questions or concerns, please consult a qualified attorney.

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson has 6 years of experience in writing, editing, and SEO, specializing in rental property and real estate. She excels in market trends and landlord-tenant dynamics, producing content that drives traffic and informs. Outside of work, she enjoys climbing Colorado's granite boulders.

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