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If you own a residential rental property, it’s important to know the laws regarding landlord and tenant relations. Understanding landlord-tenant law can help both sides avoid costly and inconvenient misunderstandings.
The Fair Housing Act
As the property owner, you should familiarize yourself with the Fair Housing Act to ensure you remain compliant when finding tenants for your rental property. This 1968 law protects potential tenants against discrimination.
You also can’t refuse to rent to a tenant based on race, gender, national origin, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. The law also protects renters with disabilities or families with children against discrimination. In addition, it makes it illegal to set terms that disproportionately affect a protected group.
How Landlord-Tenant Law Affects Security Deposits
As the landlord or property owner, you have the right to request a security deposit from your tenants. However, it’s important to note that California law restricts landlords' management of deposits. For example, a security deposit can’t be greater than two months’ rent.
When the tenant moves out of the unit, the landlord has a maximum of 21 days to return the security deposit minus deductions. If the deposit isn’t returned on time, the tenant has the right to seek restitution equivalent to twice the amount of the deposit and damages.
Rent Increases and Late Fees
California’s Tenant Protection Act places caps on rental rates throughout the state. Landlords are allowed to increase rent annually by 5 percent, plus a percentage for cost of living, up to 10%.
California allows property owners to charge late fees on overdue rent. Other permissible fees include a $25 fee on the first bounced check from a tenant. Consecutive bounced or returned checks can result in a $35 fee for each incident.
The Right to Apply Restrictions
In drafting a lease or rental agreement, you can include specific restrictions that dictate how a tenant may use or occupy your property. This includes limiting the number of occupants permitted to reside in the rental unit and banning smoking.
The pet policy is another important consideration. You can restrict pets by type, breed, or weight if you allow pets. You may also charge a pet deposit and a monthly pet rent fee in addition to the standard rental rate.
In most cases, the tenant has the right to be notified 24 hours before you intend to enter their rental unit. This requirement does not apply in emergency situations, such as gas leaks or fires. In an emergency, you have the right to enter the unit immediately to preserve the health and safety of the tenant.
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