As a tenant, knowing your rights is critical. Under California law, you are protected from certain rent increases and may be protected from certain types of evictions.
It is important to act quickly if your landlord serves you with an eviction notice, tells you to move out, increases your rent illegally, or if you know cannot afford your rent. Many legal processes affecting tenants move swiftly, so do not ignore important notices. Instead, reach out for legal assistance as soon as possible to discuss your options. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may qualify for free or low-cost legal aid. To find a legal aid office near where you live, please visit www.LawHelpCA.org.
As a landlord, it is vital to understand and uphold the protections available to California renters under the law. With so many provisions in flux during the pandemic and with the recently enacted Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482) and other laws, it is important to be familiar with state and local developments to prevent legal violations.
Click on the links below to learn more about landlord-tenant protections:
To stay informed about what the Attorney General is doing to protect tenants’ rights and address California’s housing crisis, please visit the Housing Strike Force webpage at https://oag.ca.gov/housing. For additional resources, visit the State of California’s Housing is Key website, and read the “Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords Rights and Responsibilities.”
In 2019, California enacted the Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482), which created significant new protections for tenants. Both tenants and landlords should be aware of the requirements of this new law.
The Tenant Protection Act caps rent increases for most tenants in California. Landlords cannot raise rent annually more than 5% plus inflation according to the regional Consumer Price Index, for a maximum increase of 10% each year. If a tenant moves out, the landlord is free to charge any rent for the next tenant who moves in. (Civ. Code § 1947.12.)
In addition to the statewide limit, local rent control laws may further restrict how much a landlord can increase rent annually. Tenants and landlords should consult local resources to see whether their city or county has rules that may offer additional protection to tenants.
The Tenant Protection Act also creates new statewide eviction protections for most tenants who have been living in their units for at least a year. The law sets out two kinds of evictions: "at fault" evictions (where the landlord moves to evict the tenant where the tenant is allegedly “at fault”) and "no fault" evictions (where the landlord moves to evict the tenant through “no fault” of the tenant).
“At fault” evictions include:
“No fault” evictions include:
Landlords can only evict a tenant for one of the reasons listed above. Some of these reasons have their own specific requirements. For instance:
Lying about the reason for evicting a tenant is illegal, and tenants with concerns about the legitimacy their eviction should consult an attorney.
In addition to the statewide requirement that landlords have just cause before evicting a tenant, local laws may offer additional tenant protections. Tenants and landlords should consult local resources to see whether their city or county has rules that may offer additional protection to tenants.
The Tenant Protection Act applies ALL rental units in the state except:
The Tenant Protection Act applies to recipients of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. It includes a narrow exception for housing that is restricted as affordable housing by deed, government agency agreement, or other recorded document, or that is subject to an agreement that provides housing subsidies for affordable housing. (Civ. Code § 1946.2, subd. (e)(9).) Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers help tenants pay for market-rate housing that owners/operators offer to the general public at market-rate rents, not for affordable housing as referenced in the Act. Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers also apply to specific tenancies, not to the housing itself. Market-rate tenancies subsidized by Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers are therefore not exempt from the Act’s protections.
Tenants have limited statewide protections related to COVID-19. Please visit this page to learn what protections may apply to you.
Landlords and those who act on their behalf, such as property managers, realtors, and attorneys, are responsible for complying with all state and local laws, including the following important points. Tenants should also read the below so they understand their rights as renters.
Landlords are responsible by law for keeping tenants’ units safe and well-maintained. This is known as habitability. This includes things like providing safe and working plumbing, heating, electrical equipment, floors, and stairs; effective waterproofing; windows and doors with working locks; and keeping the property free from roaches, rats, and other vermin. (Civil Code § 1941.1.) Even if tenants knew that their unit was not up to these standards when they moved in, it is still the landlord's responsibility to make all units habitable. Additionally:
When raising a tenant’s rent, landlords must deliver the tenant a formal written notice of the change. It is not enough for a landlord to call, text, or email that they plan on raising the rent. Landlords must also give tenants sufficient warning before increasing rent. If the rent increase is less than 10%, landlords must provide notice 30 days before the increase can take effect. If the rent increase is more than 10%, the landlord must provide notice 90 days before it can take effect. (Civ. Code § 827). If a notice is not in writing or delivered on time, a tenant should consult a lawyer about their rights.
It is illegal to try to "evict" a tenant by locking them out, shutting off the water or electricity, or removing their personal property. The only lawful way to evict a tenant is to file a case in court and go through the legal process. A tenant who has been locked out should consult a lawyer about their rights, including returning to their unit and getting damages from the landlord. (Civ. Code § 789.3.)
Landlords must return a tenant’s security deposit upon move-out except for amounts deducted for lawful purposes. Lawful purposes include unpaid rent, cleaning, repair of damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear, and in some cases, replacing furnishings. Landlords have 21 days from a tenant’s move-out to issue a full refund of the security deposit or to provide a statement explaining any deductions along with the remainder of the security deposit and any receipts. (Civ. Code §1950.5.)
Price-gouging protections, including protections under city or county price gouging ordinances and as a result of local emergency proclamations, may apply to rental housing, effectively limiting rent increases. Many cities and counties have enacted additional rental protections, including rent stabilization and just-cause eviction ordinances. Landlords should remain aware of the legal requirements applicable to the cities and counties where their rental properties are located.
Landlords may not retaliate against tenants for exercising their rights. For example, it is against the law for a landlord to try to evict a tenant who has asked for repairs or pointed out that a rent increase is unlawful, or to take away services or rights that the tenant previously enjoyed, like a storage space or parking. (Civ. Code § 1942.5.)
Tenants with disabilities must receive reasonable accommodations to allow them the use and enjoyment of their unit. Specifically:
Landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on the tenant’s race, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, ancestry, disability status, marital status, familial status, source of income (Section 8 vouchers, for example), veteran status, or certain other characteristics.
If you are a tenant facing an eviction, struggling to pay rent, or otherwise concerned about your ability to stay in your unit, free or low-cost legal help may be available. To find a legal aid office near where you live, please visit www.LawHelpCA.org. If you don’t qualify for legal aid, you may obtain a referral to a certified lawyer referral service from the California State Bar. If you are unable to find legal assistance, consult the California Court’s self-help resources for tenants facing evictions.