8 Most Essential Landlord Responsibilities: California Rental Guide

1 Jun, 8:31 am

 

As an owner, you may be wondering how you can make your rental property more suitable for tenants. Aside from creating a ‘usable’ space, California rental laws also include key responsibilities a landlord must follow to ensure the safety and well-being of all parties involved.

By understanding specific obligations, both tenants and landlords can identify what are their duties and rights so they can make informed decisions about issues concerning the property.

In this article, we will talk about the most important landlord responsibilities as stated in Californian law, while maximizing your profit, keeping good tenants, and complying with legal regulations.

 

Why is it important to understand landlord responsibilities?

 

California landlords may be overwhelmed with all the musts and prohibitions, but once you think of it as a way to look after your property, abiding by them becomes second nature.

And because you have your own set of legal entitlements within the California landlord rights, it is only fitting to act in accordance with local rules as a property owner as well.

– To be legally compliant

Having a rental property means ensuring you conform to federal and local landlord-tenant laws. If the landlord fails to meet legal requirements, you will have a hard time listing your property for rent directly or through a property management company. Worse, it may result to fines, penalties, and even lawsuits against you.

– To establish a quality relationship with tenants

With over 62.7% of all U.S. renters comprising those in California rental properties, (1) you have to stay up-to-date with legal provisions for tenants to prefer your property over all the others.

But what would make your place worth to pay rent? It would make potential residents think twice if a landlord refuses to do their part in making sure their tenants are fully taken care of under the law.

– To protect yourself and your property

Your rental unit should be your priority because this long-term investment is your source of passive income. Whether inhabited or not, abiding by legal regulations means protecting yourself from liability and maintaining a marketable property.

 

 

8 Essential Landlord Responsibilities

 

California landlord-tenant law, policies, limitations, and restrictions may sound complicated but not all the legal rules on landlord duties are hard to understand. Here are the fundamental responsibilities you need to know:

1. Maintaining a safe and habitable rental property

First and definitely the most important, is the warranty of habitability. Your dwelling unit should be fit to live in and be occupied. By ‘habitability,’ the law defines that should it meet the living conditions for human occupancy before and during potential tenants’ residency.

A safe and clean rental unit should include the following basic provisions that may affect the tenant’s health and safety:

  • Waterproofed walls and roofing
  • Gas and heating facilities
  • Light and plumbing fixtures
  • Working electrical system
  • Grounds, gardens, and garage in a hygienic condition
  • Natural lighting and ventilated windows
  • A well-ventilated working toilet, bathtub, or shower
  • The floor, stairway, and railings are in excellent condition
  • Working locks on doors and smoke detectors
  • Fire and emergency exits without any obstacles

Under this provision, a landlord should also ensure that the property complies with local ordinances on health and safety standards like building and housing codes. This is to avoid withholding of rent and even long-term vacancies. (2)  

2. Repairs and maintenance responsibilities

In relation to the habitability clause, landlords must also provide essential services for repair that may affect the property’s habitability. Handling emergencies and tenant concerns should be done promptly including water and gas leaks, malfunctioning heating and cooling systems, and electrical issues. Repairs caused by damages due to criminal activity or natural disasters should also be shouldered by the landlord.

Landlord-tenant laws also state that the rental property should undergo regular safety inspections and the reports from these inspections should be properly recorded. If tenants call on landlords for repairs, these should be documented as proof if no action from the landlord has been received.

In the event that the landlord fails to provide repairs, tenants may either result to a “repair and deduct” remedy or “rent-withholding” remedy (for damages that can still be repaired by tenants), or “abandonment” remedy (if the property is deemed unfit for occupancy).

3. Transparent provisions of the lease agreement

California landlords should also provide transparency in the items listed within the lease or rental agreement. The tenant and the landlord should discuss what to include in a legal-written lease agreement and acknowledge all conditions or stipulate any discrepancies if there are any.

It is important to seek a professional opinion when it comes to examining legal documents like the rental agreement. This is to avoid signing misinterpreted contracts that may contain illegal clauses or lack the important oral correspondence that you already shared with the other party.

 

Legally required disclosures to tenants

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4. Make legally-required disclosures to tenants

When writing a rental agreement, it is also the landlord’s responsibility to reveal mandatory disclosures according to landlord-tenant laws.

  • If the rental unit is built before 1978 and there is the presence of lead-based paint, a lead warning statement should be included in the rental agreement.
  • Bedbug information including cooperation during prevention and treatment should be included. If bedbugs are found, the property cannot be shown or leased until the infestation has been removed from the premises.
  • Treatment to mold should also be made and disclosed to avoid health risks and hazards. Water source or leakage should be located and reconstructed before occupancy.
  • Pest control measures should be done periodically and treatment notice from the pest control company should be given by the landlord to every new tenant. 
  • Hazards such as chemical contamination and flood should also be disclosed. For significant contamination certified by a health officer, tenants are made aware prior to signing and may opt not to continue with the lease. Flood hazard zones should also be indicated if the area is prone to considerable floods.
  • If there are any occurrences of death in the property within the last three years, California landlords are also required to disclose the event including the manner of death to prospective tenants.
  • According to California’s Megan’s Law, the public must be informed about registered sex offenders listed in the Department of Justice database. A specific clause on this disclosure should be included in the rental agreement as well. 

5. Understand fair housing laws and anti-discriminatory regulations

Providing equal screening for fair housing opportunities to all tenants regardless of physical or mental disability is part of the anti-discrimination laws and it is the tenant’s legal right to seek and secure habitable housing free of any prejudice or judgment.

Landlord-tenant laws in California recognize protected classes and prohibited discriminatory practices. Under this law, a landlord, or anyone acting on their behalf, cannot refuse the rental of property because of unlawful discrimination due to their race, color, religion, disability, gender, and familial status among others.

 

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6. Notifications on the security deposit and rent increases

Guidelines for collecting and returning security deposits from prospective tenants should be made by the landlord as part of their responsibility to the tenants. It should be indicated in the rental agreement and should not exceed the amount equivalent to two month’s rent.

Legal restrictions state that the security deposit must be refunded to the prospective tenant and the amount paid at the beginning of the tenancy should be included.

According to rent control laws, any increase should not exceed 5% plus the inflation rate. It can also be equivalent to no more than 10% of the lowest paid amount for the last 12 months. Double check on the cities that apply these control laws like San Francisco, LA, and San Jose.

Advance notice on rent increases should also be part of the notifications sent to tenants. While some cities have rent stabilization ordinances against unlawful addition to rent amounts, it is still important to keep tenants updated with the status of rent increases in California before you collect rent.

7. Tenant Privacy and Entry Rights

A California landlord should also follow proper procedures for entering rental units. Although you are the owner, there are only specific situations where you can enter an occupied property. This can be in case of emergencies, surrendered or abandoned units, conducting repairs notified in advance, court order, or during regular inspections and maintenance.

Respecting tenant privacy rights means they agreed upon the said entry with the date, time, and purpose included in the written notice. Repeated disturbances to the tenant by abusing the right of access may cause misconduct and violation of rights that will result in a penalty.

Proper handling of lease violations, termination, and evictions

Grounds for lease termination can be due to periodic tenancy (applicable for short-term lease), selling or owner use of a rental unit, or as simple as unpaid rent, but eviction procedures complying with legal requirements should be in order.(3)

Breach of contract and other lease violations can be justification for eviction such as refusal to cooperate with issues concerning the rental unit, unlawful or criminal use of property, or proven nuisance with problem tenants.

In these cases, a written notice to vacate indicates the reason for the eviction. A 3-day eviction notice must be served to the tenant to either pay or quit. Then it can be requested for a court hearing and if the court rules in favor of the landlord, a sheriff may enforce the eviction.

However, whether or not the tenant fulfills the necessary legal requirement, the landlord cannot use unlawful methods of evicting a tenant such as locking out or cutting off utilities. The court must observe the proper eviction process to rule in favor of the tenant.

8. Landlord-tenant mediation and dispute resolution options

Reaching an agreement from both the landlord and tenant voluntarily during a dispute can be challenging. At times, a mediator who is a third-party impartial individual steps in to settle the rental issues. It is the landlord’s responsibility to participate in these programs to foster a positive relationship with the tenant and avoid the unnecessary stress, expense, and effort of going to court. Arbitrator decisions can also be of aid in case no resolution is made between the tenant and the landlord.

Be sure to set boundaries and always act in accordance with lawful procedures to avoid further legal consequences, even if at times it can be frustrating dealing with different tenant personalities, behavior, and background.

This can be a role you can entrust to a reliable and respectable property management provider, like Lotus West Properties. Handling landlord responsibilities can be a breeze, and you can focus on other personal matters while having peace of mind that your property and tenants are in good hands.

With years of experience in property management, you can be sure that your properties in Malibu, Koreatown, and Mar Vista are taken care of along with other well-handled properties under their belt in the Greater Los Angeles area. 

 

landlord responsibilities discussed in LA
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Key Takeaway

 

Being a landlord entails different responsibilities. This includes maintaining a safe and habitable place, maintaining and repairing the rental unit, providing transparency in lease agreements including mandatory disclosures, recognizing fair housing laws, advance notifications on rent increases, observing tenant privacy rights, and respecting landlord-tenant mediations.

By performing these duties and legal obligations, you can be assured that your rental unit is preserved for leasing and attract tenants to rent your property. 

Managing these responsibilities can be time-consuming and dealing with difficult tenants can increase the load of managing your property. But we have a solution that you will like!

With 20 years of property management experience,  Lotus West Properties can expertly take over these duties and responsibilities so you can have more time for work and family. Let us help you manage your investment through efficient management while reducing your expenses, maintaining a high occupancy rate, and maximizing your investment’s profitability. Request a callback with us today.

 

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