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California Renters Rights

California is a state of contrasts… a stunning coast, majestic mountains, a desolate desert. It’s got the highest and lowest points in the continental US (Mount Whitney and Death Valley if you’re a trivia junkie) It’s also home to Silicon Valley, Hollywood and a host of great colleges and universities. That means lots of people and lots of opportunity, renting lots of property - from students to young professionals and families.  So, just what are your rights as a California tenant?

What your landlord needs to tell you

  • For rental properties constructed before 1978, the landlord must disclose any known presence of lead based paint on the premises.
  • If a rental property is going to be treated by pesticides, the landlord must provide prior written notice to the tenant and say what’s going to be used.
  • The landlord must disclose if a prior tenant died in the premises in the previous 3 years.
  • A landlord must disclose if any utility meters are shared and agree with you how utility costs will be shared.

Do yourself a favor and check on these disclosures before you sign the rental agreement.

Security Deposit for Californian Renters

Under California law, all security deposits are refundable unless the landlord fairly uses the deposit for unpaid rent or damage.

  • For unfurnished rentals, a landlord can’t charge more than 2 months rent for a security deposit or 2.5 months rent if you’ve got a waterbed.
  • If your rental is furnished your landlord can’t charge more than 3 months rent for a security deposit, or 3.5 months rent if you’ve got a waterbed.

Payment of rent

Your landlord can’t insist on getting paid in cash unless you’ve given them a check that has been dishonored in the past three months. If they do ask for cash payment, they must give you written notice 30 days in advance, along with a copy of the dishonored check. They can only ask for cash payments for three months after they got the dishonored check, and they must give you a written receipt for it.

Rent Increases

Your rent can’t be raised during your lease unless the lease says increases are allowed. If they are, your landlord must still give you at least 30 days written notice.

When can your landlord enter your rental unit?

Here’s a quick list:

  • In an emergency
  • When a tenant has moved out or abandoned the unit
  • To make necessary or agreed upon repairs or improvements
  • To show the rental unit to prospective tenants, buyers, lenders or contractors or to do an inspection when your tenancy is ending
  • If there’s a court order saying your landlord can enter
  • To inspect the initial installation of the waterbed and for periodic inspections going forward

Notice requirement for a landlord to enter

Your landlord must give you reasonable advance notice (the law says 24 hours at least) in writing before entering your unit. If the notice is mailed, time must be allowed for it to get delivered.

The landlord doesn’t have to give you any notice if it’s an emergency or you’ve abandoned the property. You can also give them spoken permission if you want.


Under California law rental units must meet all the requirements below - and it’s the landlord’s responsibility to make any repairs needed to keep your unit habitable.

  • Effective waterproofing and weatherproofing of the roof and exterior walls.
  • Door and windows must not be broken.
  • There must be working hot and cold water - and the unit must be hooked up to a working sewage system.
  • If applicable, gas must be in proper and safe working condition.
  • Building and grounds must be clean and sanitary, free from debris, trash, poisonous waste, vermin and rodents.
  • There must be sufficient trash receptacles provided.
  • Floors, stairways and railings must be safe.
  • It must have a working toilet, washbasin and bathtub or shower.
  • That bathtub/shower and toilet must be in an adequately ventilated private room.
  • There must be a kitchen with a sink
  • Each room must have either a window and/or skylight, unless it has mechanical ventilation.
  • Main entry doors must have working deadbolt locks and windows must have working locks.
  • Multi-unit buildings must have working smoke detectors in each unit.
  • The structure of the building must be in a safe condition.
  • The property must have safe and working heating.
  • The electrics must be safe with no faulty or exposed wiring.


Your landlord can evict you with a 30 day written notice (sometimes 60 days). If you’ve got a lease, then the landlord can only evict you when the lease is up, or if you violate it. A landlord may serve you with a 3-day notice if you don’t pay the rent, break your lease or use the premises for illegal activity.

After the eviction notice

If you don’t comply with notice orders by moving out or accepting the solution decided in court your landlord can then start the eviction process in court. This is called an unlawful detainer action and it can move quickly. You only have 5 days from the date of service to respond. It can be complicated so it might be best to get a lawyer to help you.

Make sure you’re protected

This is by no means a definitive guide to your rights – that would cover a lot more pages and makes good reading if you’ve got insomnia. If in doubt, check or consult a lawyer who specializes in tenancy law.

To give yourself a little extra protection you might like to consider our California Renters Insurance. For less than a dollar a day* it includes:

  • Theft, fire, wind, smoke and vandalism coverage
  • Water damage liability protection for your unit
  • Personal liability coverage

So, why take a risk when you can take our California Renters Insurance?

Find out more today and get a quick quote in minutes.

*Based on a national average cost of $10,000 personal property coverage, $50,000 personal liability coverage, $250 deductible, and replacement cost. Visit our website for an exact quote based on your state and the amount of coverage you need.

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All insurance products are offered by The Signal, L.P. The Signal, L.P. is a licensed Insurance agency appointed by American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida and American Security Insurance Company. American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida and American Security Insurance Company are Assurant, Inc. companies licensed to offer insurance products. Protect Your Bubble, the Protect Your Bubble logo, Bubble and Squeak and other Protect Your Bubble trademarks, service marks, graphics and logos used in connection with this website are trademarks of Assurant, Inc. in the United States.