Below you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about California Landlord Tenant laws. We are not intending to provide legal advice, instead, point you in the right direction! You can review the complete California law here.
What a landlord cannot do in California?
Below you’ll find the complete list of actions that are unlawful for a landlord to do in California. Here’s a brief summary of the actions landlords cannot do in California:
- Use or threaten use of force that interferes with tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the premises
- Enter the premise without following Section 1954 rules
- Threaten to disclose information regarding or relating to the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, occupant, or other person known to the landlord to be associated with a tenant or occupant.
Complete List of Unlawful Actions
1940.2. (a) It is unlawful for a landlord to do any of the following for the purpose of influencing a tenant to vacate a dwelling:
- Engage in conduct that violates subdivision (a) of Section 484 of the Penal Code.
- Engage in conduct that violates Section 518 of the Penal Code.
- Use, or threaten to use, force, willful threats, or menacing conduct constituting a course of conduct that interferes with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the premises in violation of Section 1927 that would create an apprehension of harm in a reasonable person. Nothing in this paragraph requires a tenant to be actually or constructively evicted in order to obtain relief.
- Commit a significant and intentional violation of Section 1954.
- Threaten to disclose information regarding or relating to the immigration or citizenship status of a tenant, occupant, or other person known to the landlord to be associated with a tenant or occupant. This paragraph does not require a tenant to be actually or constructively evicted in order to obtain relief.
- A tenant who prevails in a civil action, including an action in small claims court, to enforce his or her rights under this section is entitled to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed two thousand dollars ($2,000) for each violation.
- An oral or written warning notice, given in good faith, regarding conduct by a tenant, occupant, or guest that violates, may violate, or violated the applicable rental agreement, rules, regulations, lease, or laws, is not a violation of this section. An oral or written explanation of the rental agreement, rules, regulations, lease, or laws given in the normal course of business is not a violation of this section.
- This section does not enlarge or diminish a landlord’s right to terminate a tenancy pursuant to existing state or local law; nor does this section enlarge or diminish any ability of local government to regulate or enforce a prohibition against a landlord’s harassment of a tenant.
(Amended by Stats. 2017, Ch. 489, Sec. 3. (AB 291) Effective January 1, 2018.)
More reading: CHAPTER 2. Hiring of Real Property [1940 – 1954.05]
How long do you have to give a tenant to move out in California?
In California, both landlord and tenant are required to provide a 30-day early termination notice.
More reading: CHAPTER 2. Hiring of Real Property 
How many days does a landlord need to give before increasing rent in California?
For leases that are less than a month, a landlord must either deliver a notice of rent increase in person or by mail at least 30 days before the increase. If the increase totals over 10% of the rental amount charged to a tenant in 12 months, a landlord must provide 90-day notice.
For leases over 1 month, your rent cannot be changed during the duration of the lease agreement.
More reading: ARTICLE 1. Incidents of Ownership [827b]
What is the longest lease available by law in California?
For residential rental agreements, the Civil law doesn’t outline a length. Typical lease lengths are 1 year. This allows landlords a set period of time to expect rent payments and flexibility for tenants. If a term on the rental agreement is not specified, California will presume the agreement is monthly.
More reading: CHAPTER 2. Hiring of Real Property 
What are landlords responsible for fixing in California?
Landlords are responsible for maintaining their properties in a condition that is fit for occupancy and isn’t in a dilapidated state. These conditions include:
- Effective weatherproofing, including unbroken windows and doors.
- Installed & working gas and plumbing
- Working water supply (hot, cold, and sewage disposal system)
- Installed & working heating
- Installed & working electrical
- Clean and sanity premise
- Garbage receptacles
- Floors, stairways, and railings in good repair
- A locking mail receptacle
- Install and maintain an operable deadbolt lock on each main swinging entry door
- Install and maintain operable window security or locking devices for windows that are designed to be opened
- Install locking mechanisms that comply with applicable fire and safety codes on the exterior doors
- Installing at least one usable telephone jack
More reading: CHAPTER 2. Hiring of Real Property [1941.1 – 1941.7]
Can a landlord enter without permission in California?
In California, a landlord must provide a 24-hour notice of intent to enter a premise, during normal business hours. The notice must be delivered personally to a tenant, left with some old enough to deliver the information at the premise, or posted on the premise in a location someone would reasonably see. If using mail, the message must be sent at least six days prior to the intended entry date.
Regardless of the communication timeline, the notice must include the date, approximate time, and purpose of the entry.
What are landlords’ responsibilities with security deposits in California?
Security deposits are not required in the state of California. It is also illegal for a security deposit to be more than two months of rent, or three months of rent if the property is furnished.
California does outline the repercussions a landlord has as options if a tenant fails to pay rent and the landlord has not collected a security deposit. However, we recommend that a landlord does collect a security deposit of at least one month’s rent.
In the case of a security deposit, a landlord can withhold unpaid rent. If there is no unpaid rent, the deposit should be refunded within 21 days of the end of the rental agreement. If the landlord uses the security deposit to cover damages or unpaid debts, they will need to provide a line item list, plus receipts, of the charges they used the security deposit to cover and the remaining balance.
Resources for Complete California Landlord Tenant Laws:
- California Civil Law, CHAPTER 2. Hiring of Real Property [1940 – 1954.05]
- HUD – Local Tenant Rights, Laws, and Protections: California
- Habitability Laws
Read more of our state landlord tenant law guides here.
Note: This content is not intended to substitute, replace, or be construed as professional legal advice. It is for referential purposes only and not meant to replace the advice of your legal counsel, legal representation, and or lawyer. Please consult your professional legal representation or lawyer to be sure your lease is compliant with any state and/or federal laws.