California Tenant Basics 101
December 6, 2018 | Kevin Bass
When I moved from sunny San Diego to the city of San Francisco back in 2001 I was excited for a few reasons...new town, meeting new friends, college, but most importantly, living on my own. It didn't take long before a few friends and I found a great home in the Sunset district of SF. Believe it or not you could find a 4 bedroom house in the city for $2000/month back then.  That same home would probably rent for $6000/month now. So we quickly signed a lease and moved in. Fortunately, we never had any issues with the home or landlord, but like many other tenants, we hardly read the lease agreement and didn't really know our rights as tenants. As the rental market has become more scarce, prices have continued to increase and old tenants have either been forced to move or pay the new rates. Here is some of the basic things to know for tenancy in California.

Rent Increases

  • There is NO maximum amount a landlord can raise the rent. 
  • If the amount of rent raised is 10% or less of the current rent, the landlord (or lessor) must give tenant (or lessee) a 30 day notice.
  • If the amount is more than 10% of the current rent, it must be a 60 day notice.

Notice to Vacate

  • Landlord does not need a reason to have you vacate the unit. 
  • If you have been in the property for less than a year, landlord only needs to give you 30 days notice. (Assuming you are on a month to month lease)
  • If you have lived in the property for more than a year, landlord needs to give you a 60 day notice. ( Assuming you are on a month to month lease)
  • If you have violated any terms of the lease (such as unapproved subleasing), the landlord can give you a 3 day notice to quit.

Security Deposit

  • Security deposit amount can be no more than 2 months rent if unit is unfurnished
  • Up to 3 months if unit is furnished
  • Landlord can only deduct for items that fall outside of "wear and tear". This is defined as "damage or deterioration  resulting from  ordinary use."
  • Landlords can charge cleaning and repairs to restore rental to the condition it was prior to move in. (Make sure you document a "walk-through" upon moving into any new rental.
  • Landlords can deduct for unpaid rent.
  • Painting...guidelines suggest that landlord should not hold tenant responsible for cost of painting if tenant has been in the property for longer than 3 years. 
  • Landlord has up to 21 days after move out date to refund any security deposit.
  • Landlord must itemize any deductions for tenant.

Quite Enjoyment

The covenant of quiet enjoyment is a lease provision that grants a tenant the right to "enjoy" – basically, to use – the property for its intended purpose without interference.  Quite enjoyment provisions are usually written into lease contracts, but in the event that one is not explicitly written into the lease contract, California courts generally apply the covenant of quiet enjoyment anyways. Landlord must give tenant at least 24 hours notice for entering property.

Noise Complaints

Cities and counties often pass various local laws that establish some protection for their citizens from excessive or untimely noise and a search on line will normally provide the details of the local ordinance applicable to your locale. Most local ordinances include "quiet times." A typical ordinance prohibits loud noises between 11 p.m. and 7 or 8 a.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. or midnight until 8 to 10 a.m. on Sundays and holidays.  It is worthwhile to check your local ordinance before making formal complaint so that you can cite the law.
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