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Your Rights As A Landlord In California

Jun 8, 2008
When renting out property, there are many different laws that apply to how you manage that property and your tenats. Many of these laws vary from state to state, although they are often very similar. Here are some common questions and answers, specific to California, that you may have as a Landlord.

Under What Circumstances Can a Landlord Utilize a Tenant's Security Deposit?

The security deposit, determined at the time the unit is rented, may be utilized for several different circumstances. The funds can be utilized to compensate for rent which remains unpaid; damages to the property caused by the tenant may be covered with the deposit money, as long as it does not include ordinary wear and tear; the cleaning of the unit may be deducted from the security deposit upon termination of the tenancy, but this may only be done to the extent of returning the unit to the same condition as when it was rented; and the deposit may also be used to replace any property belonging in the unit which was damaged or the tenant may have taken with them upon moving.

It is also important to note that with the exception of a few local ordinances, the landlord is not required under California law to pay interest on the security deposit when it is returned to the tenant.

When May a Landlord Enter a Unit?

Generally, a landlord must give the tenant proper notice before entering the unit unannounced, attempting to set up a convenient time for a repairs or inspection. However, there are some situations where this rule does not apply. According to the California Civil Code Section 1951.3, if the rent remains unpaid for 14 consecutive days and the landlord believes the unit to be abandoned, a Notice of Belief of Abandonment must be sent to the tenant. If the tenant does not respond, the landlord has every right to inspect the property. Upon entering the unit, the landlord should make note if there are still personal belongings there, if food appears to be fresh, if the electricity and/or telephone services remain active, or if the unit appears to have been vacated. If the unit indeed appears to be abandoned, the landlord has the right to prepare it for a new tenant Additionally, if the tenant remains unresponsive to repeated entry requests, a landlord may enter the unit at any reasonable time (in California during normal business hours) and in a peaceful manner to handle suspected issues within the unit. The landlord may also enter at any time during an emergency situation, such as a gas leak, fire or damage occurring in the unit like a leaking sink or water heater unattended. However, at no time should a landlord enter a unit if the tenant is home and stating the landlord is to stay out. If the landlord suspects foul play or immediate danger, he or she should immediately contact the proper authorities to gain entry.

How Should a Landlord Legally Evict a Tenant?

Tenants may be evicted for a number of reasons, but the property procedures must be followed. Some events, which may cause an eviction, are: nonpayment of rent, lease violations, obvious and purposeful damage, unlawful acts within or upon the premises, and interference with other tenants. Under any of these situations, a three-day notice is all that is necessary to remove the tenants from the unit. The notice must give complete contact information for paying overdue rent; times in which the landlord may be contacted to receive the rent in person; or another location and hours where the rent may be dropped off. If other circumstances apply, such as unlawful acts or severe damage, the problems should be listed in writing within the notice. Any notice must be given to the tenant personally at home or work, or if the tenant cannot be located, mailed to the home address. Notice may also be personally given to anyone at the residence or place of business over the age of eighteen. The notice may also be tacked on the front door of the rental unit as well as mailed as detailed in the Code of Civil Procedure Sections 1161(2)-(4).

Should an eviction be necessary under a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord only has to serve a written 30 or 60-day notice. This notice does not have to state the eviction reasons. However, an eviction can never be for discriminatory reasons or in retaliation of some sort. A tenant who has been in the unit for only a year or less does not require more than a 30-day notice, but tenants who have resided there longer need to receive a 60-day notice.

If the tenant refuses to move after these proper procedures for eviction have been followed, the landlord should file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in superior court. As a landlord, this process must be followed, as lockout and physically attempting to remove the tenant without proper court guidance, is not legal.

As a Landlord, How Much Notice Do I Have to Give to Raise the Rent?

If you wish to raise your tenant(s)' rent less than 10% of their current rent, a 30-day notice is sufficient. If the rent is to be raised by 10% or more, then a 60-day notice is required. Before making any type of rent increase, be certain that the building you own is not in a rent-controlled area. If the building is not rent controlled, then theoretically, you can raise the rent to any amount you like, but it is wise to keep in mind that raising it to outrageous amounts for the area may cause you to lose tenants and income. Also, you may not violate conditions of a signed lease during the leasing period regarding rental payments unless a notification of increase provision was included. These provisions are set forth in Civil Code Section 8.27.

In some cities in California where rent control is in effect, the landlord is not allowed to raise the rent more than 5% per year with an additional 1% for electric costs and 1% for gas costs if those are included in the rent payment.

Can I, as a Landlord, Limit or Restrict Pets?

Generally, a no pets rule is perfectly legal. However, as a landlord, you should be careful about service animals. If a disabled person is fully capable of renting one of your units and the layout of the unit does not restrict their use of the same, a service animal should be permitted or you may find a discrimination issue if refusing to rent to them. Also, usually fish or contained pets not hampering or damaging the premises can be allowed, even in the event of a no pets rule. This does not include contained exotic pets. If you do allow pets in your units, the lease or rental agreement should list each pet, and no new or replacement pets should be allowed without your approval. All tenants should be responsible for cleaning up after their pets and accepting responsibility for any damage their pets might cause, or the problems should be noted and the tenant charged for the same.

As a Landlord, How Much Discretion Can I Use in Deciding Who to Rent To?

Naturally, you may use your own personal judgment in choosing a tenant, but you cannot discriminate in any way against religion, group affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, nationality, race, color, medical issues or suspected connections to persons within these groups. Additionally, once you do rent to various individuals, you are not allowed to hold up rules for one tenant that other tenants do not have to comply with based on any of these discriminatory areas.

You are always within your rights to select tenants based on their reference checks, work history, and even credit report. It is always a good idea to perform a credit check on potential tenants to avoid non-payment problems in the future. You may also refuse to rent to someone who insists on having animals if none are allowed in the building and the lease/agreement states the same.
About the Author
James Mattox is the founder and CEO of WhatsTheRent.com, a completely free roommate search and rental listing website. Find Roommates, apartments, houses, condos and more. Very easy to use, no limits on the number of listings, and packed with renter friendly search features.
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