There are a lot of laws in place to protect renters. However, it’s essential that renters learn at least the basic laws that do protect them from unjust landlords. Not all landlords are evil, but a lot of time tenants get taken advantage of because of their race, gender or just ignorance of laws that are in place. The state of California has many laws in place to protect tenants.

Tenant Application Rights

To start off, under California law, rental application fees cannot exceed anymore than $49.50 in 2012. The landlord cannot charge you more for the application fee than their out of pocket costs. When determining whether or not to accept a rental application, it is illegal for the landlord to consider questions about your race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, disability, your age, your medical condition, or whether you have persons under the age of 18 living in your household. Lastly, if your landlord gets a copy of your credit report, he or she must give you a copy.

Unlawful Discrimination

Under California law, it is illegal for a landlord to refuse rent to a possible tenant on any form of discrimination or harassment. It is unlawful to harass a tenant because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to them, as well as gender and perception of gender), sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, or a persons medical or mental condition.

If a tenant has children under 18 who would be living with the tenant, it is illegal to refuse rent on that basis (unless it is being used for senior housing). Tenants with service animals can also not be denied rent because of the fact that they have that service animal (service animals are not included as pets).

Disclosure Laws

Under California law, for rental properties constructed before 1978, the landlord must disclose any known presence of lead based paint on the premises.

Landlords must provide a written notice in advance for rental properties that are going to be treated with any kinds of pesticides or other similar chemicals. The written notice must include all pesticides that will be used on the premises of the property. Written notice to the tenant also must be given prior to the pesticides application.

If any prior tenant died for whatever cause on the premises in the last 3 years prior to the current tenants occupancy, the landlord must disclose this information. This disclosure must be made before the landlord accepts any application fees or rents (as soon as possible before the tenant moves in).

Security Deposit Laws

It is against the law for a lease or rental agreement to state that the security deposit is non-refundable. ALL security deposits are refundable under California law. The only exception to this is if the deposit must be lawfully used for tenant caused property damage repair; Or if the tenant is overly delinquent on their rent, the deposit may be lawfully used to pay the rent.

For unfurnished rentals, a landlord cannot charge more than 2 months rent for a security deposit, or 2 1/2 months rent if the tenant has a water bed. For furnished rentals, a landlord cannot charge more than 3 months rent for a security deposit, or 3 1/2 months rent if the tenant has a water bed.

Rent Payment Laws

Cash cannot be demanded by the landlord for the only use of payment, unless a check was dishonored by the bank in the last 3 months. Written notice must be given when the landlord demands cash as use of payment for rent. The dishonored check must be attached to that written notice. This period can legally last only 3 months past the use of the bad check. The written notice must be given 30 days prior to the change in payment method.

Rent Increase Laws

A landlord can only lawfully increase rent if it was mentioned in the lease. If this was so, the landlord must give a written notice of rent increase with a minimum of 30 days.

Tenants are subject to eviction based off violation of lease, if they do not make their payments, damaged the property, or if they use the property for illegal activity.

Laws for Utility Meters

Landlords must address to tenants before hand all details regarding the plans for future utility costs. If any utility meters are shared, the tenant must be aware of it.

Tenant Eviction Laws/Process

In order to begin an eviction the landlord must give the tenant written notice of this action. If the tenant does not respond to the landlord’s requests in a timely matter,  an unlawful detainer can be filed in court.

There are certain notices landlord’s are required to use in order to evict a tenant under state law. Eviction notices can be located in stores that sell legal forms and are generally not provided by the courts.

3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit: This notice is used when a tenant has not paid rent for x amount of time.

3-Day Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit: This is used when the terms of the lease are violated and the problem is unfixable.

3-Day Notice to Quit: This kind of notice is used if there have been ongoing problems with a tenant who are a nuisance, perform illegal activities, move in tenants without permission, or are a danger to public safety.

30-Day or 60-Day Notice to Quit: 30-day notice to quit will be used to void a month-to-month lease on a tenant who has been residing in the property for less than a year. A 60-day notice to quit will be issued to a tenant facing eviction who has resided in the property for a year or more. is America's #1 consumer mortgage forum with over 32,000 members. Get the latest news, information and tips from an online community you can trust.