Tenants/ Renters

INTRODUCTIONnice large multi-unit apartment building

Each city may make its own laws regarding renting an apartment. However, many cities simply follow the state laws. For a guide to the general state laws for California renters, see here (much of the following is based on this guide).


1. Rent control

What is rent control?

If you live in a rent-controlled building (also called rent stabilized or RSO), your landlord is limited as to how much they can raise your rent each year. But being a tenant in a rent-controlled building also gives you a set of other rights as well, which are in addition to the rights for tenants in non-rent controlled buildings. See our rent control page for details.

If I am not in a rent-controlled building, can my landlord charge whatever they want?

Yep, but they must give you proper notice before raising the rent. 30 days notice is required for rent increases of 10% or less, and 60 days notice is required before rent increases of more than 10%.1Civil Code Section 827(b).

2. Eviction

Can my landlord evict me at any time for any reason?

First of all, if you are on a lease for a specific time period (usually the first year), then as long as you are not violating the lease or doing any criminal activity, you cannot be evicted. But if you are month-to-month (Usually after the 1st year lease is up, it is automatically converted to a month-to-month lease), the following applies:

  • If your building is rent controlled, you may only be evicted for certain reasons, listed in the law. (For city of L.A., see here)
  •  If your building is NOT rent controlled, you may be evicted for any reason other than illegal discrimination (see below)

3. Standard of living and other basic rights

Does my landlord need to provide me with basic necessities as part of my tenancy?

Yes, your landlord must provide certain necessities as part of your tenancy, including running water, electricity, gas, and heating in the winter. Here is a list of specific amenities2Civil Code 1941.1 required to be provided (but it is not exclusive, and additional problems could also qualify as making the apartment at least partially “uninhabitable.”)

Is the landlord responsible for making repairs?

Yes, although if damage is your fault (not just normal wear and tear), then the landlord may charge you for the repairs.

Can my landlord enter my apartment whenever he wants?

NO. Landlords may only enter in the following situations:

  • In an emergency
  • If you have moved out or abandoned the apartment
  • To make necessary or agreed-upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other improvements
  • To show the rental unit to prospective tenants, purchasers, or lenders
  • To conduct an initial inspection before the end of the tenancy
  • If a court order permits the landlord to enter
  • To inspect a waterbed

If your landlord does not have one of the above reasons or is inappropriately using one of these reasons, this is considered trespass against you.

Does my landlord need to give me notice before entering my apartment?

Generally, YES your landlord must give you at least 24 hours written notice. Exceptions are for emergencies, or if you are in your apartment and allow the landlord to come in, or if you have agreed ahead of time on an approximate date and time for when the landlord may enter.

4. Security Deposits

Is there a limit on how much security deposit I’m required to put down?

Yes, depending on whether the apartment is furnished or not.

  • Unfurnished apartment: security deposit cannot be more than 2 months rent.
  • Furnished apartment: security deposit cannot be more than 3 months rent.

Does the landlord need to return my security deposit when I move out?

Yes, but the landlord may keep part or all of the deposit for any of the following reasons:

  • You owe rent
  • You leave the rental less clean than when you moved in;
  • You have damaged the rental beyond normal wear and tear; and
    • You fail to restore personal property (such as keys or furniture), other than because of normal wear and tear.

Can I require my landlord to do an initial inspection of the apartment before I move out, to tell me what I can clean/fix and avoid deductions from the deposit?

Yes.3Civil Code 1950.5

5. Discrimination

You have the right to protection against discriminatory actions with regard to the sale or rent of a home, if the actions are based on your race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, or genetic information.4California Fair Housing Act found at Govt Code Sec 12955; also see federal Fair Housing Act at U.S. Code, Title 42, Section 3604(a)–(e)

6. Sublets/AirBnB/short term rentals

Subletting is when a tenant rents his/her place to someone else. This includes both long-term and short-term rentals (short term is generally defined as less than 30 days).

If you are a tenant, you probably can’t legally rent out your place to anyone, since most leases prohibit subletting. Some leases allow it with approval from the landlord, but many landlords will never approve this.

But if your lease doesn’t say anything about subletting, then you have the right to do it. However, many cities restrict short-term rentals.

7. Houseguests

Can a landlord evict me and/or my houseguest if the houseguest isn’t on the lease?

First, read your Lease/Rental Agreement to determine what it says on this; usually what an agreement says on this is enforceable and if you violate it, yes you and your houseguest(s) can be evicted. If the agreement doesn’t discuss this issue, the general rule in California is that you are allowed to have a person stay at your apartment as long as the person doesn’t violate any of the terms of the lease. But you can’t have more occupants than is legal under zoning laws (usually no more than 2 per room).

(Note: be sure to read “Eviction” section above)

When does a houseguest become a tenant?

Again look at your lease. But if it doesn’t specify, generally in California a “houseguest” becomes a “tenant” after 30 days.

8. Further research

For city of LA: “Rent Stabilization Bulletin

Again, for general rules in California, see the Department of Consumer Affairs Tenant’s Guide

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