Landlord-tenant law refers to a body of laws that regulate rental properties
and outline the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.
The landlord is the person who owns the property, and the tenant is the
person who pays to rent it.
Typically, landlord-tenant law involves disputes over lease agreements,
eviction proceedings, issues with security deposits, and general tax questions.
Before moving into a new apartment, becoming a resident of a mobile home
park, or even renting an office building, you will need to sign a lease
Typically lease agreements include:
- The name and contact information of the landlord and all tenants
- The address and description of the rental unit or property
- Information about rent – how much rent costs and when the balance is due
- Any services that are included with the rent (water, trash, etc.)
- Terms of the security deposit
- The unit’s pet policy
- Renter’s insurance requirements (if applicable)
- Rules of the apartment complex or property
- What happens if the tenant breaks the rules or fails to pay rent
Most lease agreements last for at least one year, but short-term lease
agreements do exist. Lease agreements cannot include arbitration agreements
or require tenants to waive their security deposit refunds. Further landlords
may not use gender, religion, race, or any other protected characteristic
to exclude a tenant from their rental property or turn down a lease.
How Security Deposits Work
Landlords usually ask for security deposits before letting tenants move
in. This way, the tenant will be responsible for any damage they cause.
Both landlords and tenants should agree to the condition of a property
before the tenant moves in so there are no disputes when the landlord
returns – or does not return – the security deposit. In California,
the security deposit cannot exceed 2 months’ rent unless the unit
When the tenant moves out, the landlord should return the security deposit.
If the landlord uses any portion of the security deposit for cleaning
or repairs, they should provide a detailed list of these costs to the
tenant before returning a partial deposit.
Otherwise, the security deposit could be taken to small claims court.
Rights and Responsibilities Outside of the Lease Agreement
Federal laws like the
Fair Housing Act protect tenants from landlord abuse and discrimination. Tenants are also
entitled to privacy and livable conditions.
Similarly, landlords are entitled to protect their investment. If the tenant
has a problem that interferes with the safety of their unit, the landlord
must fix it. If the landlord does not receive rent or other agreed-upon
payments, they can evict the tenant.
Landlords may not evict tenants without cause and reasonable notice. If
the tenant breaks a rule or fails to pay rent, the landlord must give
them a 3-day notice and an opportunity to remedy their behavior. Once
this notice period expires, the landlord may file an eviction suit. If
necessary, the court will enforce evictions and officials will remove
tenants from the rental property.
In California, landlords can also charge late fees for late rent payments,
charge $25 for bounced checks, and raise the rent subject to state and
local rent control rules.
When Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you are a tenant, you may need to recruit a lawyer if your landlord
fails to adhere to the terms of your lease or violates your rights as a renter.
If you are a landlord, you might want an attorney during the eviction process
– or if you need to respond to a tenant’s complaint. You may
also need to discuss rent control measures and other rules with the city
or state you live in.
Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP, we can handle landlord-tenant disputes as part of
our real estate practice. We are also uniquely qualified to help residents of
mobile home parks resolve problems with their landlords.
Call us at (888) 998-2031 or contact us online
to learn how we can help you today.