The state of California has a reputation when it comes to rental laws. We are known to be tenant-friendly, and it’s important for landlords and property owners to understand the laws and comply with them. Legal mistakes are expensive.
If you need some help navigating the legal landscape, check in with a property manager in Los Angeles. We spend a lot of time analyzing what’s required and keeping our owners in compliance to avoid liability and potential lawsuits.
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to understanding and applying California’s rental laws to your property.
Fair Housing and Protected Classes
Fair housing laws start at the federal level through the Fair Housing Act. This law protects people against discrimination based on race, skin color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.
California is a little different when it comes to fair housing. Our state goes further in its protections. In California, we get into protected classes that cover sexuality, age, gender identification, veteran’s status, and citizenship.
Most landlords don’t intentionally discriminate. But, you could make a mistake in your marketing language that might cause others to believe you’re discriminating. You don’t want to say that a home is perfect for families. You don’t want to make it sound like your property is better suited for one class of people over another. Advertise your home around what it offers to everyone.
Tenant screening needs to be fair and consistent. Document your set of rental criteria and provide it to all applicants so they can decide whether they’re likely to be approved. You must show that everyone gets treated the same way.
Service and Companion Animals
One of the fastest growing areas of fair housing litigation is around tenants with disabilities. Animals become a fair housing issue when a tenant or an applicant has a service animal or a companion animal. You have to allow them, even if you don’t allow pets. That’s because fair housing laws do not see service and support animals as pets. They’re seen as accommodations.
Not only are you required to accept the qualified tenants and their service or companion animals; you also cannot charge a pet fee, pet deposit, or pet rent.
This is a problem for landlords and owners who do not know the difference between how you are meant to treat pets versus service animals. The legal requirements vary even between service animals and companion animals, particularly when we’re talking about the documentation you can request from tenants.
If you don’t understand the intricacies of these laws, you need to seek professional help.
The Tenant Protection Act: Rent Control and Eviction
Los Angeles has its own Rent Stabilization Ordinance. If your property is not covered by that law, there is still a California law that might cover you. Statewide rent control went into effect on January 1, 2020, and while some rental properties such as most single-family homes and condos are exempt, many have to comply with the rent control restrictions.
This law limits the amount that landlords can raise rent from year to year. If your rental property in Los Angeles or the surrounding communities is bound by the rent control law, you’ll need to limit your rental increases to five percent plus the cost of living increase set by the Consumer Price Index.
There are a lot of nuances to this law, especially when we talk about property type. And, you’ll need to include specific verbiage in your lease to reflect whether you are bound to the rent control laws or exempted from them.
Evictions have also changed, especially since the implementation of this law and the eviction moratorium that only recently ended in California. You can still evict tenants with cause, meaning if they stop paying rent or violate the terms of your lease agreement, you should go ahead and evict them. But, if you simply don’t want to renew the lease or you have other plans for the property that requires you to remove them from the home, you’ll be required to pay a relocation fee that’s equivalent to one month’s rent.
Section 8 Tenants and Your Los Angeles Rental Home
Another new law that Los Angeles landlords need to understand pertains to how you market your home and screen your tenants. In the past, you could actively advertise that you did not accept Section 8 tenants for a property. You cannot do that anymore.
As you screen the applications that come in, you need to consider Section 8 applicants. All of your screening criteria can remain the same, but when it comes to your income standards, you have to consider a housing voucher as part of an applicant’s income. You cannot deny a Section 8 tenant if all their other qualifications meet your criteria.
California Security Deposits
In California, you can collect the equivalent of two months’ rent for an unfurnished property and three months’ rent for a furnished property. At the end of the lease term, you have 21 days after a tenant moves out to return the security deposit and/or an itemized accounting of why money was withheld and what it’s being used for.
There are frequent disputes between what should be considered tenant damage and what should be considered normal wear and tear. Your move-in inspections and move-out inspections need to be well-documented. You are legally required to offer your tenants a walk through before they move out to give them an indication of what you might deduct. If you lose a security deposit lawsuit, you can be accountable for paying the tenants three times the amount of the initial deposit.
You need legal protection when you rent out a home in Los Angeles. These are only a few of the laws that we encourage property owners to familiarize themselves with as they prepare to rent out a home. You’re also required to provide safe and habitable housing. You cannot show up unannounced to inspect your property. You need to provide quiet enjoyment to your tenants, and you must not retaliate against them if they complain about their living conditions.
Talk to us about your legal questions. Contact our team at Earnest Homes, where we provide a high standard of property management in Los Angeles.