C alifornia T enanTsA Guide to ResidentiAl tenAnts’ AndlAndloRds’ RiGhts And Responsibilities

C alifornia T enanTsA Guide to ResidentiAl tenAnts’ AndlAndloRds’ RiGhts And Responsibilities



T ableofC onTenTsiNtrodUctioN . 1Before YoU agree to reNt. 15HoW to USe tHiS BooKLet . 1Rental Agreements and leases . 15WHo iS a LaNdLord aNdWHo iS a teNaNt? . 2General information . 15General information Aboutlandlords and tenants. 2Written rental agreements . 16oral rental agreements . 16special situations . 3leases . 17hotels and motels . 3shared utility Meters . 17Residential hotels. 3translation of proposedRental Agreement. 18single lodger in a private residence. 4transitional housing . 4WHeN YoU HaVe decided to reNt . 18Mobilehome parks andrecreational vehicle parks . 4What the Rental Agreement or leaseshould include . 19LooKiNg for a reNtaL UNit . 5looking for and inspectingRental units . 5looking for a rental unit . 5inspecting before you rent . 5the rental application . 6prepaid rental listing services . 7Credit Checks . 9Application screening Fee . 10holding deposit . 10unlawful discrimination . 11What is unlawful discrimination? . 11examples of unlawful discrimination . 12limited exceptions forsingle rooms and roommates . 13Resolving housingdiscrimination problems . 14Key terms . 19tenant’s basic legal rights . 20Alterations to Accommodate a tenant Witha disability. 21landlord’s and tenant’s duty of goodfaith and fair dealing . 22shared utilities . 22landlord’s disclosures. 22lead-based paint . 22periodic pest control treatments . 23Asbestos . 23Carcinogenic material . 23illegal controlled substances . 23Methamphetamine contamination . 23demolition permit . 24Military base or explosives . 24death in the rental unit . 24Condominium conversion project . 24



C alifornia T enanTsA Guide to ResidentiAl tenAnts’ And lAndloRds’RiGhts And ResponsibilitiesIntroductIonWhat should a tenant do if his or herapartment needs repairs? Can a landlordforce a tenant to move? how many days noticedoes a tenant have to give a landlord beforethe tenant moves? Can a landlord raise atenant’s rent? California Tenants—A Guide toResidential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights andResponsibilities answers these questions andmany others.Whether the tenant is renting a room, anapartment, a house, or a duplex, the landlordtenant relationship is governed by federal, state,and local laws. this booklet focuses on Californialaws that govern the landlord-tenant relationship,and suggests things that both the landlord andtenant can do to make the relationship a goodone. Although the booklet is written from thetenant’s point of view, landlords can also benefitfrom its information.tenants and landlords should discuss theirexpectations and responsibilities before theyenter into a rental agreement. if a problemoccurs, the tenant and landlord should try toresolve the problem by open communicationand discussion. honest discussion of theproblem may show each party that he or sheis not completely in the right, and that a faircompromise is in order.if the problem is one for which the landlordis responsible (see pages 37–40), the landlordmay be willing to correct the problem or work outa solution without further action by the tenant.if the problem is one for which the tenant isresponsible (see pages 37–40), the tenant mayagree to correct the problem once the tenantunderstands the landlord’s concerns. if theparties cannot reach a solution on their own,they may be able to resolve the problem throughmediation or arbitration (see page 82). in somesituations, a court action may provide the onlysolution (see pages 46–48, 64–65, 72–78).the department of Consumer Affairs hopesthat tenants and landlords will use this booklet’sinformation to avoid problems in the first place,and to resolve those problems that do occur.How to use tHIs BookletYou can probably find the information you needby using this booklet’s table of Contents, index,and Glossary of terms.taBLe of coNteNtSthe table of Contents (pages v–vii) shows thatthe booklet is divided into nine main sections.each main section is divided into smallersections. For example, if you want informationabout the rental agreement, look under “RentalAgreements and leases” in the “beFoRe YouAGRee to Rent” section.1


Special SituationsHotels and motelsif you are a resident in a hotel or motel, you do not have the rights of a tenant in any of thefollowing situations:1. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other lodging facility for 30 days or less, and youroccupancy is subject to the state’s hotel occupancy tax.2. You live in a hotel, motel, residence club, or other lodging facility for more than 30 days, buthave not paid for all room and related charges owing by the 30th day.3. You live in a hotel or motel to which the manager has a right of access and control, and all ofthe following is true: The hotel or motel allows occupancy for periods of fewer than seven days. All of the following services are provided for all residents:- a fireproof safe for residents’ use;- a central telephone service;- maid, mail, and room service; and- food service provided by a food establishment that is on or next to the hotel or motelgrounds and that is operated in conjunction with the hotel or motel.if you live in a unit described by either 1, 2 or 3 above, you are not a tenant; you are aguest. therefore, you don’t have the same rights as a tenant.4 For example, the proprietor ofa hotel can lock out a guest who doesn’t pay his or her room charges on time, while a landlordwould have to begin formal eviction proceedings to evict a nonpaying tenant.residential hotelsYou have the legal rights of a tenant if you are a resident in a residential hotel, which isin fact your primary residence.5 Residential hotel means any building which contains six ormore guest rooms or efficiency units which are designed, used, rented or occupied for sleepingpurposes by guests, and which is the primary residence of these guests.6 in residential hotels, alocking mail receptacle must be provided for each residential unit. 7Special Situations continued on page 44Civil Code Section 1940.5Health and Safety Code Section 50519(b)(1). See California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraphs 2:39, 2:40.1, 7:6.2(Rutter Group 2009).6Health and Safety Code Section 50519(b)(1). See California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraphs 2:39, 2:40.1, 7:6.2(Rutter Group 2009).7Health and Safety Code Sections 17958.3; Civil Code Section 1944.1(i); Califorrnia Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraph 3:21(a)(Rutter Group 2009).3

Special Situations continued from page 3it is unlawful for the proprietor of a residential hotel to require a guest to move or to checkout and re-register before the guest has lived there for 30 days, if the proprietor’s purpose is tohave the guest maintain transient occupancy status (and therefore not gain the legal rights ofa tenant).8 A person who violates this law may be punished by a 500 civil penalty and may berequired to pay the guest’s attorney fees.Single lodger in a private residenceA lodger is a person who lives in a room in a house where the owner lives. the owner canenter all areas occupied by the lodger and has overall control of the house.9 Most lodgers havethe same rights as tenants.10however, in the case of a single lodger in a house where there are no other lodgers, theowner can evict the lodger without using formal eviction proceedings. the owner can give thelodger written notice that the lodger cannot continue to use the room. the amount of noticemust be the same as the number of days between rent payments (for example, 30 days). (see“landlord’s notice to end a periodic tenancy,” page 50.) When the owner has given the lodgerproper notice and the time has expired, the lodger has no further right to remain in the owner’shouse and may be removed as a trespasser.11transitional housingsome tenants are residents of “transitional housing.” transitional housing provides housingto formerly homeless persons for periods of 30 days to 24 months. special rules cover thebehavior of residents in, and eviction of residents from, transitional housing.12mobilehome parks and recreational vehicle parksspecial rules in the Mobilehome Residency law13 or the Recreational Vehicle parkoccupancy law,14 and not the rules discussed in this booklet, cover most landlord-tenantrelationships in mobilehome parks and recreational vehicle parks.however, normal eviction procedures (see pages 67–80) must be used to evict certainmobilehome residents. specifically, a person who leases a mobilehome from its owner (who hasleased the site for the mobilehome directly from the management of the mobilehome park) issubject to the eviction procedures described in this booklet, and not the eviction provisions inthe Mobilehome Residency law. the same is true for a person who leases both a mobilehomeand the site for the mobilehome from the mobilehome park management.158Civil Code Section 1940.1. Evidence that an occupant was required to check out and re-register creates a rebuttable presumption thatthe proprietor’s purpose was to have the occupant maintain transient occupancy status. (Civil Code Section 1940.1(a).) This presumptionaffects the burden of producing evidence.9Civil Code Section 1946.5.10Civil Code Section 1940(a).11Civil Code Section 1946.5, Penal Code Section 602.3.12Health and Safety Code Sections 50580-50591.13Civil Code Sections 798-799.10. See Moskovitz et al., California Landlord-Tenant Practice, Sections 6.62-6.89 (Cal. Cont. Ed. Bar 2009).14Civil Code Sections 799.20-799.79.15California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraphs 11:27-11:28 (Rutter Group 2009).4

LooKiNg for aNd iNSPectiNg reNtaL UNitScolleges, and churches often have notices aboutplaces for rent. You can also look for “For Rent”signs in the neighborhoods where you would liketo live.Looking for a rental unitinspecting before you rentWhen you are looking for a rental unit, themost important things to think about are:before you decide to rent, carefully inspectthe rental unit with the landlord or the landlord’sagent. Make sure that the unit has beenmaintained well. use the inventory checklist(pages 107-110) as an inspection guide. Whenyou inspect the rental unit, look for the followingproblems:lookIng For a rental unIt the dollar limit that you can afford for monthlyrent and utilities. the dollar limit that you can afford for alldeposits that may be required (for example,holding and security deposits). the location that you addition, you also should carefully considerthe following: the kind of rental unit that you want (forexample, an apartment complex, a duplex, ora single-family house), and the features thatyou want (such as the number of bedroomsand bathrooms). Whether you want a month-to-month rentalagreement or a lease (see pages 15–17). Access to schools, stores, publictransportation, medical facilities,child-care facilities, and other necessitiesand conveniences. the character and quality of the neighborhood(for example, its safety and appearance). the condition of the rental unit (see“inspecting before you rent,” page 5). other special requirements that you or yourfamily members may have (for example,wheelchair access).You can obtain information on places to rentfrom many sources. Many internet Web siteslist rental properties. local newspapers carryclassified advertisements on available rentalunits. in many areas, there are free weeklyor monthly publications devoted to rentallistings. local real estate offices and propertymanagement companies often have rentallistings. bulletin boards in public buildings, local Cracks or holes in the floor, walls, or ceiling. signs of leaking water or water damage in thefloor, walls, or ceiling. the presence of mold that might affect your oryour family’s health and safety. signs of rust in water from the taps. leaks in bathroom or kitchen fixtures. lack of hot water. inadequate lighting or insufficient electricaloutlets. inadequate heating or air conditioning. inadequate ventilation or offensive odors. defects in electrical wiring and fixtures. damaged flooring. damaged furnishings (if it’s a furnished unit). signs of insects, vermin, or rodents. Accumulated dirt and debris. inadequate trash and garbage receptacles. Chipping paint in older buildings. (paint chipssometimes contain lead, which can cause leadpoisoning if children eat them. if the buildingwas built before 1978, you should read thebooklet, “protect Your Family From lead inYour home,” which is available by calling(800)-424-leAd or online at

signs of asbestos-containing materials inolder buildings, such as flaking ceiling tiles, orcrumbling pipe wrap or insulation. (Asbestosparticles can cause serious health problems ifthey are inhaled.) For more information, go Any sign of hazardous substances, toxicchemicals, or other hazardous waste productsin the rental unit or on the property.Also, look at the exterior of the buildingand any common areas, such as hallways andcourtyards. does the building appear to be wellmaintained? Are the common areas clean andwell-kept?the quality of rental units can vary greatly.You should understand the unit’s good pointsand shortcomings, and consider them all whendeciding whether to rent, and whether the rent isreasonable.Ask the landlord who will be responsible forpaying for utilities (gas, electric, water, and trashcollection). You will probably be responsible forsome, and possibly all, of them. try to find outhow much the previous tenant paid for utilities.this will help you be certain that you canafford the total amount of the rent and utilitieseach month. With increasing energy costs, it’simportant to consider whether the rental unit andits appliances are energy efficient.if the rental unit is a house or duplex with ayard, ask the landlord who will be responsible fortaking care of the yard. if you will be, ask whetherthe landlord will supply necessary equipment,such as a lawn mower and a hose.during this initial walk-through of the rentalunit, you will have the chance to see how yourpotential landlord reacts to your concerns aboutit. At the same time, the landlord will learn howyou handle potential problems. You may not beable to reach agreement on every point, or onany. nonetheless, how you get along will helpboth of you decide whether you will become atenant.6if you find problems like the ones listed above,discuss them with the landlord. if the problemsare ones that the law requires the landlord torepair (see pages 37–40), find out when thelandlord intends to make the repairs. if you agreeto rent the unit, it’s a good idea to get thesepromises in writing, including the date by whichthe repairs will be completed.if the landlord isn’t required by law to makethe repairs, you should still write down adescription of any problems if you are goingto rent the property. it’s a good idea to askthe landlord to sign and date the writtendescription. Also, take photographs or a videoof the problems. use the time and date stamp,if your camera has this feature. Your signed,written description and photographs or video willdocument that the problems were there when youmoved in, and can help avoid disagreement laterabout your responsibility for the problems.Finally, it’s a good idea to walk or drive aroundthe neighborhood during the day and again inthe evening. Ask neighbors how they like livingin the area. if the rental unit is in an apartmentcomplex, ask some of the tenants how they getalong with the landlord and the other tenants. ifyou are concerned about safety, ask neighborsand tenants if there have been any problems, andwhether they think that the area is safe.tHe reNtaL aPPLicatioNbefore renting to you, most landlords willask you to fill out a written rental applicationform. A rental application is different from arental agreement (see pages 15–17). the rentalapplication is like a job or credit application. thelandlord will use it to decide whether to rent to you.A rental application usually asks for thefollowing information: the names, addresses, and telephonenumbers of your current and pastemployers. the names, addresses, and telephonenumbers of your current and pastlandlords.Continued on page 8

Prepaid rental Listing Servicesbusinesses known as prepaid rental listing services sell lists of available rental units. thesebusinesses are regulated by the California department of Real estate (dRe) and must belicensed.16 You may check the status of a license issued to a prepaid rental service on thedRe Web site ( to ensure that the service is licensed. if you use a prepaid rentallisting service, it must enter into a contract with you before it accepts any money from you.17 thecontract must describe the services that the prepaid rental listing service will provide you. thecontract also must include a description of the kind of rental unit that you want to find. Forexample, the contract must state the number of bedrooms that you want and the highest rentthat you will pay.before you enter into a contract with a prepaid rental listing service or pay for informationabout available rental units, ask if the service is licensed and whether the list of rentals iscurrent. the contract cannot be for more than 90 days. the law requires the service to give youa list of at least three currently available rentals within five days after you sign the contract.You can receive a refund of the fee that you paid for the list of available rentals if the list doesnot contain three available rental units of the kind that you described in the contract.18 in orderto obtain a refund, you must demand a full refund from the prepaid rental listing service within15 days of signing the contract. Your demand for a refund must be in writing and must bepersonally delivered to the prepaid rental listing service or sent to it by certified or registeredmail. (however, you can’t get a refund if you found a rental using the services of the prepaidrental listing service.)if you don’t find a rental unit from the list you bought, or if you rent from another source,the prepaid rental listing service can keep only 50 of the fee that you paid. the service mustrefund the balance, but you must request the refund within 10 days after the end of the contract.You must provide documentation that you did not move, or that you did not find your new rentalusing the services of the prepaid rental listing service. if you don’t have documentation, youcan fil