The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities

The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities

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The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities

, Attorney; , Attorney; and , Attorney

, 16th Edition

Since 1985, The California Landlord's Law Book has been the reliable legal guide for California landlords, with everything property owners and managers need to know about:

  • leases and rental agreements
  • liability and discrimination
  • legal responsibilities regarding repairs, deposits, tenant privacy, and more

Includes all the legal forms you need, tailored to meet California law!

 

Available as part of the Nolo's California Landlord's Bundle

Choosing tenants, raising the rent, and returning deposits—these are just a few of the things landlords do that are strictly regulated by law in California. Here, you will find all the easy-to-understand information you need to minimize legal risk, including a California-specific lease and rental agreement and more than 40 forms with complete instructions.

Now in its 16th edition, this book has been recognized as a leading source of legal information for California landlords. It includes a detailed and updated review of state and federal laws and local rent control ordinances.

You’ll learn how to:

  • screen propective tenants - without discriminating illegally
  • prepare (and enforce) leases and rental agreements
  • collect and return security security deposits so as to avoid lawsuits
  • raise the rent and change other terms of the tenancy
  • hire, work with and fire a property manager
  • keep up with repairs and maintenance
  • limit liability and rent withholding
  • follow stae privacy laws on entering rental units
  • restrict tenants from subletting or hosting short-term guests
  • act promptly when rent is late
  • terminate a tenancy
  • ...and much more.

 

Check out Nolo's list of California products. Not a California landlord? Check out Every Landlord's Legal Guide.

Also available: California Landlord's Law Book: Evictions

“Unblighted by unnecessary legal jargon…this is as necessary as a rent receipt book or a good repair person.”-Los Angeles Times

“Nolo has published incredibly useful lay guidebooks and consumer software on legal issues [since 1971].” -San Francisco Chronicle


ISBN
9781413320862
Number of Pages
488
Included Forms

  • Rental Application
  • Consent to Background and Reference Check
  • Application Screening Fee Receipt
  • Disclosures by Property Owner(s)
  • Tenant References
  • Notice of Denial Based on Credit Report or Other Information
  • Receipt and Holding Deposit Agreement
  • Month-to-Month Residential Rental Agreement
  • Month-to-Month Residential Rental Agreement (Spanish version)
  • Fixed-Term Residential Lease
  • Fixed-Term Residential Lease (Spanish version)
  • Attachment to Lease/Rental Agreement
  • Attachment: Agreement Regarding Use of Waterbed
  • Amendment to Lease or Rental Agreement
  • Notice of Reinstatement of Terms of Tenancy
  • Agreement for Partial Rent Payments
  • Notice of Sale of Real Property and of Transfer of Security Deposit Balance
  • Residential Rental Property Manager Memorandum
  • Landlord/Tenant Checklist
  • Key and Pass Receipt and Agreement
  • Resident’s Maintenance/Repair Request
  • Time Estimate for Repair
  • Semiannual Safety and Maintenance Update
  • Agreement Regarding Tenant Alterations to Rental Unit
  • Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards
  • Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards (Spanish version)
  • “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”
  • “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home” (Spanish version)
  • Notice of Intent to Enter Dwelling Unit
  • Rent Increase Worksheet
  • Notice of Change of Terms of Tenancy
  • Notice for Rent to Be Paid in Cash Only
  • Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
  • 30-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy (Tenancy of Less Than One Year)
  • 60-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy (Tenancy of One Year or More)
  • 90-Day Notice of Termination of Tenancy (Subsidized Tenancies)
  • Three-Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit
  • Three-Day Notice to Quit (Improper Subletting, Nuisance, Waste, or Illegal Use)
  • Warning Notice (Complaints From Neighbors/Residents)
  • Notice of Belief of Abandonment
  • Indemnification of Landlord
  • Move-Out Letter
  • Tenant’s Response Regarding Initial Move-Out Inspection
  • Notice of Tenant’s Security Deposit Rights
  • Tenant’s Waiver of Right to Receipts and Invoices
  • Letter for Returning Entire Security Deposit
  • Security Deposit Itemization (Deductions for Repairs and Cleaning)
  • Security Deposit Itemization (Deductions for Repairs, Cleaning, and Unpaid Rent)
  • Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The California Landlord's Legal Companion

  • California-Specific Legal Information
  • California Legal Forms and Notices
  • California Rent Control Rules
  • How (and Why) to Use This Book
  • Evicting a Tenant
  • Renting Out a Condo or Townhouse
  • Who Should Not Use This Book

1.  Renting Your Property: How to Choose Tenants
   and Avoid Legal Pitfalls

  • Adopt a Rental Plan and Stick to It
  • Advertising Rental Property
  • Dealing With Prospective Tenants
  • Checking Background, References, and Credit History of Potential Tenants
  • Choosing - And Rejecting - An Applicant
  • Holding Deposits

2.  Understanding Leases and Rental Agreements

  • Oral Agreements Are Not Recommended
  • Written Agreements: Which Is Better, a Lease or a Rental Agreement?
  • Foreign Language Note on California Leases and Rental Agreements
  • Common Legal Provisions in Lease and Rental Agreement Forms
  • How to Modify and Sign Form Agreements
  • Cosigners
  • Illegal Lease and Rental Agreement Provisions

3.  Basic Rent Rules

  • How Much Can You Charge?
  • When Rent Is Due
  • Where and How Rent Is Due
  • Late Charges
  • Returned Check Charges
  • Partial Rent Payments

4.  Rent Control

  • Property Exempt From Rent Control
  • Local Rent Control Administration
  • Registration of Rental Properties
  • Rent Formula and Individual Adjustments
  • Security Deposits
  • Certification of Correct Rent Levels by Board
  • Vacancy Decontrol
  • Tenant Protections: Just Cause Evictions
  • Rent Control Board Hearings
  • Legal Sanctions for Violating Rent Control

5. Security Deposits

  • Security Deposits Must Be Refundable
  • How Landlords May Use Deposits
  • Dollar Limits on Deposits
  • How to Increase Deposit Amounts
  • Last Month's Rent
  • Interest, Accounts, and Record Keeping on Deposits
  • Insurance as a Backup to Deposits
  • When Rental Property Is Sold
  • When You're Purchasing Rental Property

6.  Property Managers

  • Hiring Your Own Manager
  • Avoiding Legal Problems
  • Management Companies
  • An Owner's Liability for a Manager's Acts
  • Notifying Tenants of the Manager
  • Firing a Manager
  • Evicting a Manager

7.  Getting the Tenant Moved In

  • Inspect and Photograph the Unit
  • Send New Tenants a Move-In Letter
  • First Month's Rent and Security Deposit Checks

8.  Lawyers, Legal Research, Eviction Services, and Mediation

  • Legal Research Tools
  • Mediating Disputes With Tenants
  • Nonlawyer Eviction Services
  • Finding a Lawyer
  • Paying a Lawyer
  • Resolving Problems With Your Lawyer

9.  Discrimination

  • Legal Reasons for Refusing to Rent to a Tenant
  • Sources of Discrimination Laws
  • Forbidden Types of Discrimination
  • Occupancy Limits
  • Legal Penalties for Discrimination
  • Owner-Occupied Premises and Occasional Rentals
  • Managers and Discrimination
  • Insurance Coverage for Discrimination Claims

10.  Cotenants, Subtenants, and Guests

  • Renting to More Than One Tenant
  • Subtenants and Sublets
  • When a Tenant Brings in a Roommate
  • If a Tenant Leaves and Assigns the Lease to Someone
  • Sort-Term Rentals Like Airbnb

11.  The Landlord's Duty to Repair and Maintain the Property

  • State and Local Housing Standards
  • Enforcement of Housing Standards
  • Maintenance of Appliances and Other Amenities
  • The Tenant's Responsibilities
  • The Tenant's Right to Repair and Deduct
  • The Tenant's Right to Withhold Rent When the Premises Aren't Habitable
  • The Landlord's Options If a Tenant Repairs and Deducts or Withholds Rent
  • The Tenant's Right to Move Out
  • The Tenant's Right to Sue for Defective Conditions
  • Avoid Rent Withholding and Other Tenant Remedies by Adopting a High-Quality Repair and Maintenance System
  • Tenant Updates and Landlord's Regular Safety and Maintenance Inspections
  • Tenants' Alterations and Improvements
  • Cable TV
  • Satellite Dishes and Other Antennas

12.  The Landlord's Liability for Dangerous Conditions,
Criminal Acts, and Environmental Health Hazards

  • Legal Standards for Liability
  • Landlord's Responsibility to Protect Tenants From Crime
  • How to Protect Your Tenants From Criminal Acts While Also Reducing Your Potential Liability
  • Protecting Tenants From Each Other (and From the Manager)
  • Landlord Liability for Drug-Dealing Tenants
  • Liability for Environmental Hazards
  • Liability, Property, and Other Types of Insurance

13.  The Landlord's Right of Entry and Tenant's Privacy

  • The Landlord's Right of Entry
  • Entry by Others
  • Other Types of Invasions of Privacy
  • What to Do When Tenants Are Unreasonable
  • Tenants' Remedies If a Landlord Acts Illegally

14.  Raising Rents and Changing Other Terms of Tenancy

  • Basic Rules to Change or End a Tenancy
  • Rent Increase Rules
  • Preparing a Notice to Raise Rent
  • How to Serve the Notice on the Tenant
  • When the Rent Increase Takes Effect
  • Changing Terms Other Than Rent

15.  Retaliatory Rent Increases and Evictions

  • Types of Prohibited Retaliation
  • Proving Retaliation
  • Avoiding Charges of Retaliation
  • Liability for Illegal Retaliation

16.  The Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

  • When to Use a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
  • How to Determine the Amount of Rent Due
  • Directions for Completing the Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
  • Serving the Three-Day Notice on the Tenant
  • When the Tenant Offers to Pay Rent
  • The Tenant Moves Out
  • If the Tenant Won't Pay Rent (or Leave)

17.  Self-Help Evictions, Utility Terminations, and
Taking Tenants' Property

  • Forcible Evictions
  • Blocking or Driving the Tenant Out Without Force
  • Seizing the Tenant's Property and Other Harassment
  • Effect of Landlord's Forcible Eviction on a Tenant's Liability for Rent

18.  Terminating Tenancies

  • The 30-, 60-, or 90-Day Notice
  • The Three-Day Notice in Cities That Don't Require Just Cause for Eviction
  • Termination When Just Cause for Eviction Is Required
  • Termination Without Notice
  • The Initial Move-Out Inspection Notice

19.  When a Tenant Leaves: Month-to-Month Tenancies,
Fixed-Term Leases, Abandonment, and Death of a Tenant

  • Terminating Month-to-Month Tenancies
  • Terminating Fixed-Term Leases
  • Termination by Tenant Abandoning Premises
  • What to Do When Some Tenants Leave and Others Stay
  • Death of a Tenant

20.  Returning Security Deposits

  • Basic Rules for Returning Deposits
  • Initial Move-Out Inspection and Tenant's Right to Receipts
  • Final Inspection
  • Deductions for Cleaning and Damages
  • Deductions for Unpaid Rent
  • Preparing an Itemized Statement of Deductions
  • Small Claims Lawsuits by the Tenant
  • If the Deposit Doesn't Cover Damage and Unpaid Rent

21.  Property Abandoned by a Tenant

  • Handling, Storing, and Disposing of Personal Property
  • Motor Vehicles Left Behind

Appendixes

A

Rent Control Chart

  • Reading Your Rent Control Ordinance
  • Finding Municipal Codes and Rent Control Ordinances Online
  • Rent Control Rules by California City

B

  • How to Use the Interactive Forms on the Nolo Website
  • Editing RTFs
  • List of Forms Available on the Nolo Website

Index

Here is a concise legal guide for people who own or manage residential rental property in California. It has two main goals: to explain California landlord/tenant law in as straightforward a manner as possible, and to help you use this legal knowledge to anticipate and, where possible, avoid legal problems.

California-Specific Legal Information

This book concentrates on the dozens of state legal rules associated with most aspects of renting and managing residential real property. For example, we include information on leases, rental agreements, ­managers, credit checks, security deposits, discrimi­nation, invasion of privacy, the landlord’s duty to maintain the premises (and tenant rights if you don’t), liability for tenant exposure to mold, how to deal with bedbugs, how to increase the rent or terminate for nonpayment of rent, what you can legally do with a tenant’s abandoned property, and much more. This book also covers key federal laws that affect landlords, such as lead-paint disclosure rules, and highlights important local rules, particularly rent control (see below) and health and safety standards.

California Legal Forms and Notices

We provide over 40 practical, easy-to-use, and legal forms, notices, letters, and checklists throughout this book, including rental applications, leases, repair notices, warning letters, notice of entry forms, security deposit itemizations, move-in and move-out letters, disclosure forms, three-day nonpayment of rent and other termination notices, and more. We clearly explain what form you need for different situations, with clear instructions on how to prepare the form (including how to provide proper legal notice when required). We also provide filled-in samples in the text.

All forms are available for download on the Nolo website on a special companion page for this book as described below.

 

Tip

Put it in writing. Using the forms, checklists, and notices included in this book will help you avoid legal problems in the first place, and minimize those that can’t be avoided. The key is to establish a good paper trail for each tenancy, beginning with the rental agreement and lease through a termination notice and security deposit itemization. Such documentation is often legally required and will be extremely valuable if attempts at resolving disputes with your tenant fail.

California Rent Control Rules

Many of you will own rental properties in areas covered by rent control ordinances. These laws not only establish how much you can charge for most residential living spaces, they also override state law in a number of other ways. For example, many rent control ordinances restrict a landlord’s ability to terminate month-to-month tenancies by requiring “just cause for eviction.” We handle rent control in three ways: First, as we explain your rights and responsibilities under state law in the bulk of this book, we indicate those areas in which rent control laws are likely to modify or change these rules. Second, we provide a detailed discussion of rent control in Chapter 4. Third, we provide summaries (see Appendix A) of key rent control rules, particularly how they affect evictions, in 15 California cities with rent control. If you own rental property in a rent control city, it’s crucial that you have a current copy of the local ordinance. You can get a copy from your city rent control board or online.

How (and Why) to Use This Book

This book provides a roughly chronological treatment of subjects important to landlords—beginning with taking rental applications and ending with returning security deposits when a tenant moves out. But you shouldn’t wait until a problem happens to educate yourself about the law.

With sensible planning, you can either minimize—or avoid—the majority of serious legal problems encountered by landlords. For example, in Chapter 11
we show you how to plan ahead to deal with those few tenants who will inevitably try to invent bogus reasons why they were legally entitled to withhold rent. Similarly, in Chapter 9 we discuss ways to be sure that you, your managers, and other employees know and follow antidiscrimination laws and, at least as important, make it clear that you are doing so. We take you through most of the important tasks of being a landlord. Most of these tasks you can do yourself, but we are quick to point out situations when an attorney’s help will be useful or necessary.

We believe that in the long run a landlord is best served by establishing a positive relationship with tenants. Why? First, because it’s our personal view that adherence to the law and principles of fairness is a good way to live. Second, your tenants are your most important economic asset and should be treated as such. Think of it this way: From a long-term perspective, the business of renting residential properties is often less profitable than is cashing in on the appreciation of that property. Your tenants are crucial to this process, since it is their rent payments that allow you to carry the cost of the real property while you wait for it to go up in value. And just as other businesses place great importance on conserving natural resources, it makes sense for you to adopt legal and practical strategies designed to establish and maintain a good relationship with your tenants.

Evicting a Tenant

This book, The California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities, is the first of a two-volume set. It explains how to terminate a tenancy, but if you need to evict a tenant, you’ll want to consult the second volume, The California Landlord’s Law Book: Evictions. The Evictions volume provides a step-by-step guide and all the necessary forms and instructions for ending a tenancy and doing your own evictions.

Renting Out a Condo or Townhouse

If you are renting out your condominium or town­house, use this book in conjunction with your homeowners’ association’s CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions). These rules may affect how you structure the terms and conditions of the rental and how your tenants may use the unit. For example, many homeowners’ associations control the number of vehicles that can be parked on the street. If your association has a rule like this, your renters will need to comply with it, and you cannot rent to tenants with too many vehicles without running afoul of the rules.

You need to be aware that an association rule may be contrary to federal, state, or local law. For instance, an association rule that banned all persons of a certain race or religion from the property would not be upheld in court. And owners of condominium units in rent-controlled areas must comply with the ordinance, regardless of association rules to the contrary. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know whether an association rule will pass legal muster. To know whether a particular rule is legally permissible is an inquiry that, in some cases, is beyond the scope of this book.

Who Should Not Use This Book

Do not use this book or its forms in the following situations:

Renting commercial property for your business. Legal rules and practices vary widely for commercial rentals—from how rent is set to the length and terms of leases.

Renting out a space or unit in a mobile home park or marina. Different rules often apply. For details, check out the California Department of Housing and Community Development publication, 2014 Mobilehome Residency Law, available at www.hcd.ca.gov/codes/mp/2014MRL.pdf.

Renting out a live/work unit (such as a loft). While you will be subject to state laws governing residential units, you may have additional requirements (imposed by building codes) that pertain to commercial property as well. Check with your local building inspector’s office for the rules governing live/work units.

Abbreviations Used in This Book

We make frequent references to the California Civil Code (CC) and the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP), important statutes that set out landlords’ rights and responsibilities. We use the following standard abbreviations throughout this book for these and other important statutes and court cases covering landlord rights and responsibilities. There are many times when you will surely want to refer to the complete statute or case. See Chapter 8 for advice on how to find a specific statute or case and do legal research.

California Codes

CC

Civil Code

CCP

Code of Civil Procedure

UHC

Uniform Housing Code

B&P

Business and Professions Code

H&S

Health and Safety Code

CCR

California Code of Regulations

Ed. Code

Education Code

Federal Laws

U.S.C.

United States Code

Cases

Cal. App.

California Court of Appeal

Cal. Rptr.

California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court

Cal.

California Supreme Court

F. Supp.

United States District Court

F.2d, F.3d

United States Court of Appeal

U.S.

United States Supreme Court

Opinions

Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen.

California Attorney General Opinions

 

Instructions for downloading the forms are available when you purchase the book.  We hope you enjoyed this sample chapter!

This Book Comes With a Website

Nolo’s award-winning website has a page dedicated just to this book, where you can:

DOWNLOAD FORMS - All forms in this book are accessible online. After purchase, you can find a link to the URL in Appendix B.

KEEP UP TO DATE - When there are important changes to the information in this book, we will post updates

And that’s not all. Nolo.com contains thousands of articles on everyday legal and business issues, plus a plain-English law dictionary, all written by Nolo experts and available for free. You’ll also find more useful books, software, online services, and downloadable forms.

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