Last Updated on October 28, 2023 by Kelvin Nielsen
Your landlord cannot do certain things under the California Landlord & Tenant Act (CA Civil Code 1940-1954.06). As a renter, you enjoy a smorgasbord of rights. Including, the right to quiet enjoyment, habitable rental premises, and the return of your security deposit.
So, what exactly can a landlord not do in California? Well, whether you’re just familiarizing yourself with California law or have reasons to believe your landlord has violated your rights, this blog has you covered.
What a Landlord Cannot Do in California
1. Your landlord cannot provide you with an uninhabitable rental property.
As a renter, you have a right to live in a habitable rental property. This is a property that meets the basic health, safety, and building codes. Among other things, California’s warranty of habitability (CA Civ. Code § 1941.2) requires landlords to, among other things, provide tenants with the following.
- Adequate heating
- Running hot and water
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- Working light fixtures
- Garbage removal
- Working plumbing
- Working wiring for one telephone jack
- Safe stairs and railings
- Working sanitation facilities
In addition to this, the landlord must also make repairs within 30 days after proper notification by the tenant.
If the landlord fails to provide you habitable premises or fails to make repairs within the required time, you may be able to exercise certain legal options. Including, withholding rent, or repairing the issue and then deducting the costs from future rent payments.
2. Your California landlord cannot evict you illegally.
You have a right to continue living on your rental property until the landlord has followed the proper eviction process against you. Which entails doing the following.
- Serving you with a proper eviction notice.
- Filing a lawsuit and obtaining a summons and complaint (if the matter remains unresolved).
- Attending court hearing.
- Obtaining a court order if the judgment is in their favor.
Your landlord must not try to use illegal eviction methods by trying to evict you by locking you out or removing your belongings. Only an eviction order can evict you from the property, regardless of the violation committed.
3. Your landlord cannot retaliate against you for exercising a legal right.
California law is explicit on this; a landlord must not take retaliatory action against a tenant who exercises a legal right. The law grants you (Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.5 (2023)) the right to do the following.
- Report the landlord to a local health or safety agency.
- Demand needed repairs from the landlord.
- Join or create a tenants’ union.
- Exercise rights under the lease or local laws.
The landlord cannot then try to retaliate against you for exercising any of the above actions by:
- Raising the rent amount.
- Decreasing services.
- Threatening your eviction.
- Disclosing your immigration status.
In California, penalties for retaliation can be severe for a landlord. You may be able to sue for actual damages, punitive damages, as well as reasonable court and attorney fees. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1942.5 (2023).)
4. Your landlord cannot violate the California security deposit laws.
Landlords have a right to ask for a security deposit as part of the initial move-in costs. Be that as it may, they also have a duty to abide by the rules.
One rule is the security deposit limit. The California security deposit rules obligate landlords not to charge a security deposit exceeding the equivalent of three months’ rent. If the monthly rental price is, say, $1,500, then the most the landlord can charge you must be at most $4,500.
Another rule is in regard to deductions. Your landlord must not make illegal deductions to your security deposit. They must only make deductions when it comes to unpaid rent, cleaning, restoration costs, and damage exceeding normal wear and tear.
5. Your landlord cannot terminate your lease illegally.
Your landlord cannot just wake up one day and decide to end your tenancy for whatever reason. In a periodic lease, your landlord must provide you a 7 days’ notice and a 30 days’ notice when terminating a weekly and monthly lease, respectively.
In a fixed-term lease, the landlord must wait until the entire lease is up.
Of course, there is an exception to these two rules. And that is in case of a lease violation. If you violate the lease, for instance, refuse to make a rent payment, the landlord may be able to cut your lease short by evicting you.
Nonetheless, they must obtain a court order for the process to be successful.
6. Your landlord cannot increase the rent illegally.
Luckily for you, California, unlike some other states, has a rent control law. By law, your landlord can only raise your rent two times a year. Also, the specific amount to raise it by depends on the rate of inflation.
Additionally, your landlord cannot increase the rent illegally by doing any of the following.
- Raising it during a lease term, unless the lease makes for such a provision.
- Raising it out of discrimination because of things like your race, color, nationality, or familial status.
- Raising it as a retaliatory tactic for exercising your legal right.
Your landlord must also notify you of the increase 30 days in advance.
7. Your landlord cannot discriminate against you.
As a renter in California, you enjoy two protections: at both the federal and state level.
The Federal Fair Housing Act protects you on the basis of 7 protected classes. That is, race, color, sex, religion, nationality, disability, and familial status.
The state of California also extends additional protections on the basis of marital status, immigration status, gender identity, mental disability, citizenship status, ancestry, primary language, income source, sexual orientation, and military and veteran status.
8. Your landlord cannot enter your home illegally.
As a renter in California, you have a right to privacy. This basically means that your landlord cannot enter your home without notifying you first.
Specifically, the law requires landlords to provide their tenants with a notice of at least 24 hours prior to entry. The entry must also be borne out of a legitimate reason, such as to inspect the property, respond to an emergency, or show the unit to prospective renters or buyers.
Your landlord may, however, be able to enter your home without permission in case of an emergency.
9. Your landlord cannot refuse to provide you certain mandatory disclosures.
Before moving into your rental property, your landlord must provide you with certain mandatory disclosures. Among other things, your landlord must provide you with information regarding:
- The use of lead-based paint on the unit if the building was built before 1978.
- Written information regarding bed bugs.
- Documentation regarding any known mold.
- If the property is located in a known flood zone.
- If a death that is non-HIV or AIDS-related has occurred on the unit in the past three years.
If the landlord fails to provide you with such information, you may be able to break your lease without penalty.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What a Landlord Cannot Do in California?
Q: Can a landlord enter your backyard without permission in California?
A: No, a landlord in California cannot enter their tenant’s rented unit without permission, even if there is no mention of a yard. A yard is consiered part and parcel of your premises, and your landlord has a duty to notify you before stepping on any part of your rented premises.
There is an exception, though. That is, if their entry into your yard has been occasioned by an emergency.
Q: What is considered harassment from landlord in California?
A: All forms of landlord harassments in California are illegal. Landlord harassment occurs when a landlord’s action is designed to force you out of the rented unit.
Examples of landlord harassment include verbal threats, repeated entries without notice, false accusations against you, shutting of utilities, and removals of your personal belongings.
If your landlord attempts to do any of the aforementioned, you may be able to take certain actions. Such as, suing the landlord in court, breaking the lease without penalty, or filing a complaint with the California Department of Real Estate.
Q: Can you sue a landlord for emotional distress in California?
A: Absolutely! You can sue your landlord for causing you emotional distress. However, the burden of proof will fall squarely on you, which may not be an easy feat to pool of in such a case.
Generally speaking, to prove your case, you’ll need to establish certain things, such as the landlord’s conduct was outrageous, intentional/reckless, and that it resulted in actual damages due to to your emotional distress.
Q: How much notice does a landlord have to give for rent increases in California?
A: As per the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, the amount of notice a landlord must give a tenant will depend on the percentage of increase. If the increase is 10% or less, then the landlord must provide you with a notice of at least 30 days. If the increase is more than 10%, then the landlord must provide you with a rent increase notice of at least 60 days.
Q: Can a landlord evict you for no reason in California?
A: No, California landlord tenant law requires that landlords have a “just cause” to evict a tenant from their rented premises. A just cause is a legitimate reason for tenant eviction. Examples include failure to pay rent, lease violation, or illegal activity.
Here is a guide on the topic. (https://landlordtenantresource.com/can-a-landlord-evict-you-for-no-reason-california/).
These are all the things that a landlord cannot do in California. And if the landlord tries to do any of it, you may be able to sue them, report them to relevant government agencies, or simply break the lease without penalty.
Disclosure: The content herein isn’t a substitute for advice from a professional attorney. It’s only meant to serve educational purposes. If you have a specific question, kindly seek expert attorney services.
Sources: www.dca.ca.gov, https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=CIV&division=3.&title=5.&part=4.&chapter=2.&article, https://selfhelp.courts.ca.gov/guide-security-deposits-california, https://www.findlaw.com/state/california-law/, https://www.hbklawyers.com/tenant-rights/uninhabitable-rental-units/implied-warranty-of-habitability/#:~:text=Under%20California%20law%2C%20landlords%20are,that%20is%20fit%20and%20safe.,
Hi, I’m Kelvin Nielsen, an experienced landlord and accomplished real estate lawyer. My focus is on answering your questions about renting in the hopes of making your life as a renter or a landlord a bit easier.