Rights and Responsibilities
landlord-tenant relationship has the
potential to directly affect the
financial well-being and quality of life
for both owner and renter.
landlord depends on the rental property
for his income and could face financial
hardship if tenants don't pay, or if
they cause damage to the property. The
tenant has to come home to the property
every day, so if the landlord does not
maintain it properly or provide a safe
and quiet environment, it could become
an unpleasant place to live.
state of California has established
specific landlord-tenant laws to help
protect the rights of each.
step in settling on a rental property -
aside from making sure you can afford it
and choosing the right features and
location - is to visit the property with
the landlord. Together, inspect the
interior and exterior to identify any
needed repairs, as well as to establish
the general condition.
have to be pretty, but California Civil
Code requires that the rental property
be fit for human habitation and makes it
the landlord's responsibility to ensure
that condition is met. This is called
the "implied warranty of habitability."
requirements of landlord-tenant law, the
rental property must have:
toilet, sink and bathtub or shower.
· At least
one phone jack.
locking mail receptacle.
must be clean and sanitary, free of
rodents and vermin and be equipped with
an adequate number of garbage
containers. The state Department of
Consumer Affairs offers a free booklet,
the California Tenant Book, that
explains the requirements in greater
signing a lease (link to "rental
contracts" article) on rental property,
insist that the landlord make any
repairs necessary to comply with
landlord-tenant law. If he agrees to do
any other work, such as cosmetic
improvements, get that in writing also.
and tenant responsibilities
landlord has the right to require that
prospective tenants complete an
application and allow him to run a
credit check. He can deny a tenant's
application if he turns up weak
references, poor credit or previous
evictions. However, he cannot
discriminate based on race, age, or
move in, it's important to remember
that, while the law puts the
responsibility on the landlord to keep
the property maintained, it also assigns
certain responsibilities to the tenant.
For example, the tenant is expected to
keep the unit clean, take out the trash
and use all utility fixtures properly.
If you cause any damage, you are
obligated to get it repaired.
you will be expected to pay your rent on
time, around the same date every month.
You can pay by cash or check. The
landlord cannot require that you pay
cash, according to state landlord-tenant
law, unless you have had a check
tenants on lease, the rent amount cannot
increase over the course of the lease.
For tenants on month-to-month rental,
the landlord is required to give 30 days
notices before rents increase up to 10
percent, and 60 days notice before rents
increase more than 10 percent.
living in the rental property, the
tenant has the right to demand that the
landlord take whatever steps necessary
to maintain the implied warranty of
habitability as long as, and this is
important, the tenant is current on rent
and did not cause or allow someone else
to cause the problem.
should notify the landlord in writing,
by certified mail, when repairs need to
be made to comply with landlord-tenant
has certain options if the landlord does
not make the repairs in a reasonable
time. They are:
and deduct - the tenant can pay for the
repairs and take the cost out of the
rent owed to the landlord. This only
applies in cases affecting habitability,
such as a hole in the roof, and the
amount cannot be more than one month's
Abandonment - the tenant can simply move
out of the unit, without assuming
liability for any remaining rent or
lease terms. Again, only in cases
affecting habitability and only after
written notification to the landlord.
withholding - the tenant can refuse to
pay rent until the landlord makes
sufficient repairs to meet the
requirements of landlord-tenant law.
This applies only in the most serious
cases affecting the tenant's health and
safety. For example, an untreated rat
infestation or unrepaired heating system
Landlord-tenant law also gives the
tenant the right to file suit against
the landlord in small claims or
California superior court to recover
damages in the most serious instances.
"Special damages" can range up to $5,000
and include expenses such as the cost of
staying in a motel because the unit is
taking any of these actions, it is a
good idea to consult a real estate
attorney. What you consider a violation
of the implied warranty of habitability
and what the landlord considers a
violation may be very different, and an
attorney can help you figure out whether
you are in the right.
also have certain remedies under
California landlord-tenant law when they
no longer wish to rent to a particular
tenant, for reasons other than
retaliation over repair requests or
discrimination, or when the tenant does
not pay rent, causes damage or does not
follow other requirements of the rental
landlord can give a 30 or 60 day notice
of termination on month-to-month
rentals, which means the tenant has to
vacate within that time. For
terminations, the landlord does not have
to give a specific reason.
also can evict a tenant for non-payment
of rent or other violation of the rental
agreement. The landlord has to serve the
tenant with a 3-day notice of eviction.
The landlord cannot lock the tenant out
of the unit or try to force the tenant
out by disconnecting utilities. If the
tenant doesn't reach an agreement with
the landlord or move out by the end of
the third day, the landlord can file
what is called an "unlawful detainer
lawsuit" in California superior court.
will give the tenant five days to file a
response. The tenant can move out or
request a hearing if he believes the
landlord does not have grounds for an
eviction. The hearing usually is held
within 20 days of filing a response.
respond, or lose the hearing, and the
judge will issue an order for eviction.
The tenant will then have five more days
to move out voluntarily. Otherwise, the
local sheriff's department can
physically remove the tenant, change the
locks and seize the tenant's property.
process is completed, the landlord can
resume control over the rental property.
will have 18 days to reclaim anything
left in the unit, after which it can be
sold. The landlord also can ask the
court to issue a judgment against the
tenant for any back rent.
eviction can be a costly and difficult
process for both sides. You should
always check with an attorney
specializing in landlord-tenant law
before it becomes necessary.