Every state in the US has a separate code of rules and regulations that govern the way tenants and landlords behave toward each other. This article will help you find out what your rights as a landlord or tenant are in California, as well as what you are responsible for.
What are your rights as a tenant?##
In California, it is the tenant's responsibility to pay for the utilities. Whether the tenant or the landlord pays for the utilities directly to the service provider is decided up front in the lease agreement. The arrangement of the tenant paying the landlord and the landlord further paying the utility bill to the service provider usually works well. The landlord is then the customer of the service provider, and the tenant is known as a sub-metered tenant. However, in the scenario that the landlord does not pay the utility bill, The California Public Utilities Code allows tenants to go around the landlord and become direct customers of the service provider.
- It is legal for a tenant to hold off payment of rent if the landlord fails to provide essentials such as water and heat.
- If the utilities are provided by the landlord, and a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit is to be maintained at all times. This level of heat has to be provided for at least 13 hours of the day, especially from 5-11 am and also 3-10 pm.
- It is a tenant's right to know how much they are paying for what utilities, and what company is providing the services.
- If the landlord stops paying the utility bill, tenants still have the right to access utilities, and not have them shut off.
- Under the law in California, if the landlord is a direct customer of the service provider instead of the tenant, they are not allowed to profit off of this. They must be fair in their dealings with the tenant. They can charge a small fee for managing the tenant's utility bills, but it must be a reasonable amount.
The tenant is allowed to make repairs to the property if needed, and deduct the cost from the rent due. However, the cost of the repairs cannot exceed one month's rent, and the tenant is not allowed to do this more than twice a year.
Tenant screening is a process in which landlords evaluate the potential tenant in a way that helps them find out if the rental applicants are reliable, trustworthy, will pay rent on time, etc. However, California does not mandate tenant screening. Many landlords screen tenants before renting the place. They are required to get permission before running criminal and background reports.
It is legal to smoke inside a rental unity in California. However, landlords still have the right to restrict or even ban smoking inside the premises. This, however, must be specified in the rental agreement.
If you have been caught taking part in illegal activities, that will serve as grounds for eviction. If you want to move out before your lease ends, you are liable to pay the rent for the full leasing period. There are some exceptions where this can be waived. These reasons include:
- If you are called into active military duty for uniformed military services, you can provide a written notice to terminate the lease. This is usually applicable 30 days after your next rent is due.
- California has provisions for violent situations. If you are subject to domestic, sexual, elderly abuse or if you are being stalked, you can break the lease after taking appropriate measures to restrain the other party with restraining orders.
- If the landlord violates your privacy rights or does not provide a habitable house, you can terminate the lease agreement.
However, if you want to move out for other reasons before your lease ends, perhaps to be closer to a new job, or move in with an elderly family member to take care of them, you may still be able to reduce the amount of money you owe. When you move out, you will just have to pay for the amount of rent the landlord loses while they find another tenant. For example, if your lease is for a year and you want to leave the premises after 7 months, you will not have to pay the landlord rent for the remainder of the year i.e. 5 months. In California, the landlord is required to take reasonable steps to reduce their losses and find a new qualified tenant quickly. If successful, you don't have to pay the landlord or you can get your money back. This is because under the law in California, the landlord has to make reasonable efforts to find a new tenant to rent the unit out to, rather than sit back, wait for the year to end, and the sue you to make you pay for the rest of the year.
There is a flip side to this though. If you move out and your landlord makes reasonable efforts to find a new tenant and still cannot, you will be liable to pay for the rest of the year, or till your lease agreement ends. It is likely your landlord will use your security deposit to first cover the rent you owe, and then later sue you for the remainder. It is best to work with the landlord to find a reasonable solution for both parties.
As a tenant in California, you have the right to equal opportunities for housing, and freedom from any kind of discrimination, whether based on race, sex, color, religious beliefs, age, sexual orientation, and disability.
Rental lease agreements are usually made out for one to five years, or as desired by the parties involved. HomeKasa provides rental lease agreements for all States free of cost in our property management software. A good rental agreement protects you from many situations. If you are using your own lease agreement, you can still store these documents digitally in one place on HomeKasa.
What are your responsibilities as a tenant?##
The law requires tenants to abide by certain rules set out in the California Code of Civil Procedures. Read the following to avoid a run-in with the law!
Unless stated otherwise in the rental lease agreement, rent is always due at the beginning of the month. The grace period is 3 days unless it's specified differently in your lease agreement. Some landlords offer a 5 day grace period. You can schedule reminders for rent due and other bills on HomeKasa's property management platform so that you don't miss anything and protect your credit score. The software is free and easy to use.
Landlords can send automatic rent due reminders a few days in advance of the actual due date. If the tenant is late with the rent, you are required to provide a pay-or-quit notice. HomeKasa has several forms available that make it easy for you to provide such notices.
For a year-long lease, the landlord cannot force you out or raise the rent till the year is over. Rent increase in the middle of a lease period is possible if it is specified upfront in the lease agreement.
Termination of lease##
The tenant is required to give the landlord thirty-day notice if the lease is month to month. If it is week to week, they are required to give the landlord a seven-day notice. For uniformed active military duty, a 30-day written notice is required.
What are your rights as a landlord in California?##
Landlords are allowed to collect the first month's fees beforehand (at the start of the month), as well as the security deposit for up to three months.
Landlords in California are permitted to collect a security deposit from their tenants. The amount varies. If the rented area is unfurnished, they are permitted to collect the amount of two months' rent as a security deposit. If it is furnished, this amount is raised to the amount of three months' rent.
Withholding security deposit##
It is well within your rights as a landlord in California to withhold your tenant's security deposit if they,
- Do not pay their rent,
- If they or their guests damage the property and you as a landlord have to spend on repairing the area,
- Or for cleaning the property after the tenant vacates it to the point where it is as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in. You can find out more information on this here.
The tenant can request a move-out inspection. As a landlord, you are allowed to inspect the property for damages, etc., before your tenant moves out. However, you are required to give them a 48-hour notice that you will be inspecting the area. After inspection, the tenant is eligible to collect their security deposit back. By using HomeKasa's free moving checklist, you can reduce the disagreements on the condition of the property before and after your occupancy.
Landlords in California are allowed to evict their tenants for
- Non-payment of rent
- For illegal activities
Landlords have to give the tenant a three-day notice of eviction beforehand.
If the landlord wishes to evict their tenant due to a violation of the lease agreement, they must give the tenant a three-day notice to remedy the violation, before they can file for eviction. HomeKasa offers these notice templates for free.
Entry into the rented property##
Landlords are required to give their tenants a 24-hour notice before they can enter the premises. This applies even when the landlord is entering the property for repairs or maintenance. However, if there is an emergency, such as a fire, landlords are not required to give any notice before entering the premises. In the case of move-out inspection, the landlord must provide a 48-hour notice before entry.
Before being rented out, the unit must be clean and hygienic, and it must be up to a certain standard.
- If the tenant does not keep up with this standard of cleanliness, landlords are permitted to evict them.
- Hoarding can be a nuisance and cause health issues. Using the property differently than intended is also grounds for eviction in California.
Landlords must notify the tenants with a warning letter beforehand. We have ready-made letter templates for your benefit on HomeKasa.
What are your responsibilities as a landlord in California?##
As a landlord in California, you must abide by the rules set by the government. For example, the California Department of Housing and Community Development covers mobile homes in detail here.
A landlord in California must provide their tenant with 30-days notice if they plan on increasing the rent by 10% of the lowest rent they charged in the past 12 months. If the rent increase is more than 10% of the lowest amount of rent they charged in the past year, they must give the tenant 60 days of notice. The rent increase cannot happen within a lease term unless otherwise specified in the agreement.
Late rent fees##
If your tenant does not pay on time, California state law allows the landlord to charge a late rent fee. It is legal, but an exact amount is not stated by the law. However, it does say that the landlord can only charge a “reasonable estimate of the amount that the lateness of the payment will cost the landlord”. Commonly, landlords charge 5% of the normal rent as a late fee.
Termination of lease##
If the landlord wants to terminate a lease, they are required to do so by giving the tenant a thirty-day notice, whether the lease is month-to-month or week-to-week. If the landlord plans to demolish the property and has applied to do so, they must disclose this to any prospective tenants before they sign the rental agreement lease.
Pest and vermin control##
In California, it is the landlords' responsibility to take care of any pest infestation, such as mice and cockroaches. However, if the pests have been caused by the tenant and their lack of hygiene, such as not taking out the garbage regularly, then it is the tenant's responsibility to get rid of them. When the landlord is carrying out pesticide control, they are required to notify the tenants about this. If the landlord is aware of any mold in the property that could pose a health concern, they are required to disclose this information to the tenants before the signing of the lease.
Make sure you know your rights and responsibilities before entering into a rental lease agreement. It is helpful to read and then re-read the lease agreement, just in case you missed something, and just to make sure everything is in place.
HomeKasa aspires to simplify your life as both a renter and a landlord. Schedule reminders, track expenses, use communication templates, etc., all from one place. HomeKasa offers the best property management platform in the industry and it's free. Get started now.