A Quick Guide to Tenancy Laws in California

A landlord’s rights and duties regarding tenants are governed by both federal and state laws.

For this reason, it's important to know the laws of every state in which you own an income property.

This guide covers California landlord-tenant laws, and does not apply to other states.

Rent Control

The objective of rent control is to limit the amount landlords can charge as rent and regulate the eviction process.

In California, rent control laws work on a city-by-city basis.

Some cities in California that have some form of rent regulation in place include, but are not limited to, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, San Jose, and Beverly Hills.

Rent regulation ordinances are subject to frequent change, so you'll need to confirm the latest rules in your city.

Under California Civil Code, property is exempt from rent control if its occupancy certificate is dated after 1995.

In some counties, the landlord and tenant are allowed a time period in which to challenge the rent stipulated by the rent control department.

Property Managers

Apartment complexes that contain 16 or more units must have an on-site manager who is responsible for ascertaining that the property stays livable and safe.

The landlord can carry out the role of on-site manager, or hire an employee to fill the role.

The landlord can be held legally accountable for decisions made by the property manager.

Before hiring a property manager, landlords should conduct a background check, have a written contract in place, and keep the tenants in the loop about the rights and duties of the manager.


Under the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, discrimination when renting out property is a crime.

Along with the federal laws, California has the Unruh Act in place.

Under this act, landlords cannot discriminate against renters so long as the renters meet several conditions.

Specifically, renters must pay the rent on time, observe common courtesies, not misrepresent information during the application process, and maintain the rented property as per the rental agreement.

As long as the tenant follows these rules, a landlord found guilty of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, Section 1982 has to pay both actual and punitive damages.

Landlords should be aware of specific city ordinances regarding discrimination and rental housing as well.

Disclosures by Landlords

Landlords are required by California law to make relevant disclosures to tenants and the tenant should be made aware of the following points:

  • The use of lead-based paint and asbestos, particularly if the property was constructed prior to 1978. The California Department of Health Services can help landlords check for the presence of environmentally dangerous construction materials.
  • The presence of a military base located within one mile of the property.
  • The address, telephone number, and name of the landlord. This is for serving legal documents and rent payment.
  • The death of a tenant in the past three years and the cause of death.


Landlords may face legal liabilities for damage done or accidents caused by a tenant’s pet.

Therefore, many landlords prefer to rent to tenants without pets, and under California law they can do so.

Landlords are also allowed to set terms for keeping pets on the property.

These include restricting tenants to only keeping spayed and neutered cats and dogs, charging an additional security deposit, and making the tenant responsible for ensuring that the pet does not cause destruction of property or become a nuisance to other tenants and neighbors.

Elements of landlord-tenant law in California change periodically.

Both landlords and tenants should make themselves aware of any amendments in laws covering rights and duties.

Posted on Dec 03, 2014


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