In California, a rental agreement is established after a landlord and a tenant have reached either an oral or written agreement. And at that point, both parties acquire certain rights and responsibilities as spelled out under California law. 

As a landlord, it’s imperative that you understand the obligations you have to your tenant. This can help make your experience as a landlord more enjoyable. The following is a basic overview of the California landlord-tenant laws:

Required Landlord Disclosures 

By law, California landlords are required to make certain information known to their tenants. And you must do so before a rental agreement is established between you and your tenant. These are the mandatory disclosures that you must provide your California tenant: 

  • If the property was built before 1978, you must provide your tenant with information regarding any known use of lead-based paint 
  • Information regarding any documented mold in the unit 
  • How you intend to apply utility fees and detail how you’re going to divide them up 
  • If your property was built before 1979, you must provide your tenant with disclosure regarding asbestos 
  • If you have a policy prohibiting smoking, you must disclose that information to your tenant 
  • If your rental property is located in a known flood zone, you must disclose that information to your tenant. 
  • If you applied pesticides to your rental property, you must let your tenant know of the same

rent laws in California

  • If a death occurred in the unit in the past 3 years, you must share that information with a prospective tenant. The only exception is if the cause of the death was HIV or AIDS-related.
  • Information regarding bed bugs. And in doing so, the language you use must be as specified under Civ. Code §§ 1954.603.
  • If your property is located within one mile of known ordnance with explosive risk, you must let your tenant know. 
  • If you plan to demolish your property in the near future, a prospective tenant deserves to know before committing to live there. 
  • If you have knowledge of possible drug contamination in the unit, you must disclose that information. 
  • Information about the tenant’s right to access information regarding the sex offender registry. 

California Tenant Rights & Responsibilities

California gives tenants a bevy of rights and some of them are as follows. The right to:

  • Live in a property that abides by the California warranty of habitability 
  • Have requested repairs done within a reasonable period of time. Normally, this can be anywhere between one and thirty days 
  • Undergo a judicial eviction process free from any discrimination or self-help means 
  • Enjoy their rented premises in peace and quiet 
  • Have their security deposit returned within 21 days after moving out 

tenants rights California

Similarly, California laws hold tenants to certain expectations. The following are some of the common responsibilities they have: 

  • Care for their rented premises 
  • Ensure the rented premises are clean and sanitary at all times 
  • Repair any damage that they or their guests cause 
  • Pay rent on time 
  • Notify the landlord whenever maintenance issues come up 
  • Serve the landlord with proper notice prior to moving out 
  • Keep noise within reasonable levels

California Landlord Rights & Responsibilities 

You also obtain several rights under the California landlord-tenant laws. Below are some of them. The right to:

  • Enter rented premises for legally justified reasons 
  • Require tenants to pay a security deposit prior to moving in 
  • Terminate a lease after a tenant violates the terms of the lease or rental agreement 
  • Screen tenants prior to allowing them to rent your rental property 
  • The following are the responsibilities you’ll have to your tenants during the tenancy period: 
  • Abide by the legal eviction procedures when removing a tenant 
  • Make requested repairs within a reasonable time 
  • Provide a 24 hours advance notice prior to entering rented premises 
  • Abide by all terms of the lease agreement 
  • Maintain peace and quiet 
  • Ensure the property abides by the safety, health, and building codes 

California rental laws

An Overview of the Landlord-Tenant Laws in California 


Landlord Entry

You must have valid reasons in order to enter your tenant’s rental. Some valid reasons include: 

  • To inspect the unit for damage 
  • Pursuant to a court order 
  • To make agreed-upon repairs 
  • In the event of an emergency 
  • To show the unit to prospective tenants, lenders or buyers 

Additionally, you must provide your tenant advance notice 24 hours prior to accessing their rented unit. 

Housing Discrimination 

As a landlord, you have a responsibility of abiding by the California Fair Housing Laws when renting out your property. The anti-discrimination laws require landlords to treat tenants fairly regardless of some protected classes. The protected classes include:

  • Race, color, and religion
  • Nationality, citizenship, and immigration status
  • Sex, genetic information, and gender expression or identity 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Familial and marital status
  • Source of income
  • Ancestry
  • Age

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the local agency that enforces the anti-discrimination laws in California. 

Tenant Evictions 

California landlords have a right to evict their tenants for certain violations. Common violations include: 

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Excessive property damage
  • Failure to leave after the lease ends
  • Illegal acts

A landlord must follow due process. If you don’t, not only will the eviction fail, but you may also be liable for paying the tenant damages. 

renters rights in California

Security Deposits 

The state of California has rules regarding how a landlord must handle their tenant’s security deposit. Some of the rules include:

  • Maximum security deposit limits – it must not exceed two months’ rent and three months’ rent for an unfurnished and furnished unit. 
  • Nonrefundable security deposits – Having a nonrefundable deposit is illegal 
  • Security deposit deduction – Deductions to a tenant’s security deposit must only be done for allowable reasons. 
  • Returning the deposit – Landlords must return their tenant’s security deposit within 21 days. 

Bottom Line

It’s important that investment property owners and landlords understand the landlord-tenant laws, early lease termination in California, and other rental policies. You should also make sure to check them regularly as they can be subject to change.

For expert help in the California landlord-tenant laws or any other aspect of rental management, Keyrenter Property Management San Diego can help. Contact us for more info!

Disclaimer: This information is not by any means a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need legal help, please contact a licensed attorney.