Legal Responsibilities of LA Landlords: What You Need to Know - Article Banner

Being a landlord in Los Angeles, CA comes with a bit of risk, a lot of opportunity, and a unique set of legal responsibilities. California is known to be a tenant-friendly state. There are a lot of protections in place for your residents, and you have to follow every law to the letter or risk getting in expensive legal trouble. From fair housing to security deposits, everything is regulated. 

As a landlord, you must comply with state and local laws to ensure a safe and secure living environment for your tenants. We are experienced property managers in LA, so legal education and compliance is part of our job description. We work hard to stay up to date on the latest laws and the pending legislation in order to keep our owners and landlords compliant with everything that’s required. 

For independent landlords, it can be difficult to navigate through all the legal requirements, and to ensure that you are always in compliance. That’s why we decided to write a bit about the legal responsibilities of LA landlords. Certainly this is not a comprehensive list of your legal responsibilities (we’d have to write a book), but it’s a thorough and important start, so that you can be a responsible and successful landlord who stays out of legal trouble.

Providing Safe and Habitable Housing

There’s an Implied Warranty of Habitability in California, and this is perhaps one of the most important legal responsibilities of LA landlords. You’re required to provide safe and habitable housing for your tenants. This means that the property must be free from hazards such as mold, pests, and lead-based paint. 

You must also ensure that all appliances and electrical systems are in good working order, and that plumbing and heating systems are in good repair. Tenants need access to hot water and heat. 

When repairs are requested, make them right away. You don’t want to give your tenants any reason to believe that you might be ignoring your responsibilities to keep the property maintained. 

Complying with Fair Housing Laws

As a landlord, it is important that you understand and comply with fair housing laws. You cannot discriminate against tenants, and you’ll find that California’s state fair housing laws are actually stricter than the federal fair housing laws. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are treating all tenants equally, and that you are not engaging in any discriminatory practices. Document your screening process and your qualifying standards. Make sure your marketing language does not hint at a preference for one tenant over another. Keep everything consistent. 

California’s protected classes are vast, and you can be held accountable for any instance in which you treat someone differently because of: 

  • 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

These protected classes are always evolving, and in some cases fair housing laws extend to screening practices in new ways. It’s important for LA landlords to stay up-to-date. 

Los Angeles Tenant Protection Laws

In early 2023, the Los Angeles City Council passed a set of new tenant protection laws, and landlords need to understand what is included in those laws in order to remain compliant. Here’s a look at what they include: 

  • Just Cause Eviction Laws in LA. Landlords in LA cannot evict tenants from any rental property, including single-family homes, unless there was unpaid rent, documented lease violations, owner move-ins, or other specific reasons that would justify moving the tenant out. The Los Angeles Housing Department keeps a specific list of the allowed “at-fault” eviction reasons and the “no-fault” legal reasons for eviction. Landlords will also have to pay relocation assistance to tenants if the eviction is for “no-fault” reasons. Some tenants already had “just cause” eviction protections in place thanks to the state law, but LA has made them universal, expanding the protections to about 400,000 additional units. If these laws did not apply to your property before, they might apply now. This is one of the most significant new rental laws in LA, because all units in the city are now covered by the protections.
  • Relocation Fees. Landlords will have to pay relocation fees if rent is increased by more than 10%, or 5% plus inflation. This law will apply only to the LA rental properties that are not covered by the city’s rent stabilization ordinance and statewide rent cap provisions that already prohibit such rent increases. In most cases, the relocation assistance will be three times the fair market rent of the unit (based on the HUD figures) plus $1,411 in moving costs.

These local laws mirror, and in some cases move beyond, the state laws that are in place regarding rent control and just cause eviction. Talk to your Los Angeles property manager or an attorney if you’re confused about whether the state or local laws apply to your rental properties. 

Los Angeles Security Deposits 

Security Deposit LawAnother important law to be aware of concerns security deposits. 

Recently, the state passed a law that will go into effect in 2024, limiting the amount of a security deposit you collect to the equivalent of one month’s rent. Previously, it was two months for an unfurnished home and three months for a furnished home. 

In addition to security deposit limits, you need to know that you have to return your tenant’s security deposit within 21 days of move-out. You also must offer a pre-move out inspection, and you have to remember that you can make deductions for unpaid rent, reasonable cleaning fees, and property damage, but not general wear and tear. 

Being a landlord in Los Angeles, CA comes with a great deal of legal responsibilities. However, by staying informed and taking the necessary steps to comply with state and local laws, you can be a successful and responsible landlord who manages to stay out of legal trouble. 

We are here to help. If you’d like the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re working with an expert Los Angeles property management company that knows the laws, contact us at Earnest Homes.