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Your Rights as a Tenant in California

Everyone deserves a home; in California, nearly half of all households rent their home. Luckily, California also has some of the strongest tenant protections in the country. However, these protections don’t have much meaning if renters don’t know about them, so we’ll cover some of California’s most important tenant rights.

Right to Non-Discrimination

Both federal and state law prohibits landlords from refusing to rent a property to someone (or renting it to them on unequal terms) for discriminatory reasons. These laws protect specific classes (personal characteristics), including:

  • Race or color
  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Disability, mental or physical
  • Sex or gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or gender expression
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Familial status
  • Source of income (including housing vouchers)
  • Military or veteran status
  • Immigration Status
  • Primary language

Right to Habitable Premises

Landlords must provide a safe and habitable rental unit to tenants. This means keeping the property in good condition and including certain basic amenities. The tenant may break the lease and move out or withhold rent if the property is uninhabitable. 

Requirements that make a property habitable include:

  • Hot and cold running water
  • An electrical system, including lighting, that is in good working order
  • A functioning deadbolt on the main entry door and locking devices on the windows
  • A working toilet and bathtub or shower
  • Natural lighting from windows or skylights in every room
  • Clean and sanitary property grounds
  • Smoke detectors
  • Free from structural defects
  • And more

If a condition makes the property uninhabitable, the tenant should bring it to the landlord’s attention and allow them a reasonable amount of time to fix it. Tenants also have their responsibilities, such as keeping the property clean and sanitary; if the tenant created the problem, the landlord may not be responsible for repairing it.

Refundable Deposits

Almost all landlords require renters to pay a security deposit before moving in. The total amount of the deposit required may not be more than the cost of two months’ rent for unfurnished properties or three months’ rent for furnished properties. Landlords may not require a non-refundable pet deposit or any other non-refundable deposit. When the tenant moves out, the landlord may deduct unpaid rent or the reasonable repair cost for damage beyond normal wear and tear. They may also deduct cleaning costs if the property is less clean than when the tenant moved in.

Right to Privacy

Except in an emergency, a landlord may not enter the premises without first giving the tenant written notice at least 24 hours in advance.

Rent Control

Statewide rules about how much landlords can raise the rent annually in California. For most multifamily properties at least 15 years old, the rent may only be raised once per year and by no more than 5% plus the cost of inflation (for a maximum 10% total increase).

Eviction Protections

In most cases, a landlord needs a cause to evict a tenant. The most common cause is failure to pay rent, but it can also be due to a violation of the lease’s material terms (e.g., having a pet when pets are prohibited). The landlord must serve a 3-day notice on the tenant to cure the violation or quit (leave) the premises. The landlord may file formal eviction proceedings if the tenant does not cure the violation.

If the landlord wants to terminate a month-to-month tenancy, they must give you at least 60 days’ notice if you have been there one year or more, or 30 days’ notice if you have been there less than a year. Tenancies involving rental assistance require 90 days’ notice.

Protect Your California Tenant’s Rights

California laws protect renters’ housing rights, but it can feel empty if you don’t fully understand those rights or know how to enforce them. Our attorneys have years of experience in this area and can help you protect your rights through various means, from negotiating with landlords to representing you in court. Schedule a consultation meeting today to learn how we can help you.

Written By

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