If you OWN (not rent) a home or other residential property in the greater Los Angeles area, here’s what you need to know.Homeowner

1. Guests

Do I need to take any particular actions with respect to my guests?

Yes. You must warn your guests of dangerous objects in your house that would not be obvious to them. If you don’t, and they get hurt, they can sue you for the harm suffered.1 Rowland v Christian (1968) 69 C2d 108, 119 (applying CC §1714(a)

2. Unauthorized visitors

What are my rights regarding unauthorized visitors to my property?

In general, any person or thing that comes onto your property without your pe
rmission is considered trespassing. However, there are certain exceptions, including valid law enforcement activities, public utilities, etc.

If an unauthorized person comes onto your property and does not leave after you tell them to, you can have the police remove that person.

To make it clear that you do NOT give permission to strangers to come onto your property, including solicitors, you should post a sign that says “THIS PROPERTY CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC. No Entry Without Permission. LAMC Sec 41.24″2LAMC Sec 41.24

You can have a repeat trespasser arrested if you do the following: advise the person to leave and not return, and that if he or she returns to the property within 6 months he or she will be subject to arrest. The advisement should be in writing and include the name of the person advised, the date, approximate time, address and type of property involved.3LAMC Sec 41.24

What are my rights in preventing solicitors or door-to-door sales people from visiting my house?

If you put up a sign as described above, any solicitors would be considered trespassing. Also, door to door sales people and those asking for charitable contributions may not solicit between 8am-8pm.4LAMC 41.43.1 and LAMC 44.13 Sales people must present photo ID and a business license on request.5LAMC 41.43.1

3. Renting out your property

If I rent out my home or property, am I subject to rent-control laws?

Rent control laws generally restrict the ability of landlords to raise the rent. If your property is in any of the following cities, then you may be subject to rent control laws: Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Los Angeles. See more here.

Can I rent out my property short-term, like on AirBnB or VRBO?

“Short-term rental” generally means less than 30 days (some cities define it as less than 31 days). The legal situation for short term rentals is changing rapidly; see our short term rental page for details.

4. Graffiti

Within the city of LA:

  • you may not place or allow graffiti to remain on your property if visible to the public.6LAMC 49.84.3
  • The city may pay for the removal of the graffiti (unless you created it).7LAMC 49.84.7

5. Water use and conservation

What do I need to know about using water in my home?

  • In the city of Los Angeles, there are restrictions on watering paved surfaces, watering your lawn, washing your car, and using water in a fountain, among others, with fines of $100 for initial violations.8LAMC Ch 12, Sec. 121.08 See here for full details.
  • Anywhere in California outside the city of Los Angeles, the following is prohibited, with fines of $500 per day9Cal Code of Regulations, Title 23, Sections 863-865:
    • Washing down any hard surface, such as a driveway, patio or sidewalk.
    • Landscape watering that runs off into adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways or parking lots.
    • Washing a car with a hose unless the hose has a shut-off nozzle.
    • Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated.
  • Throughout the state of California, during periods in which the Governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought, local governments and homeowners associations may NOT fine you for dry or brown lawns.10Cal. Civil Code Section 4735

6. Neighbors

What are my responsibilities towards my neighbors?

You must remove weeds, garbage, or other materials on your property that may be dangerous to nearby residents.11LAMC 58.02

You must keep the sidewalks in front of your house clean.12LAMC 41.46

It’s illegal to put up a fence or trees just to spite a neighbor!13Civil Code Section 841.4

Throughout the state of California it is a crime to create a “disturbance of the peace”14Penal Code 415 or to cause or maintain or allow a “public nuisance” which interferes with the “comfortable enjoyment of life or property” by a community.15Penal Code 370, 372 Also, after you receive notice from the government of a nuisance, each day that you fail to address the issue is considered a separate violation.16Penal Code 373a

Also it is a civil violation (which you can be sued for) to interfere with the “comfortable enjoyment of life or property” or another individual, referred to as “private nuisance.”17Civil Code Sec 3479

The city of Los Angeles and other cities also have specific laws about noise issues, which you can find out more on at our Guide to Laws About Noise.

7. Plants on city street

Can I trim or remove a tree on a city street that is dangerous or annoying me?

Yes but generally you must get a permit to do ANYTHING to a tree, plant, or shrub, or to plant a tree, plant, or shrub (with exceptions below) 18LAMC Sec 62.169

Can I plant or remove stuff on the “parkway” strip of greenery in front of my house?

Yes, and you don’t even need a permit to plant or remove shrubs and plants, and to install fruits and vegetables there! But you can’t do trees without a permit.19LAMC Sec 62.169

8. Adding a unit to your property

Can I build a secondary unit “granny flat” on my property?

Probably yes, and possibly up to 1,200 square feet. See more here.

9. Private streets

Can my neighbors and I make our street private and prevent the public from entering on it?

Possibly, if you apply for it, following the procedure outlined in the LA Municipal Code Sec 18.03.

10. Government takeover or regulation of your property

Can the government seize my property for any reason?

The government generally may take private property for “public use,” which has been interpreted quite broadly by the courts.20Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) This governmental power is called “eminent domain.”21California specifically provides for this power starting at Cal Code Civ Proc § 1230.030

However, the government must provide “just compensation” for such takings. In the 5th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it specifically says “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Generally the compensation required is “fair market value.”

It is also considered a “partial taking” of property where the government requires an owner to suffer a permanent physical invasion of the property, however minor. This also applies where the government authorizes a private third party to do so. For example, where the government tells a cable company they are allowed to place cables on private property despite the property owner’s objection, the owner must be compensated for this.22Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp., 458 U.S. 419 (1982)

Can the government place significant regulations on my property?

Yes, but if the regulations completely deprive an owner of “all economically beneficial use” of the property, this is considered essentially the same as physically “taking” the property, and the government would then be required to provide “just compensation.” 23Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992)

11. Property Taxes

Are there limits on how high my property taxes can be?

Yes, in California the total property taxes you pay per year is limited to 1% of the “taxable value.” This is because voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978.

How is the taxable value of my house determined? 

The taxable value of a property in California is the most recent purchase price of the property, plus about 2% increase per year (or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower). The property can only be “reassessed” for tax purposes when there is a change in ownership. Again, these rules are due to Prop 13.


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