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Understanding the Legal Landscape: Property Laws Every California Landlord Should Know

Understanding the Legal Landscape: Property Laws Every California Landlord Should Know - Article Banner

Understanding the landlord and tenant laws in Playa Vista and throughout the state of California is an important part of renting out a property. Tenants have a lot of rights and a lot of protections in California, and you need to make sure you’re compliant with all of the state, local, and federal regulations that govern your rental property and your role as a property owner. 


There’s a lot of risk and liability here, and it’s very easy to make an expensive legal mistake. 


But, don’t worry. There are also a number of resources to guide you and a lot of support to protect you, especially if you’re working with a local property management partner


These laws that apply to you are also always changing. You need to keep up with fair housing, security deposits, habitability standards, service animals, rent control, and eviction. There are even new laws for landlords around e-bikes and organic waste. 


Let’s talk about staying compliant with these laws and what you need to know to protect yourself when you’re renting out property in Playa Vista. 


Fair Housing Laws in Playa Vista and California


California’s protections for tenants and consumers almost always go further than any federal law.


This is true with fair housing laws. California’s laws are more in-depth because there are more protected classes. The federal law lists seven protected classes. In California, you cannot discriminate in rental housing based on:


  • Race

  • Skin color

  • Religion or creed

  • National origin or ancestry.

  • Sex

  • Physical or mental disability

  • Familial status

  • Sexual orientation

  • Age

  • Gender identification

  • Gender expression

  • Veteran or military status

  • Citizenship 

  • Primary language

  • Marital status

  • Source of income

  • Genetic information


This is a list that includes all federal and state-protected classes, and it is always evolving. Make sure you are keeping up with fair housing laws at every level. You will want to have a written and well-enforced policy that ensures the objective and non-discriminatory selection of tenants. You will need the right language in your marketing and a written set of rental criteria against which you’ll measure every applicant consistently. Documenting your commitment to fair housing will minimize your exposure to unfounded housing discrimination complaints.


  • Service and Support Animals


When we talk about fair housing laws, we’re also talking about accommodations for people with disabilities. The topic that’s most discussed, especially lately, is service animals and companion animals. If a current or prospective tenant has a service animal or a companion animal, you cannot treat it as a pet. That means you cannot disallow it, even if you have a no-pet policy. You cannot charge a pet fee or pet rent. 


Recently legislation has provided some guidelines on emotional support animals and the documentation that owners can request when a tenant needs an emotional support animal. 


Now, any licensed physician who provides documentation about an individual’s need for an emotional support animal must have an established relationship with that patient. That relationship must have been established for at least 30 days in order for the documentation to be accepted. The physician must also complete an in-person clinical evaluation of the individual who requests the emotional support animal.


Understanding California’s Implied Warranty of Habitability


Perhaps the most basic rental property law of all is habitability. 


A property has to be safe and habitable in order for you to rent it out to tenants. Your tenants must be able to access hot water, heat, electricity, and a roof that doesn’t leak. Ventilation has to be clean and safe. Toilets must flush. There cannot be pest infestations and you cannot allow gas leaks or sewer backups. 


Before you even list a rental property, make sure it’s clean, in good condition, and safe for residents. California has an implied warranty of habitability, which means you’re renting out your property with the understanding that tenants can live there without putting themselves at risk. 


Updated state laws now require city and municipal governments to enforce habitability standards and respond to all complaints. While they might previously had ignored any complaints that seemed frivolous or unfounded, they’re now required to look into any complaint that’s made by a tenant. 


Security Deposit Limits and Timelines 


It’s imperative that you understand how to collect and return security deposits. This is one area where we believe most landlords make the most damaging mistakes. If you’re not sure what you can deduct or what the timeline is for a security deposit return, talk to a property manager so you don’t find yourself in court. 


The law is changing when it comes to how much you can collect. 


Recently, AB 12 was signed into law, which limits the amount you can collect in a security deposit at the beginning of a tenancy. Previously, you were able to collect the equivalent of two month’s rent for an unfurnished property in Playa Vista, and the equivalent of three months’ rent for a furnished property. 


The new law, which takes effect in July of 2024, only allows you to collect the equivalent of one month’s rent - whether your property is furnished or unfurnished. 

 

There is one exception to this law, which may apply to you. If you do not rent out more than two properties and a total of four rental units, you can request up to two month’s rent as a security deposit. 


What do you need to know about timelines? 


We’re glad you asked. 


You have 21 days from the time that your tenant moves out to return their deposit to them. If you’re withholding any or all of that deposit, make sure you send an itemized list of deductions, explaining why the money was kept. You can deduct for:


  • Unpaid rent and utilities

  • Cleaning needs to be done to return the property to the condition it was in when tenants took possession.

  • Damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear. 


Rent Control and Just Cause Eviction


Things start to get complex when we talk about rent control and eviction. 


  • Rent Control


Statewide rent control laws apply mostly to multi-family properties that are at least 15 years old. If you rent out a single-family home or a condo and you’re not a corporation, you’re likely exempt from rent control. 


Even if you’re exempt, you should know the limits of the law, because these are the properties you’re competing with. The rent control limits and requirements cap rental increases to five percent plus the cost of living increase set by the Consumer Price Index. 


Check your lease agreement. It must reflect whether your property is bound by the statewide rent control law. The language has to be specific, so make sure you have an attorney-approved template or verbiage provided by a local property manager. If your property is exempt from rent control but you don’t have the lease language stating that, you will have to follow state rent control laws.  


  • Just Cause Eviction


Eviction law is specific, when your property falls under The Tenant Protection Act, you cannot simply terminate a tenancy because you don’t want to rent your unit to a particular tenant anymore. 


Instead, you must have just cause (which means a good, legal reason) if you want to terminate a tenancy and not renew a lease agreement. 


Just causes include: 


  • Nonpayment of rent

  • Property damage

  • Lease violations

  • Criminal activity


If you’re evicting for a reason that isn’t considered just cause, a tenant relocation payment will be required. Recently, a law has tightened the requirements for a landlord to terminate a tenancy under the Tenant Protection Act (TPA) for no-fault evictions based upon owner move-in or substantial remodeling.

 

An owner who violates the TPA by improperly terminating a tenancy or by raising rent beyond the maximum amount is liable for actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs (at the discretion of the judge), up to three times actual damages for willful violations, and punitive damages. 


How Can Property Management Help?


It’s nearly impossible to be aware of all the laws that pertain to your property. If you’ve found this blog post overwhelming in the amount of information we’ve provided and the number of laws that we’ve talked about, we understand. But, this has only scratched the surface of what you’re responsible for as a landlord in California. The laws are complex and the penalties for violating them are steep. 


The best way to protect yourself and your investment is by working with a local property manager. We make it a point to follow, understand, and interpret the laws according to best practices in property management, the advice we receive from our legal partners, and the way the courts have been ruling. 


We can do a better job of keeping you compliant and protecting you from legal risk and costly errors.

Contact Property Manager

For some more information on California’s legal landscape and tenant protections, please contact us at Fostr Property Management. We serve owners and their properties in communities such as Playa Vista, Westchester, Playa Del Rey, and surrounding areas. 



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