This page contains information for renters. This includes general tips for renters, the basic rights of a renter, and frequently asked questions. Please click on the title to expand each category.
General Tips for Renters
- Beware of companies that charge fees to find you a rental
- Read the lease or rental agreement thoroughly
- Consider the lease term you prefer
- Ask about rental criteria in writing
- Look at multiple properties before deciding
- Understand the “Holding Deposit”
- Conduct a thorough inspection of the unit: Closely inspect the rental unit before move-in – this will ensure you are treated fairly when your security deposit is returned to you. Document any and all issues with the unit before move-in. Take pictures if possible. Look for problems such as: Cracks or holes in the floor, walls, or ceiling, Signs of leaking water or water damage in the floor, walls, or ceiling, the presence of mold that might affect health and safety, damaged flooring, damaged furnishings (if it’s a furnished unit), or signs of insects, vermin, or rodents
- Review all notices from your landlord
- Document any important communications
- Keep a file with all important documents
- Never pay in cash, and always get a receipt
The Basic Rights of Every Tenant
All tenants have basic rights, including:
- Limits on the amount of the security deposit
- The right to a refund of the security deposit or a written explanation of deductions
- Limits on the landlord’s right to enter the rental
- Rights under the Implied Warranty of Habitability
- Rights regarding Termination and Eviction
Frequently Asked Questions (click on the question to see the answer)
How much security deposit can a landlord charge?
A housing provider may charge 2 times the rent unless the unit is furnished or if there is water filled furniture. Cal. Civ. Code §1950.5(c). Landlords cannot state security deposits are not refundable (Cal. Civ. Code §1950.5 (m)). However, holding deposits could be non-refundable if you decide not to move-in.
What can a landlord do with my security deposit?
The landlord can use the security deposit if a tenant:
- Moves out owing rent
- Damages the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear
- Leaves the unit less clean than when it was rented
- Fails to restore personal property (such as keys or furniture), other than because of normal wear and tear
How many days do I have to wait to get my security deposit back?
California Civil Code §1950.5 (g) requires that within 21 days after a tenant has vacated the unit, the owner must either: 1) return the security deposit to the tenant, 2) furnish a copy of an itemized statement indicating the amount of any part of the security deposit used (e.g. for unpaid rent, repairs, etc.), or 3) a combination of #1 and #2.
Under California Civil Code §1950.5(f)(1), a tenant has the right to request an initial move-out inspection.
Also, under California Civil Code §1950.5(e), a tenant should not be charged for normal wear and tear of the property.
Finally, a tenant should obtain proof of items charged if over $126. Cal. Civ. Code §1950.5(g)(2).
When can a landlord enter a unit?
California Civil Code §1954 states that a housing provider may enter your unit after providing a written 24-hour notice for the following reasons:
- To make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements.
- To show the rental unit to prospective tenants, buyers, or lenders, or to provide entry to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit.
- If a court order permits the landlord to enter.
A housing provider is also permitted to enter your unit for an emergency, with your consent, or after abandonment.
What is the “Implied Warranty of Habitability?”
The California Supreme Court has recognized that every residential lease carries with it an implied warranty of habitability. This means that a landlord is legally responsible for repairing conditions that seriously affect the rental unit’s habitability, such as:
- Substantial defects in the rental unit
- Substantial failures to comply with state/local building and health codes
Tenants are required by law to take reasonable care of their rental units and are responsible for repair of all damage that results from their neglect or abuse.
How do I request repairs to my unit?
Tenants should put all repair requests in writing, keep a copy, and allow at least 30-days for non-emergency repairs. Emergencies, like no hot water or no heat, should be completed within 72 hours. (Cal. Civ. Code §1929, 1941,1941.1)
How much notice in advance does a tenant have to give before moving?
To end a month-to-month tenancy, a tenant must give the landlord proper written notice before vacating. If you pay rent monthly, you must give at least 30 days advance notice. If you pay rent weekly, you must give at least 7 days advance notice. (Cal. Civ. Code §1946) ***If you sign a term lease, you may be financially obligated if you decide to move-out before the lease ends. Also, check your lease before subleasing or assigning your lease.
How much advance notice must my landlord give if he wants a tenant to move out of the rental unit?
Based on California Civil Code §1946.1, there are different types of notice required based on the type and length of tenancy:
- If a tenant is on a month-to-month lease and has resided in the unit less than 1 year, the landlord is only required to give a 30-day notice.
- If a tenant is on a month-to-month lease and has resided in the unit for 1 year or more, the landlord is required to give a 60-day notice.
- If a tenant is on a periodic lease (such as a one-year lease), the landlord must allow the tenant to reside in the unit for the remainder of the term.
*** You should not be given a notice to move for exercising your rights under the law. Cal. Civ. Code §1942.5 (a)
How much can a landlord legally raise the rent?
Under California law, there is currently no maximum limit for rent increases. However, California Civil Code §827(b) states that the landlord must give the tenant at least 30 days’ advance notice if the rent increase is 10 percent (or less) of the rent charged at any time during the 12 months before the rent increase takes effect. Also, the landlord must give 60 days’ advance notice if the rent increase is greater than 10 percent.
*** Rent increase should not be given in retaliation for making a complaint or for exercising your rights. Cal. Civ. Code §1942.5 (a)
Is there a difference between a lease and a month-to-month contract?
Yes, periodic leases usually require you to commit to a time frame of 3, 6, 9, or 12 months. The month-to-month contract does not and can be terminated by either party with proper notice.
The benefits of a periodic lease are that the rents cannot be increased during the lease term, and the tenant has a place to reside for the full lease term as long as they abide by the terms. One of the benefits of a month-to-month contract is having the flexibility to move when you choose.
Can a landlord ask about an applicant’s source of income?
The law allows landlords to ask about the source of an applicant’s income as long as they do not discriminate based on that information. (example: Social Security income not allowed)
Can a landlord require that each person in the household meet the minimum income requirement separately?
Landlords must use the minimum income requirement in the same way for members of a married couple as for members of any household. (Cal Govt. Code §12955(n) and (o)).