Tenants or renters in California have certain rights and responsibilities determined by state laws. This applies to most housing situations where the tenant is renting from a landlord, but there are some exceptions. For example, someone living in a hotel does not qualify as a tenant unless his primary home is a residential hotel, or he stays in a hotel for more than 30 days and has fulfilled all financial obligations.
A tenant or potential tenant cannot be discriminated against by a landlord. This includes discrimination on the basis of age, gender, race, marital status, sexual orientation, employment, immigration status or medical condition. Landlords must apply their rules and conditions for married couples to unmarried couples or same-sex domestic partners. Families with children under age 18 may not be discriminated against, but housing specifically designated for seniors may exclude families with children.
Rent and Security Deposit
Tenants receive certain protections under the terms of their leases or rental agreements. Landlords may not charge a late fee on tardy rent payments it's specified in the agreement. Rent cannot be increased during the length of the lease. Tenants on a month-to-month agreement must receive written notice of any rent increase at least 30 days before the increase takes effect. When the tenant moves out, her security deposit must be refunded in full within 21 days -- with some important exceptions. The landlord may keep the security deposit if the tenant has not paid the rent. In addition, the landlord may keep all or part of the deposit to make needed repairs to the unit, not including normal wear and tear.
Tenants have a right to privacy. The landlord must provide at least 24 hours' written notice to the tenant before entering the rental unit, except in certain cases. These exceptions include emergency situations, court orders, inspecting a water bed, completing repairs or checking the condition of the unit before the tenant moves out. The landlord may also enter without written notice if the property has been abandoned.
Tenants have the right to a livable home. This means that landlords are responsible for any repairs necessary to make the unit habitable. For example, the unit must have working heat, electricity, water, roof, toilet, sinks, entry-door dead bolts and emergency exits. Each unit also must have a working smoke detectors and a locked mailbox.
Tenants may not be evicted without cause. If occupying the unit under a month-to-month agreement, the tenant or landlord may terminate the agreement for any reason with 30 days' notice to the other party. A tenant can be evicted with only three business days' notice for the following reasons: failure to pay rent, breaking the rental agreement, domestic violence or any incident involving illegal drugs or weapons.