Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Kelvin Nielsen
“What are my rights as a tenant in California?” – This is usually a question atop many tenants’ minds when they start their tenancy journey or when faced with issues. Luckily for you, this blog has you covered!
California tenants automatically obtain certain rights under state law (CA Civil Code 1940-1954.06). And those rights exist regardless of what the lease agreement says.
It’s also illegal for a landlord to try and compel a tenant in California to waive any of their rights.
The following are tenants’ rights in California.
Tenants’ Rights in California
1. Right to live in a habitable 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
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 with 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. Right to a proper eviction process.
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. Right to exercise a legal right without being discrimination against.
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. Right to proper notification before lease termination.
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.
5. Right to a proper rent increase.
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.
6. Right to be treated equally and fairly.
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.
7. Right to privacy.
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.
8. Right to be provided certain mandatory disclosures.
Before moving into your rental property, your landlord must provide you with certain mandatory disclosures. For instance, information regarding presence of bed bugs and documentation of any known mold.
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 are My Rights as a Tenant in California
Q: Do renters have a right to air conditioning in California?
A: No! State law doesn’t require landlords to provide an air conditioning system to tenants. However, if the lease specifically mentions it as part of the appliances the home comes with, then you’d certainly be within your rights to demand for it.
The landlord must also make any repairs to the air conditioning system within 30 days.
Q: What are my rights as a renter with mold in California?
A: California law (HSC §17920.3) lists mold as a health hazard. As such, if you have mold in your home, it means that the unit is likely uninhabitable. Consequently, you may be able to exercise a number of legal options.
Including, withholding rent, repairing the mold issue and then making appropriate deductions from future rent payments, suing the landlord, or simply breaking the lease.
Q: What is the California tenant law regarding carpets?
A: California doesn’t have a carpet replacement law. That said, renters still enjoy certain rights. Including, the right to have the carpet replaced after it has lived its useful life of between 5-7 years. You can read more here.
Q: What renters’ rights do tenants in California evictions enjoy?
A: California evictions must be proper. Regardless of the violation you have committed, the landlord must follow due process. They must not resort to illegal eviction methods, like shutting down your utilities, removing your belongings, or locking you out.
The only lawful way to evict a tenant in California is by obtaining a court order. And even then, it’s only a Sheriff or a Marshall that can physically carry out the eviction.
Q: What are California renters’ rights regarding normal wear and tear.
A: California Civil Code Section 1950.5(b) prohibits landlords from making security deposit deductions on damages resulting from normal wear and tear. Damage from normal wear and tear results from normal, everyday use of a rental property.
Examples of damages arising from normal wear and tear include fading of the carpet or blinds, small nail holes, minor dents and scratches, chipped paint, and loose door knobs.
Your landlord can, however, charge you for any damage exceeding normal wear and tear. Including, holes in walls or doors, burns or stains on carpets, or missing or damaged appliances.
Q: What are California renters rights when breaking a lease?
A: As a renter, you have a right to terminate your periodic or fixed-term lease. To terminate a periodic lease, you must provide the landlord with a proper notice. The amount to serve depends on the rent payment frequency. If paying rent on a monthly basis, for instance, then you must serve the landlord with a 30 days’ advance notice.
California law also allows tenants on a fixed-term lease to break their lease legally without penalty. You must, however, have a legally justified reason to do so. For instance, if starting an active military duty, if the unit becomes uninhabitable, or the landlord severely violates your privacy.
Q: What are California renters rights regarding bed bugs?
A: The bed bug law (AB 551) prohibits landlords from knowingly renting out a unit that they know is infested with bed bugs.
Additionally, the law makes it mandatory for landlords to provide prospective tenants with information regarding bed bugs and how they can report an infestation.
Q: What are California renters’ rights regarding a broken window?
A: California law requires landlords to only rent out habitable properties. A unit with a broken window would be considered uninhabitable, as it’s possible the broken window could provide an easy ingress for pests and water. Thieves may also take advantage of the broken window to access your home.
That said, the liability to fix the broken window would become yours if it occurs due to your negligence, careless, misuse, or abuse once you start renting the home.
Q: What are California renters’ rights regarding carpet cleaning?
A: It’s illegal for a landlord to charge a tenant for routine carpet cleaning. However, a landlord may be able to charge you for the costs of professional cleaning services if you leave the property in a dire state of uncleanliness.
Q: What are California renters’ rights regarding construction noise?
A: As a tenant in California, you have a right to live in peace and quiet. This legal right is commonly known as the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Now, there are two main laws that govern noise in California.
One of the laws is the California Penal Code Section 415. This law classifies loud noise and unreasonable disturbance as a misdemeanor meant to injure, annoy, or endanger others. You can use this law on a neighbor who constantly hosts large, noisy parties or one who plays loud music.
The other law is the local noise ordinance. Most, if not all, cities and counties in California have their own noise ordinances. These set the limit on the amount of noise that is permitted at different times of the day. These laws are often more restrictive.
California law grants tenants certain rights after a lease is established. And these rights exist regardless of what your landlord tells you, or what the lease says.
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: CA Civil Code 1940-1954.06, CA Civ. Code § 1941.2, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/overview-landlord-tenant-laws-california.html, https://homeguides.sfgate.com/basic-tenants-rights-california-8085.html, https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=1942.5.&lawCode=CIV, https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/California-Tenants-Guide.pdf, https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/penal-code/pen-sect-415/,
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.