Tenant Rights in California: Essential Guide to Navigating the Rental Market

Keep your income under control

The rental market in California can be challenging, but being well informed gives you a crucial advantage. One of the most important rights you have as a tenant is control over rent increases. State law says that generally your rent cannot increase by more than 10% in a year. However, in some areas, this limit may be even stricter due to local laws. It is vital that you review the specific regulations in your location to know exactly what the limit applies where you live.

When your landlord decides to increase the rent, he or she is required to formally notify you in writing. A simple text message, email or phone call is not enough. You must receive formal notice at least 30 days before the increase takes effect. In the event that the increase is greater than 10%, the notice must be given 90 days in advance. This gives you enough time to prepare and make informed decisions about your home.

Eviction Process: Know Your Rights

Eviction is a legal process that must be handled properly. In California, you can only be evicted by court order. It is illegal for a landlord to try to force you out of the property by denying you access, cutting off utilities, or placing your belongings on the sidewalk. If you receive an eviction notice, it is crucial that you seek legal help immediately. Ignoring an eviction notice can lead to the court ordering the eviction without your involvement, which can further complicate your situation.

Just Cause Eviction

Most tenants in California are protected by “just cause” regulations, which means they can only be evicted for specific, justified reasons. These reasons include:

  • Not paying rent: If you don't pay your rent on time, your landlord has a valid reason to start an eviction process.
  • Breaching terms of the lease: If you violate any important clause of your contract, such as having pets that are not allowed or subletting without permission.
  • Cause disturbance or damage: Behaviors that negatively affect other tenants or cause property damage.
  • Using property for illegal purposes: Engage in illegal activities on the property.
  • Refusing to allow legal entry to the property: If you do not allow the landlord access to the property for necessary repairs or inspections.
  • Refusing to sign a new lease: If the new contract is similar to the current one and you refuse to sign it without a valid reason.
  • Withdrawal of the unit from the market: If the owner decides to remove the unit from the rental market, move into the unit, demolish it, do a complete remodel, or comply with a law that requires him to remove it.

However, these protections do not apply if you have lived in the property for less than a year or if the home was built within the last 15 years. It is important to know these exceptions to fully understand your rights and obligations.

Lessor Obligations

Your landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in habitable condition. This includes providing safe and functional plumbing and heating, as well as keeping the property free of pests such as cockroaches and rats. If you find health or safety problems in your home, you must notify your landlord in writing. Be sure to keep copies of all your communications so you have a record if you need it in the future.

Down Payment

The security deposit is a sum of money that you give at the beginning of your tenancy and that your landlord must return to you at the end, minus any legitimate deductions. These deductions may include unpaid rent, cleaning costs, or repairs for damage beyond normal wear and tear. Your landlord is required to specify and notify any deductions within 21 days of your move-in.

Additional Rights and Protection Against Discrimination

If you have a disability, your landlord must offer reasonable accommodations and allow you to make necessary physical modifications to your home to make it accessible. Additionally, discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, source of income, veteran status, or other characteristics is strictly prohibited.

Your landlord also cannot retaliate against you for exercising your rights as a tenant. This includes threatening to reveal your immigration status, harassing you, or taking any other punitive action. If you experience any form of discrimination or retaliation, it is important to seek legal assistance to protect your rights.

Resources and Legal Assistance

It is essential to seek legal help as soon as possible if you believe that your landlord has violated your rights or if you are facing eviction. There are numerous resources available to help you, including free or low-cost legal assistance. To find a legal aid office near you, you can visit LawHelpCA. If you do not qualify for free assistance and need help finding a lawyer, the California Bar offers certified attorney referral services.


Knowing your rights as a tenant in California is essential to navigating the rental market effectively and protecting yourself against potential abuse. Stay informed, act promptly if you face problems, and seek legal assistance if necessary to ensure your rights are always protected.

For more details and resources, see the official State of California PDF: Know Your Rights as a California Tenant.

Legal and Tax Disclaimer

Please be advised that the content presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The articles and information provided here are written from the perspective of a real estate agent affiliated with Keller Williams, and do not represent legal or tax counsel.

As the author, I am a licensed real estate professional under Keller Williams, holding Brokerage DRE License Number: #02197031. However, it is important to note that my expertise is in the field of real estate, and not in legal or tax matters. The insights and opinions shared on this blog are based on my experiences and knowledge in the real estate industry and should be treated as general guidance rather than definitive legal or tax advice.

For specific legal or tax concerns relating to any real estate transactions or investments, readers are strongly encouraged to consult with a qualified attorney or tax advisor who can provide tailored advice based on your individual circumstances and the latest legal and regulatory requirements.

The information on this blog is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, and I, along with Keller Williams and its affiliates, disclaim all liability for any loss, damage, or misunderstanding arising from reliance on the information contained herein.

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