What Is the California Tenant Law?

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California law gives tenants numerous rights and responsibilities, including the right to peace and quiet in their homes and safe, livable housing. Tenants also have the responsibility to respect the peace and quiet of other tenants, and to respect the property they live in by keeping it clean, in good repair, and not engaging in illegal activity on the premises.

Security Deposits

In most cases, a landlord can ask for as much as two months' rent as a security deposit, unless the apartment is furnished or the tenant has a water bed. Tenants who rent a furnished apartment can be required to pay as much as three months' rent as a security deposit, and water bed owners may have to pay an additional half-month's rent. Security deposits must be returned within three weeks of tenant move-out.


Tenants have the right to housing that is “livable.” Landlords are responsible for keeping the building up to code and insuring that all systems (such as heat and plumbing) are in working order. Landlords must provide working deadbolt locks on outside doors and functioning smoke detectors. Tenants are likewise responsible for keeping their homes clean and in good repair. Landlords are not required to make repairs caused by the tenant or his guests. Furthermore, unless the lease specifies otherwise, landlords are not legally responsible for making repairs to appliances or amenities (such as washing machines or swimming pools).

Termination of Tenancy

If a tenant is on a month-to-month lease, and, along with all other tenants in the unit, has lived in a rental unit for a year or more, she usually has a right to 60 days notice if the landlord wants to terminate the rental agreement. Exceptions to this rule are when the landlord has sold the unit to someone who wants to move in right away, or when the tenant or tenants have not lived in the unit for more than a year. In such cases, landlord must give 30 days notice. If a tenant is involved in certain illegal, dangerous, or harassing activities, the landlord may only need to give the tenant three days notice before beginning eviction procedures.

Peace and Quiet

A tenant has the right to peace and quiet in her home. Landlords cannot enter a rental unit without providing the tenant with at least 24 hours notice, except in an emergency. Landlords must also take action against tenants who are disturbing the peace and quiet of other tenants. Failure to do so can give a tenant the right to terminate a lease early with no penalty. Tenants are also responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in their buildings. Tenants who disturb the quiet other tenants, or who allow their guests to do so, can be evicted.

Mobile Home Park Tenants

Tenants who rent a mobile home from a private owner are subject to the same landlord-tenant laws as tenants in standard housing. However, a mobile home owner who rents space in a mobile home park, or who rents a mobile home directly from a mobile home park, has special protections. These include “just cause” eviction (a mobile home park owner can’t refuse to renew a lease without good reason) and the right to be offered at least a 12-month lease upon move-in.


About the Author

Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

Photo Credits

  • high-rise apartment building image by Yali Shi from Fotolia.com