California Rental Laws - An Overview of Landlord Tenant Rights

California rental laws state that a lease agreement exists when an oral or written agreement is reached and the tenant begins to make rent payments. At this point, both California landlords and renters obtain certain rights and responsibilities that do not change, no matter what is specified on any rental agreements.

California tenants, for example, have the right to live in conditions that meet habitability standards and to live in peace and quiet. Landlords and property owners, on the other hand, have the right to charge rent and enter the rented unit. 

It’s also important to note that such rights exist regardless of whether the lease or rental agreement states them or not. 

As you can see, California law can be complicated. So, we at the Mike Dunfee Group have put together this basic overview of California regulations that landlords need to know. 

Required Landlord Disclosures in the State 

Landlords are bound by California law to reveal a variety of things about their rental property. Specifically, landlords must declare anything that may impact the health of their California tenants. 

The following are some important disclosures that as per state regulations, you must provide a prospective tenant. Landlord responsibilities in California include abiding by these rules.

Lead-Based Paint Disclosure

All California landlords must disclose if their rentals contain lead-based paints. Rather than being specific to the California laws, this disclosure is something every landlord in the country must make. Additionally, you must make your tenant aware if your rental unit was built before 1978. 

Bedbug Disclosure

All landlords must provide their tenants with general information regarding bedbugs. Including, what bedbugs look like and when they typically appear. 

Disclosure of Registered Sex Offender

California landlord-tenant policies also require all landlords to disclose information to potential tenants regarding Megan’s Law. 

Enacted in 1996, California’s Megan’s Laws mandates the California Department of Justice to notify the public about specified registered sex offenders through a database. 

So, any tenant must be aware if this is in effect in your local area. 


Mold Disclosure 

Mold can be a health hazard. As such, you must disclose any potentially hazardous conditions to prospective tenants. 

California landlord-tenant law doesn’t require landlords to remove any mold in the unit, but your tenant may be able to exercise their right to not pay rent if the habitability conditions are breached.

Flood Disclosure 

If the residential property is in an area that floods regularly or could potentially flood, a landlord must disclose this information in their lease according to rental policies.

In this disclosure, you must also advise your tenants to obtain either flood or renter’s insurance.

Other Disclosures

  • Disclosure of death in the rental unit. 

  • Rent Cap and Just Cause disclosure (within the first three years).

  • California landlords who prohibit or limit smoking on any rental properties or their grounds must disclose this on the rental agreement.

  • A written notice on any contamination that has occurred in the dwelling unit due to the making of methamphetamines. 

  • If utilities are shared between tenants, this must also be disclosed. 

California Tenant Rights & Responsibilities 

As per state law, tenants have the right to, among other things: 

  • Live in a habitable property

  • May hold off on paying rent or “Repair & Deduct” when a landlord fails in their property maintenance duties 

  • Receive “reasonable notice” prior to landlord entry

  • A proper tenant eviction process

  • Live in privacy, peace, and quiet

  • Receive advance notice when changes to the rental agreement are made

California landlord-tenant policies also dictate that tenants have specific duties such as: 

  • Notifying the landlord before moving out

  • Keeping noise to an acceptable level

  • Informing the landlord when any maintenance issues come up

  • Notifying the landlord when they are away for a prolonged period during the lease agreement term

  • Paying each month's rent on time

Landlord Rights & Responsibilities in the State

Similarly, the landlord-tenant regulations in California gives landlords rights, such as:

  • Proper notice from a tenant vacating the premises

  • The ability to enter rented premises to perform maintenance

  • Make changes to the agreement terms

  • Be notified when maintenance issues appear

  • Collect rent in full and by the deadline for all rental units

eviction notice

California landlord-tenant law also conveys certain duties to a landlord, like the following:

  • Following the proper eviction process

  • Serving tenants with proper notice before making changes to the terms of the lease

  • Giving renters fair notice prior to entry

  • Making necessary repairs promptly

  • Right to not be discriminated against as per the Fair Housing Act

An Overview of the Landlord-Tenant Laws in California 

Landlord Entry

California landlord-tenant laws dictate that “reasonable notice” is given before a landlord can enter their rental unit. The state policies presume reasonable entry to be at least 24 hours. 

Evictions in California

Landlords can evict tenants for a variety of reasons like nonpayment of rent or lease agreement violations. When doing so, rental laws insists you, the landlord, must follow the California eviction process to the letter. 

A common example of this could be: if your California tenant has unpaid rent and you intend on evicting them. No matter if the unpaid rent is only one month's rent, this is a lease violation and you have grounds for immediate lease termination and evict the tenant. A landlord must begin the process by serving the tenant with a 3-day Notice to Pay or Quit. 

After which, you, the landlord, must move to court and file for eviction. If they still fail to pay or move out after the 3 days, the court will then make the appropriate ruling. If a landlord fails to serve the tenant proper notice, the court will likely rule in the tenant's favor.

Security Deposit

It is your right to collect a security deposit from your tenants. California landlord-tenant laws do cover the specifications of collecting a maximum security deposit. So, a landlord must adhere to them when considering everything to do with the security deposits, from their collection and storage to returning them. Failure to adhere to the California security deposit laws can result in legal actions being taken against you. 

Rent Increase 

California is subject to statewide rent control ordinances as outlined in AB 1483 of the Tenant Protection Act. Local real estate law limits your ability to raise rent based on inflation and established jurisdictions for rent control legislation. 

A California tenant can withhold rent or pay rent late for certain legal reasons like a discrimination claim. Local rent control laws also protect tenants from sudden rent increases without proper notification.

landlord-tenant rights

Housing Discrimination

California tenancy laws are designed to protect everyone. So, discrimination in California over-protected characteristics like race, color, sex, or disability is expressly forbidden. 

Meaning, that landlords cannot discriminate against specific protected characteristics when picking a California tenant for their rental property.

Small Claims Courts 

In California, a landlord can only file a lawsuit amounting to not more than $10,000. The statute of limitations for both oral and written contracts in the state is 4- and 2 years, respectively. 

Bottom Line

Understanding landlord-tenant laws in California is imperative for any landlord or tenant looking to invest or live in California. Both landlords and tenants must understand and adhere to their specific roles and responsibilities within the lease agreement. You also need to stay informed of regulations pertaining to security deposits, landlord-tenant rights, early termination clause stipulations, anti-discrimination policies, and more. 

Understanding these landlord-tenant laws can be tricky, so we at the Mike Dunfee Group are available to you if you need help with your property management. So, contact us today!

Disclosure: This is not intended to be legal advice. Don’t use this blog as a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and we are not attorneys. Get in touch with us if you need real estate advice or help in the management of your property. Otherwise, please seek legal advice from a qualified attorney.

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