4 California Renters Rights Everyone Should Know

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4 California Renters Rights Everyone Should Know

Megan Foukes · Dec 6, 2022
Gavel ruling over California renters rights in front of the state flag.

California is one of the most sought-after states to live in. From year-round warm weather in SoCal hotspots like L.A. and San Diego to the bustling Silicon Valley in the north, there’s something for everyone here. Whether you’re a life-long Californian or moving for the very first time, it’s important to know your rights as a tenant. Like they are in every other state, California renters rights are totally unique.

Looking for an easy-to-understand breakdown of California renters rights? You’ve come to the right place. Here are four key ones to be aware of:

The Right to Withhold Rent

One of the biggest rights you have as a renter in California is the right to withhold rent. While you can’t just withhold rent because of small disputes with a landlord, you do legally have a right to a livable space and can hold onto your rent payment until any major issues are rectified.

According to NOLO.com, California renters are allowed to withhold rent if the landlord doesn’t maintain a habitable rental space. They’re also allowed to move out without any notice, call local and state health inspectors, and even sue the landlord if their rental’s living conditions are deemed unsafe or uninhabitable.

The Right to Use the Repair and Deduct Remedy

Electrician repairs a faulty socket in an apartment unit.

Similar to having the right to withhold rent, California renters have the right to use what is called the repair and deduct remedy. If a renter has repeatedly put in requests for maintenance and repairs on basic structural, health, and safety needs but nothing has been done, they may have a right to take legal action.

Some basic rental must-haves are:

— Effective waterproofing and weather protection of the walls and roof

— Intact windows and doors

— Functioning electric, plumbing, and heat

— Well-maintained floors and railings in common areas

When the repair and deduct remedy is used, the tenant can fix the major issue themselves after the landlord unsuccessfully takes action. This allows the tenant to deduct the cost of repairs from rent. However, the tenant cannot spend more than one month’s worth of rent on the repair, nor can they use the repair and deduct remedy twice in 12 months.

If you’re a renter in California that feels unsafe in your rental unit and you don’t want to make the repairs yourself, make sure you take appropriate legal action and consult a lawyer.

The Right to Not Disclose Criminal History

This right depends on where you live in California. Certain counties and cities prohibit landlords from running background checks on potential tenants. However, many cities and counties do run criminal background checks. Do some research on the specific area you’re moving to to see if a landlord is authorized to check your criminal record. If they are allowed to run a background check, make sure they are doing it fairly and in a non-discriminatory fashion. If you find that they aren’t being fair at any point in the process, you may report this and take legal action.

The Right to Early Termination

Tenant rips up their lease agreement after having their California renters rights violated.

As of January 1st, 2021, California renters and their immediate family members have the legal right to end their lease early due to crimes that impact their well-being and safety. Prior to this date, only the renters were protected. This revision to the law further protects members of the renters’ families, even if they aren’t living in the rental with the tenant. Renters must give landlords a notice of termination within 180 days of the incident they report, otherwise the landlord can take action to get rent money back.

If you or a family member were the victim of the following, you qualify to end your lease early:

— Sexual assault

— Domestic violence

— Human trafficking

— Abuse of an elder or dependent adult

— Crimes that caused death or bodily injury

— Crimes that involved a firearm or deadly weapon

— Crimes that used force against the victim or threats

Refer to a legal professional if you’re unsure about lease termination and criminal activity that affects you or your family.

Know Your Rights for Renting in California

Whether this is your first renting experience or you’re a rental pro, it’s important to know what your renters rights are in the state of California. Knowing what is and isn’t allowed as a tenant will make you better prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.

As always, if you’re ever unsure about what’s permitted, reach out to your landlord first. They should be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have about your rental unit. If they are unable to answer any of your questions, refer to a legal professional or the official California Tenants Guide.

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