Question: How far in advance can my landlord request that I renew my lease agreement?
Answer: It is that time of the year in many college towns when landlords are requesting that tenants renew their leases for the Fall, even though the existing lease does not expire for another six to seven months. Many tenants are confused and frustrated by this process and want to know their legal rights.
Unfortunately for tenants in this situation, California law does not place any restrictions on when a landlord can request a lease renewal. This means landlords can ask tenants to renew their leases as far in advance as they would like unless there is a lease provision that addresses the issue. Most leases contain a lease renewal provision that states the time frame for renewing the lease and the manner in which the tenant must renew should they choose to do so. Your landlord must comply with a lease renewal provision, if it exists, and you should be firm in its enforcement.
Moreover, you still have the right of quiet enjoyment in the property even if you choose not to renew your lease agreement throughout the remainder of your lease term, which means your landlord will have to comply with certain requirements when showing the property to prospective renters. You can read more about this right and the laws governing a landlord’s entry into your rental in our posts below.
Please contact our office if you have any questions about your rights or if you think special rules, such as living in a rental control district, apply.
Question: What type of notice is a landlord required to provide a tenant before terminating the tenancy?
Answer: Landlords are often confused about how much notice they need to provide tenants before terminating a lease, but it is important for every landlord to understand this area of the law to protect their legal rights. Failing to comply with notice requirements will prohibit a landlord from being successful in an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit and may expose the landlord to additional liability.
In general, landlords are required to provide tenants with one of four types of notice: (1) No Notice, (2) Three-day Notice, (3) Thirty-day Notice, and (4) Sixty-day Notice. Landlords must also comply with specific procedural requirements that govern the notice’s required content and steps for delivery to the tenant.
No Notice | Landlords are not required to provide tenants with any notice at the end of a fixed term lease. A fixed term lease is a written or oral lease that expires on a fixed date. Most residential and commercial leases start as fixed term leases.
Three-day Notice | Landlords should issue a three-day notice if a tenant fails to comply with any of the lease terms. A three-day notice requires a tenant to comply with the lease terms within three days or vacate the property. For example, this type of notice may be used if a tenant fails to pay rent or if the tenant is using the property in an unauthorized manner.
Thirty-day Notice | A thirty-day notice to terminate tenancy is appropriate if a tenant does not have a fixed-term lease, as described above, and the tenant has lived in the property for less than one year. This type of tenancy is called a periodic tenancy because the rental period renews on a fixed schedule. The best example of a periodic tenancy is the common month-to-month lease.
Sixty-day Notice | Landlords should use a sixty-day notice if there is a periodic tenancy (e.g., a month-to-month rental agreement) and the tenant has lived in the property for more than one year.
California landlord-tenant laws can be difficult for new and experienced landlords to understand, and you should consult an attorney if you are not sure which type of notice you should use. An attorney will also be able to help you resolve special circumstances and answer your procedural questions.
Question: My landlord sold our rental unit. Can the new landlord change my lease provisions?
Answer: Unless your original lease contains a provision that states otherwise, the sale of your rental property will not change your original lease terms. The purchasing landlord steps into the shoes of the original landlord and assumes all of the same rights and obligations.
Generally, this means you are still required to pay the new landlord rent and the new landlord is required to provide you with the same services the original landlord was required to provide under your lease terms. The new landlord assumes the original landlord’s role so completely that (s)he is even entitled to sue you for any past rent you may have owed before (s)he purchased the property. Although this rule generally holds true, here are two special situations to keep in mind:
Security Deposit | Tenants have the right to collect their security deposit from the original landlord or the new landlord unless certain statutory provisions are met. The original landlord can only end his or her liability for your security deposit if: (1) (S)he transfers the security deposit to the new landlord and notifies you or (2) (S)he returns your security deposit back to you. If either of these provisions are met, you can only collect your security deposit from the new landlord.
Lease Provisions | Some lease provisions may alter or terminate your lease if the rental property is sold to a new owner. If this is the case, the lease provision becomes the controlling law and it may limit your rights to the property. In some cases, the new landlord may even have the right to terminate your tenancy and evict you from the property if you refuse to leave voluntarily.
The above describes your general rights, but please contact a local attorney to discuss your particular legal question. These general rules may be modified or changed based on the facts of your case.
Question: When can my landlord enter my apartment?
Answer: Tenants are granted exclusive possession of their apartment (or other rental property) when they sign a lease and comply with their lease obligations. This means tenants generally have control over who may enter the property and when they may do so.
Landlords, however, still have the right to enter the property as long as their entry is reasonable. California law lists the reasons why a landlord may enter your rental unit. These reasons include:
When a landlord is allowed to enter your rental property, the entrance should occur during normal, business hours. Landlords are also generally required to provide you with reasonable notice before seeking entry, and the notice must comply with California statutory guidelines.
California landlords may be liable to you for any entry that does not comply with California law. In extreme situations, the unauthorized entry may be considered a constructive eviction and entitle you to terminate your lease.
If you are having a problem with your landlord, the best course of action is often to discuss the matter in a noncontroversial manner. Your landlord may not understand your rights and may be willing to comply with your reasonable requests. If not, please consider consulting a licensed attorney.
Question: When will my security deposit be refunded?
Answer: In California, landlords have 21 days from the time the lease terminates to either refund a tenant's security deposit or provide the tenant with an itemized list of cleaning and repair deductions that reduce the amount refunded. If the landlord withholds any portion of the security deposit, he or she must also prove that the amount withheld was reasonable based on the landlord's costs.
Unlike rent, which is owed to the landlord and becomes the landlord's property, security deposits remain the tenant's property unless the tenant fails to pay his or her rent or damages the property. Landlords are not allowed to require a nonrefundable security deposit and must hold the deposit for the tenant throughout the lease term.
In addition, California law does not give landlords complete discretion over how the security deposit may be used. Landlords may only keep funds from the security deposit to:
Before a tenant moves out, he or she has the right to request an initial move-out inspection. This inspection gives the tenant the opportunity to fix any deficiencies in the property (clean, repair, etc) before having the amount deducted from his or her security deposit.
California law includes many other provisions that clarify and limit these general security deposit rights, so please consult an attorney if you have further questions on this issue.
Question: What is the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment?
Answer: The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment is an implied covenant (promise) that is adopted into every residential and commercial lease contract. The covenant was adopted in California to ensure that tenants are not deprived of the full use and enjoyment of their rental property.
In many ways, the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment is similar to the Implied Warranty of Habitability found in residential leases. Both are implied into lease agreements (meaning they are contained in the lease even if they are not expressly stated) and both are designed to protect tenants from substantial interferences with their use of the leased premises. Moreover, both may apply to the same situation if the problem results from a physical defect in the property such as a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, or failed electricity.
In order for a tenant to be able to seek relief from his or her landlord under the Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment, the interference must substantial affect a material part of the property. Mild annoyances are not sufficient. The interference must also be caused by the landlord or someone under the landlord’s control, including other tenants. Disturbances resulting from neighboring properties, such as a neighboring business not owned by the landlord, are not qualifying disturbances under the covenant.
Tenants suffering from disturbances may have a variety of options, including collecting damages, forcing the behavior to stop, or moving out if the interference is extreme and the landlord fails to take appropriate action.
If you are suffering from a disturbance, you should discuss the matter with your landlord to see if the problem can be remedied. Landlords are often not aware of problems and are generally willing to take corrective steps. If not, you may consider consulting an attorney or other legal services organization for help.
Emil Dixon is the founder of the Davis Legal Center, a private law office located in Davis, California.