California Renter's Rights

Even when you're a renter, you still have rights regarding your property. The California state government's Landlord/Tenant book covers the rules on renter rights and responsibilities. Some local governments offer tenants greater rights and protections than the state requires.

Livable Conditions

You have the right to a livable rental unit. If, for example, the toilet breaks or the air-conditioning goes out, you're entitled to have the landlord repair the problem, unless you caused the damage. If the landlord doesn't make repairs after you've notified him, you may have the right to pay for repairs, then deduct it from the rent. California law is specific in how to do this, and you must follow the procedures exactly.

You also have a right to privacy. The landlord can't simply walk in any time she likes — she must have a valid reason and give you advance written notice, except in emergencies. State law considers 24 hours advance notice reasonable. If she knocks and asks to be let in immediately, you can allow her inside even if it's not an emergency, but you don't have to.

Discrimination

Your landlord can't discriminate against you. For instance, renting you a substandard apartment because of your race, religion or marital status is illegal. So is harassing you over your gender or nationality. California's anti-discrimination protection gives you more rights than federal law does. If you rent a room in the owner's home, however, many of the rules do not apply.

Paying the Rent

Your landlord can't require you pay in cash unless you've had a rent check bounce in the past three months. Nor can he raise the rent on the spur of the moment, even if you're on a short-term lease. If you have a monthly or weekly rental, you're entitled to at least 30 days advance notice of a rent increase.

Guests and Visitors

Even though you're a renter, you have most of the same rights in your rental as a homeowner. That includes the right to have guests over. Your lease may limit how many guests you can have at one time, or how long they stay, to prevent "guest" turning into "new tenant."

You're legally responsible if your guest damages the unit, ignores rental noise rules or otherwise violates the lease.

Foreclosure

Foreclosure doesn't force you to leave immediately. If you have a lease, you can stay until it expires, unless the new owner plans to move in and live there. If you're a monthly tenant, you get 90 days before you have to move out.

Transfer of Title

If the landlord sells the property, gives it away or dies and bequeaths it to someone else, you can stay until the end of your lease. New ownership doesn't affect your legal rights. If you have a monthly or weekly tenancy, you get at least 30 days advance notice, the same as if your former landlord wanted to terminate the tenancy.

Security Deposit

You have the right to get your security deposit back when you move out, usually within 21 days of leaving. The landlord can deduct anything you owe for unpaid rent, cleaning or repairs, but he has to send you an itemized list of expenses. He cannot use the money to put the rental in better condition than it was when you moved in, or to fix normal wear and tear.

Eviction

If your landlord wants you out, she usually has to give you advance notice. If there's a serious problem, such as unpaid rent, she usually has to give you three days to fix the problem. Even after the deadline, you have the right to stay until your landlord goes to court, files suit to have you evicted, and wins. Other methods of getting you out, such as changing the locks, are illegal.