Tenants Rights

California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights And Responsibilities

I’m having trouble with my landlord/building manager, what do I do?

If you are experiencing problems such as evictions, repair issues, etc., as a tenant you are afforded rights.

Your Landlord should be able to provide:
• Adequate and safe heat
• Effective weatherproofing, including doors, windows and roofs
• Housing free of garbage, cockroaches, rats, and vermin
• Plumbing and gas facilities in good order
• Reasonable amounts of hot and cold running water
• Working electric plugs and phone jacks
• Stairs and common areas maintained in good order

Tenants should write a letter to their landlord stating their complaints/repair needs and request that they be fixed promptly. Always keep any correspondences between you and your landlord.

Your Landlord is not allowed to:
Forcibly enter your home, harass you, remove your things, change the locks, turn off the utilities, or force you to move without going through a court process.

What can I Do if my landlord won’t make repairs to my unit?

A landlord is required repair anything that interferes with your daily living capabilities and also items which may endanger your health. A landlord is also obligated to ensure your safety outside of the unit if certain unlawful practices are taking place on the property, such as gang activity or the dangerous and illegal actions of other tenants. Landlords are required to repair or update lighting, structure, appliances (if they come with the unit), any foul odors or pests, trash around the unit which does not belong to you, broken locks, even noise issues.

Make sure to take pictures of anything which you feel should not be left unattended. Take good notes in case you have to appear in court regarding these issues. Also, if you feel the unit violates health and building codes, call an inspector to come out and view the damages*. Generally, if you are correct in that items need attention, the landlord will be given a citation for repairs to be made within 30 days or face severe penalties and fines.

*Note: If you live an illegal unit, you may be evicted if your unit/building fails to meet inspection standards.

How much of a security deposit can a landlord charge, and can they refuse to return it when the tenant moves out?

A landlord, under California Civil Code Section 1950.5, is not allowed to charge any more than two months’ rent as a deposit for an unfurnished unit, and three months’ rent for a completely furnished one. If you have paid your rent for each month that you have resided in the property and you wish to move without breaking a lease agreement, you should furnish the landlord with a thirty-day notice as a courtesy. The landlord has to advise you of your right to a preliminary inspection of the unit during the last two weeks before you move out. You should be present for this inspection and the landlord should give you a written list with repairs and expected costs if any are found. You, as the tenant, have the right to make any repairs yourself and clean the unit before you leave. In turn, if the landlord is attempting to charge you with damages or cleaning issues which you did not cause, or which were there when you moved in, you should inform the landlord of such, get any statements from witnesses who know this was not your responsibility, and take pictures before you move out.

Can the landlord raise the rent anytime they wish?

If your lease doesn’t give provisions for rent increases and states a monthly rental rate for the period of the lease, the landlord cannot usually alter that arrangement. However, if you rent on a month-to-month basis, your landlord can raise your rent less than 10% with a 30-day notice or 10% and up with a 60-day notice. When a landlord does not give proper notice for a rent increase, the tenant usually doesn’t have to pay it right away until proper notice is given, but it is very important to continue paying your old rental amount on time. If you live in a rent-controlled area, then the landlord must abide by the control guidelines before raising rental fees.

As a tenant, can I be evicted without notice or cause?

Some reasons which may cause you to be evicted even with a lease are: nonpayment of rent, lease violations, obvious and purposeful damage, unlawful acts within or upon the premises, noise complaints, and interference with other tenants. Under any of these situations, a three-day notice is all that is necessary to remove a tenant from the unit.

Additional Resources:

California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities
Publications can be ordered by using the order form below, or by calling the department of Consumer Affairs’ publications hotline at (866) 320-8652 or (800) 952-5210.
Bay Area Tenant Counseling: http://www.tenant.net/Other_Areas/Calif/

Sources: San Francisco Tenants Union, San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing, Housing Rights Committee of SF, http://www.streetdirectory.com/

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