Homeowner

Guide to Laws for Homeowners in the Los Angeles area

Homeowner

If you OWN (not rent) a home or other residential property in California, here’s what you need to know about the law. Many of these laws for property owners focus on the city of Los Angeles (if you aren’t sure if you are in the city of LA, see here), but we are working on expanding to other cities.

Many laws for homeowners are made at the state level, so see our Guide to Laws for Homeowners in California.

1. Guests & Parties

What do I need to know about hosting a house party?

In the city of Los Angeles it is illegal to have “loud or unruly” gatherings. This includes anything from blocking the street or sidewalk, drinking in public and/or public intoxication, fighting, public urination or defecation, vandalism, littering, etc. Both the party host AND the homeowner (if they are not the same person) can be prosecuted. The penalty is up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $8,000.1LA Municipal Code Sec 41.58.1

Also see our Guide to Laws about Noise.

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 permission is considered trespassing. This includes homeless individuals. 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.”

If you live in the city of Los Angeles:

And if you are in the City of Los Angeles, you should add to the sign the code section “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?

In the city of Los Angeles, 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

Is it illegal to protest in front of someone’s house?

The LA City Council has passed a law requiring a buffer zone of 300 feet around a house targeted for demonstration. Protestors may not come within 300 feet of the house.

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 City, unincorporated Los Angeles County, Inglewood, Glendale. 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 & Vandalism

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 Also, the city may pay for the removal of the graffiti (unless you created it).7LAMC 49.84.7 See more at our Guide to Laws about Graffiti and Vandalism.


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5. Water use and conservation

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

See here for full details.

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.8Cal. Civil Code Section 4735

6. Neighbors & Adjacent sidewalk and street

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.9LAMC 58.02

It’s illegal to put up a fence or trees just to spite a neighbor!10LAMC 41.30; People v. Hughes, CR A 167; CA Civil Code Section 841.4

Throughout the state of California it is a crime to create a “disturbance of the peace”11Penal 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.12Penal 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.13Penal Code 373a On top of this, some cities in Southern California have started charging violators for the legal costs of prosecuting them, adding up to many thousands of dollars!

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.”14Civil 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.

Whose responsibility is it to maintain the sidewalk and parkway in front of my house?

As the homeowner, legally it is your responsibility to maintain the sidewalk and ‘parkway’ (strip between sidewalk and the street) adjacent to your house so that it is safe for pedestrians. You must keep it clean,15LAMC 41.46 and repair any damage to the

concrete, regardless of the cause.16California Streets and Highways Code 5610 And you must maintain any landscaping in accordance with the Residential Parkway Landscaping Guidelines.17LAMC Sec 62.169

Does that mean I can be held liable if someone gets hurt on the sidewalk or parkway in front of my house?

Even though you have the responsibility to repair the sidewalk and parkway, you are not necessarily liable to compensate someone if they get hurt due to any such disrepair.18Jones v. Deeter (1984) 152 Cal.App.3d 798

Can I trim or remove a tree on the parkway in front of my house?

Yes but generally you must get a permit from the Department of Public Works to do ANYTHING to a tree, plant, or shrub, or to plant a tree, plant, or shrub (with exceptions below).19LAMC Sec 62.169 See the Residential Parkway Landscaping Guidelines.

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

Homeowners in Los Angeles may plant or remove shrubs and plants, or fruits and vegetables in front of their house, even without a permit. But anything involving trees requires a permit (see above).20LAMC Sec 62.169

7. Modifying your property or building new structures

Do I need to hire a licensed architect or interior designer to build or renovate my house?

See our Guide to Building Design and Guide to Interior design for more on this.

Do I need to get a permit for any work I do on my house?

If you want to add any square footage to your house, you almost certainly need to get a permit from the city (or county). But even if you aren’t adding square footage you may need to get a permit, and if you are in a homeowners association (HOA), you may need to get permission from the HOA. And all work must comply with the local Building Code. See more here.

8. Private streets & Homeowners Associations

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.

What is a homeowners association or Co-op?

A homeowners association (usually abbreviated as HOA) or Co-op is an entity or organization that manages and governs a group of homes or condos. There is usually a monthly HOA fee each homeowner must pay, and many rules to follow.

Check with your HOA or Co-op Board for rules, often called the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions).

Further Resources

For legal help with property rights or any of these homeowner issues, see our Options for Legal Help in the Los Angeles area.

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