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California Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent Rules

Find out California rent rules, including limits on late fees and bounced check fees, notice required to increase the rent or end the tenancy for nonpayment of rent, and rent control.

The lease or rental agreement should spell out the key terms of the tenancy, including:

  • the amount of rent (there are limits to how much a landlord can charge under state and local rent control laws, see below)
  • where rent is due (such as by mail to the landlord’s business address)
  • when rent is due (including what happens if the rent due date falls on a weekend date or holiday)
  • how rent should be paid (usually check, money order, cash, and/or credit card)
  • the amount of notice landlords must provide to increase rent
  • the amount of any extra fee if your rent check bounces, and
  • the consequences of paying rent late, including late fees and termination of the tenancy.

State laws, along with city and county ordinances, in California cover several of these rent-related issues, including limits on late fees, the amount of notice a landlord must provide to increase rent under a month-to-month tenancy, and how much time a tenant has to pay rent or move before a landlord can file for eviction.

California Rules on Late Fees

Rent is legally due on the date specified in your lease or rental agreement (usually the first of the month). If a tenant does not pay rent when it is due, the landlord may begin charging a late fee. Under California law, a late fee will be enforced only if the fee is a reasonable estimate of the amount that the lateness of the payment will cost the landlord, and if specified language is include in a written lease or rental agreement.

California Rules on Bounced Check Fees

California allows landlords to charge $25 for the first bounced check, and $35 for each additional bounced check.

Amount of Notice California Landlords Must Give Tenants to Increase Rent

California landlords must give tenants at least 30 days’ notice—unless the sum of this rent increase and all prior rent increases during the previous 12 months is more than 10% of the lowest rent charged during that time. In the latter case, the landlord must give the tenant 60 days’ notice. Note that different rules might apply to properties subject to rent control laws or ordinances.

Rent Increases as Retaliation or Discrimination

California landlords may not raise the rent in a discriminatory manner—for example, only for members of a certain race. Also, California landlords may not use a rent increase in retaliation for exercising a legal right—for example, in response to a tenant's legitimate complaint to a local housing agency about a broken heater.

California State Laws on Termination for Nonpayment of Rent

States set specific rules and procedures for ending a tenancy when a tenant has not paid the rent. California landlords must give tenants at least three days in which to pay the rent or move. If the tenant does neither, the landlord can file for eviction.

Rent Control in California

As of January 1, 2020, California has statewide rent control. Cities and counties in California may also establish their own local rent control rules and regulations.

Read Nolo's article Updates on California Rent Control for the latest updates on local rent control ordinances.

California State Laws on Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent-Related Issues

Here’s where to find California state law relevant to rent rules:

  • Rent rules and procedures on issues such as raising rent: Cal. Civil Code. §§ 827a, 1946, 1947, 1962.
  • California state law on late fees: Orozco v. Casimiro 121 Cal.App.4th Supp. 7 (2004).
  • California law on service fees for bounced checks: Cal. Civil Code. § 1719.
  • California laws on termination for nonpayment of rent: Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 1161(2).

See the Laws and Legal Research section of Nolo for advice on finding and reading statutes and court decisions.

California Guides to Tenant Rights

For a detailed discussion of rent control and rent rules, eviction protection, and other landlord-tenant law in California, see the Nolo book California Tenants’ Rights, by Janet Portman and J. Scott Weaver.

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