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Tuesday, April 23, 2024   /   by Bob Cowan


California Renter's Guide

This guide on renters' rights in California is designed to aid you in initiating or terminating your lease agreement. Additionally, we will cover notifications, property inspections, and related subjects.

It's important for both landlords and tenants to understand their legal rights and responsibilities. However, landlords should particularly grasp the basics to navigate any disputes or problems that may arise. Obtaining rental property insurance in California can provide added protection for your investment.

Let's delve into this comprehensive renters' rights guide for California. Acquiring this knowledge now may help prevent potential complications with your current or prospective tenants down the line.

California Renters

Rights of tenants at an early stage

Before signing a rental agreement, tenants possess certain rights that shield them from potential discrimination by landlords during the application process.

For instance, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against prospective tenants based on factors such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. Consequently, landlords must exercise caution in their communication during the interview phase, as they ultimately hold the decision-making power.

A valuable recommendation for landlords is to seek legal counsel to assist in crafting appropriate interview questions for potential tenants. These questions can then be utilized in future tenant interviews, ensuring fairness and compliance with anti-discrimination laws.

Security Deposits

Many landlords find reassurance in collecting a security deposit, as it provides a financial buffer for addressing potential issues that may arise with tenants.
In California, there is a temptation for landlords to demand substantial security deposits; however, the state's security deposit law introduces certain considerations for landlords.
The law permits landlords to request a security deposit, but it must comply with specific regulations. For unfurnished apartments, landlords can charge up to two months' rent, while for furnished units, an additional month's rent can be charged, totaling three months. This differentiation reflects the higher potential for damage in furnished accommodations.
Notably, there is no ceiling on security deposit amounts for commercial properties.
Regardless of the rental type, all security deposits must be refundable, although landlords are not obligated to place the funds in escrow. However, it is advisable to keep the deposit securely in an account, as any interest accrued belongs to the landlord, regardless of whether the deposit is refunded.

In some California cities with rent control policies, landlords might be obligated to pay interest to tenants on their security deposits. Additionally, tenants are generally prohibited from using their deposit to cover the final month's rent, unless expressly permitted in the initial agreement. Ultimately, the decision regarding this matter rests with the landlord.

Under what circumstances can landlords retain deposits?

After obtaining the security deposit, it's essential to capture both before and after photos in case the tenant damages the property. Landlords have the option to withhold a portion or all of the deposit for various reasons, such as:
• If the tenant fails to make rental payments as agreed
• If the tenant has caused damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear
• If there are expenses for cleaning to return the property to its original condition before the tenant's occupancy
• In cases where the tenant breaches the contract and the landlord incurs additional expenses
• Various other violations of the lease agreement that are clearly evident
Exploring the definition of wear and tear is a separate area that landlords should delve into. This research enables them to steer clear of potential disputes with tenants who might argue that damage is simply due to wear and tear.


House Tour
Prior to a tenant's departure, landlords may conduct a walkthrough inspection of the property with them to identify any issues that may require deductions from the deposit. The tenant has the choice of arranging for someone else to address any necessary repairs.
However, before landlords can proceed with a walkthrough, they must adhere to various requirements outlined in renters' rights. Firstly, landlords should provide reasonable notice regarding the date and time of the inspection. Additionally, they should allow sufficient time for tenants to arrange any repairs independently if they choose to do so.
In cases where landlords encounter difficulty reaching tenants, tenants have the right to receive a written notice of at least 48 hours. However, if both parties agree to a less formal arrangement, written notice may not be necessary.
Any inspection of this nature should occur at least two weeks before the end of the tenancy. Furthermore, following the inspection, landlords are obligated to furnish tenants with a list detailing the repairs required for their final inspection.

How to Handle the Return of Security Deposits

Landlords are required to refund the security deposit within 21 days after the tenant vacates the property. Failure to do so may lead to legal action by the tenant in small claims court. It's possible that the refunded amount may be insufficient to cover repair costs or lost rental income.
Landlords must provide a written statement detailing the original deposit amount received from the tenant and itemize any deductions made. Additionally, landlords must furnish the tenant with copies of invoices or receipts for expenses incurred in repairing damages to the property. If repairs are ongoing, landlords can provide a good-faith estimate of the costs.
It's essential that the amount refunded is documented in writing to avoid potential lawsuits from former tenants.

The Correct Procedure for Terminating a Tenancy

When a landlord wishes to end a tenancy, it is essential to give proper notice to the tenant.
If the tenant is the sole occupant, landlords should provide a 30-day notice to vacate. However, if other occupants have lived in the property for over a year, the notice period extends to 60 days.
In cases where there is an existing lease agreement, the notice period will adhere to the terms outlined in the lease. Additionally, there is a straightforward process for evictions, where the tenant is typically given a three-day notice to vacate the premises.

Tenant Living Standards

In California, ensuring livable conditions for rental properties involves meeting essential requirements and complying with relevant construction regulations. If the rental property does not meet these standards, landlords are obligated to make the necessary repairs to bring it into compliance. Let's delve deeper into some of the specific issues concerning tenant living conditions.

Tenants' Recourse

When landlords neglect to maintain the building adequately, tenants have several avenues for recourse. Initially, tenants can submit a written request for repairs. If landlords refuse or neglect to address the necessary repairs, tenants have the option to report them to a building inspector. Legal consultation is also available to tenants in such situations.
In some cases, tenants may choose to withhold rent if landlords fail to undertake essential renovations to ensure habitability. However, the withheld amount must not exceed the cost required to complete the repairs.
If tenants have already paid their rent in full, they are entitled to request a refund to cover the expenses of necessary repairs.

Ensuring Habitable Properties

Maintaining a house or any other type of property as livable involves keeping the heating, plumbing, and appliances in proper working order, as well as ensuring the structural integrity of the building.
Landlords are required to address heating or plumbing issues within 24 hours and minor repairs within 48 hours.
Moreover, maintaining cleanliness is essential as individuals have the right to reside in hygienic environments, although definitions of cleanliness may vary.
Landlords must provide at least 24 hours' notice before entering the property for repairs, except in emergency situations such as burst pipes. Familiarity with these regulations can help landlords and tenants avoid misunderstandings regarding cleanliness expectations.

Rent Increase Regulations in California

According to David Reischer, Attorney & CEO of LegalAdvice.com, California enacted the "Tenant Protection Act of 2019," establishing a statewide rent control law allowing a maximum annual rent increase of 5%. This law is applicable only in cities without local rent control ordinances. Additionally, properties must be at least 15 years old on a rolling basis for new constructions to fall under this law. Existing properties older than 15 years are already covered.
Erik Nilsson, Founder of Rentola, explains that in California, landlords can increase rent by either 5% plus the change in the Consumer Price Index or by 10% of the lowest gross rental rate charged to the tenant, whichever is lower. This regulation has been in effect since 2020 and remains unchanged. Before 2020, the second clause concerning the rent increase was not present, and landlords could only raise rent by 5% plus the change in CPI and up to 10%.

Landlord Insurance

Following the discussion of various aspects of renters' rights in California, the topic of landlord insurance arises.
Landlord insurance, also known as rental property insurance, is designed for individuals who lease out property to tenants. While not mandated by law, it can provide landlords with additional peace of mind.
A landlord insurance policy can provide several benefits to landlords, including:
• Coverage in the event of tenant injuries
• Protection against water damage or fire incidents
• Coverage for specific legal liabilities
• Safeguard against particular natural disasters
Additionally, many insurance providers offer landlords the flexibility to choose a tailored set of coverages according to their individual requirements. Alternatively, landlords may opt for comprehensive coverage, which often comes at unexpectedly reasonable rates.
Moreover, certain additional coverages may encompass events such as rioting, explosions, and civil commotions.

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  bob cowan, your home sold guaranteed, platinum living realty, california, april 2024

Platinum Living Realty
Bob Cowan
120 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92661
DRE# 01970237

Based on information from California Regional Multiple Listing Service, Inc. as of May 30, 2024. This information is for your personal, non-commercial use and may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties you may be interested in purchasing. Display of MLS data is usually deemed reliable but is NOT guaranteed accurate by the MLS. Buyers are responsible for verifying the accuracy of all information and should investigate the data themselves or retain appropriate professionals. Information from sources other than the Listing Agent may have been included in the MLS data. Unless otherwise specified in writing, Broker/Agent has not and will not verify any information obtained from other sources. The Broker/Agent providing the information contained herein may or may not have been the Listing and/or Selling Agent.
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