Nolo's California Landlord Bundle
Nolo's California Landlord Bundle
This bundle includes:
Nolo has dozens of products created just for California residents. Check out Nolo's list of California products.
Is being a landlord in California different from renting out property in other states?
It sure is. California law imposes a host of duties on landlords that your counterparts in other states don’t have to deal with. California has distinctive rules on disclosures, liability, and more.
What do I have to tell a prospective tenant before signing the lease?
California landlords must make numerous disclosures to tenants before putting ink to paper, including:
- Registered sexual offender database. In the rental agreement, you must include specific language telling tenants about this online state database.
- Common utilities. You must disclose whether gas or electric service to the tenant’s unit also serves other areas, and how costs will be fairly allocated.
- Ordnance nearby. If there’s ordnance (ammunition or other military supplies) within a mile, you must tell the tenant.
- Toxic mold. You must disclose it if you know, or have reason to know, that mold exceeds permissible exposure limits or poses a health threat. You must also distribute a consumer handbook about mold.
- Pest control service. You must give the tenant any pest control company disclosure you’ve received, describing the pest, pesticides used, a warning that pesticides are toxic, and the frequency of treatment.
- Intention to demolish rental unit. If you’ve applied for a permit to demolish a rental unit, you must tell prospective tenants.
- No smoking policy. If you limit smoking on the property, the lease must explain your policy.
And those are just the state rules. Some cities and counties have additional disclosure requirements.
Does California have rent control?
The state doesn’t impose rent control. But many cities, including the largest ones, have rent control or local laws that affect landlords. Here’s the list:
- Beverly Hills
- East Palo Alto
- Los Angeles
- Los Gatos
- Palm Springs
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- Santa Monica
- Thousand Oaks
- West Hollywood
State law does limit cities’ ability to regulate rents; for example, there are restrictions on controlling rents in single-family homes and condos, and cities must allow landlords to raise rents under certain circumstances.
Every city’s rent control ordinance is different. Many require a landlord to have a “just cause” to terminate a tenancy, even one from month to month. All cities, however, have “vacancy decontrol,” which means that when a tenant moves out voluntarily (or is asked to leave for a just cause), the landlord can rent the unit at the market rate.
How much can I collect as a security deposit?
Under California law, you can collect the equivalent of two months' rent for the security deposit if the unit is unfurnished, and three months' rent if it is furnished. If the tenant has a waterbed, add an extra one-half month's rent. You can’t charge nonrefundable fees in California.
When do I have to return the security deposit?
You have 21 days after the tenant moves out in which to return the tenant’s security deposit, with an itemized statement of any deductions. The 21-day period starts to run when the tenant moves out and gives you back the keys
Can I charge a late fee if tenants don’t pay the rent on time?
Yes; if tenants don’t pay rent when it’s due (as specified in your lease or rental agreement) you can charge a late fee. But California law requires that the lease or rental agreement contain certain language explaining the fee. And the amount of the fee can’t exceed a reasonable estimate of what it costs you to get the rent payment late.