Tenant Rights

The start of a tenancy and throughout its termination are sensitive periods as well as the duration spent living on the premises. Sometimes the occupancy doesn't go according to the direction of a tenancy agreement or you may find yourself in financial difficulties, leading to the necessity of an eviction. If you are a tenant that is served with an eviction notice in California, and the landlord retains the security deposit, or if the property was not properly maintained can hire a Los Angeles Eviction Attorney for their defense. Our eviction attorneys can stop imminent evictions and litigate the landlords who violate tenants rights.

What is a Tenancy Eviction?

Eviction is the procedure used by a landlord to literary kick out a tenant from the rental premises. The landlord provides a tenant who has, in their view, violated the tenancy agreement with notices that are succeeded by a final eviction notice. When the notice is not complied with, the landlord may proceed the process in court for an eviction lawsuit, also called an unlawful detainer. If the landlord successfully obtains an eviction order, a tenant will be removed from the rental property after five days with the assistance of a Sheriff or a Law Enforcement Officer.

A tenant, therefore, must pay due diligence to the legal procedure the landlord takes from the very beginning of an eviction. Some activities done during tenancy terminations by landlords are illegal and results in making a tenant’s defense more solid in an eviction proceeding. Under California law, a landlord’s legal powers during an eviction process are restricted in certain aspects such as:

  • Locking out a tenant or turning off electricity, gas, or water services
  • Removing doors, windows, or roofing; the landlord is liable to a fine of $100 for each day this continues
  • Charging or causing the arrest of a tenant other than the Sheriff serving court orders in a legally determined eviction
  • Entering premises and making renovations while the tenant is still in residence with a motive to necessitate vacating; civil code 1940(2) places the liability on the landlord for a fine of up to $2000
  • Threatening a tenant with any personal danger or disclosures to the immigration and citizenship authorities aimed at forcing self-eviction; for each occurrence, a fine of $2000 applies if a landlord is found guilty

What are the Violations of Agreements?

Before signing a binding tenancy agreement, both landlords and tenants should ensure that the stipulated conditions stay within California State legal mandates. A tenant’s rights concerning lease guidelines are of utmost importance even with a landlord’s intent to terminate a tenancy. California law prohibitions on tenancy evictions range from discrimination based on race and other protected characteristics to the limits of monies charged for security deposits.

The lease or rental agreement should encompass the form, manner, and durations within which the rent should be paid henceforth. The landlord or property agent must also clearly indicate the protocols regarding rent hikes unless the tenancy is to be renewed. California law declares that the notices for increases of 10% in rent should be given 30 days to mature. A reasonable rental agreement from a tenant’s perspective should be specific about issues that may cause redundancies such as:

  • Late rent and arrears payment policies
  • The number of people who may reside at the premises
  • Landlord’s legal jurisdictions pertinent to accessing the unit
  • Property inventory with conditions of items described
  • Policy on damages, repairs, and maintenance
  • The eviction procedure and notices that the landlord should give
  • Security deposit refund policies and what is covered in the case the deposit is deemed non-refundable
  • Allowance of pets’ policies or the lack thereof
  • Tenant to tenant relations in relations to common areas, noise, and other practices

What Are Security Deposits And Refunds?

A security deposit is a monetary amount that is paid in good faith or as a guarantee that a tenant is capable of paying rent. At times, a deposits value may include amounts listed as down payments for rent, pets, keys, cleaning, and security. If the tenancy ends in the proper terms, then a full refund is due within 21 days of the tenant’s departure.

Security deposits become refundable only in the exception of specific requirements that must be well defined also in the rental contract. Any incurrences on the landlords part, such as costs towards extensive renovations and repair to the property or rental balances that need settling after the eviction may be subject to deduction from the deposit. If the tenant leaves the unit less habitable, for instance, the landlord is within the law to withhold the deposit if the deposit is declared nonrefundable either in part or entirely.

The security deposit amount should not be more than two or three times the monthly rent rate for an unfurnished and furnished premise respectively, which are the state of California limits. With long term rental agreements, the deposit should not be altered every time the lease is renewed due to economic inflations. To eliminate future disputes, refunds policies should be entrenched in the tenancy agreement such as how soon to return the deposit after the tenant’s departure from the premises.

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Can a Landlord Breach a Tenancy Contract?

A landlord or rental agent has to ensure that the agreement is satisfactory while the provision of a unit is not hampered by bias or unfair policies. The provided premises must be satisfactorily comfortable and offer conducive habitations to the tenant; the interpretation of which is dependent on price, but must be safe and sanitary living conditions. Maintenance and repairs for damages within the scope of the landlord's responsibility should be promptly undertaken as per tenancy agreement. It is also the duty of a landlord to ensure that in case of an eviction, the law is paid due diligence; otherwise, the tenant has grounds to litigation and compensation.

A landlord's or property manager's jurisdiction concerning the rented premises must be comprehensive and well entrenched in the agreement. Except for emergencies and certain situations, for regular maintenance or repair access or estate agent showings, reasonable notice of not less than 24 hours shall be given to the tenant. In the event the landlord or workers want to gain entry in the unit while the tenant is not in residence, a more extended notice may be applicable.

Discrimination of any type against a tenant due to their color, race, gender, religion, or sexual preference is unacceptable everywhere , but more especially in a landlord-tenant relationship. A tenant does not have to provide information concerning their origin, marital status, level of income, and other irrelevant personal information unless necessitated by special circumstances or law enforcement queries. A landlord may not inquire towards a tenant’s citizenship or immigration status while beliefs, faith, political leanings, or disability should not be used to deny tenancy.

Procedures of a Legal Eviction

Eviction notices have important legal ramifications towards both landlord and the tenant. California law and statute of limitation for notes and deposits of security refunds are well outlined in procedural eviction rules. Written notices of eviction under California law require a three-day notice to pay rent for a short term lease or 30 days for ordinary circumstances like the sale of premises by the landlord. If the tenancy is longer than a year, then the landlord is obligated to give a minimum 60 days for the eviction notice to expire.

In the case of failure to pay rent, the initial notice gives the tenant three days to clear any areas and bring their account to balance. Failure to adhere to the advice to pay, the landlord then gives a pay or quit notice. This stipulates that within the notice period, the tenant either settles the rent or will have removed themselves from the premises.

If the rental increase notice has to be mailed, then a five day grace period must be accorded the tenant on top of the respective rate allowances. Unlawful detainer suits or eviction lawsuits are standard practices that almost always find a tenant or landlord at the wrong side of the law. The exact legal requirements of termination notices and the procedures for different rental situations make the State of California emphasize the additional rules to tenancy termination.

California Rental Notice Statutes

Depending on the reasons towards either termination or enforcement to the tenancy agreement and other restrictions on the tenant, a landlord is required to give due warning in the form of notices. These must be communicated in writing and either delivered to the tenant or posted by mail. Payment of rent failures, the commission of illegal acts and any other violations of the rental or lease agreement will result in the following notices with cause:

Notice to pay rent:

A three-day notice to pay rent that has gone into arrears is provided to a tenant before the landlord can undertake further measures according to California code of civics procedure, article 1161(2). At the expiry of the notice period, the landlord is then empowered to give a notice for eviction.

Notice to cure:

In the instances of rental or lease agreement violations, the landlord issues a three-day notice to cure for the tenant to make amends. If the violation has not been corrected at the expiry of the notice, the landlord has grounds to evict or proceed with a lawsuit under California code §1161(3).

Unconditional quit:

For some severe or specific violations, the tenant is given an unequivocal quit notice which informs them of the requirement to vacate the premises within the provisional three days. In lieu of the severity of the violation or crime committed, the tenant is not proffered the time towards making amends and has to move out. Failure to comply will give the landlord the necessary proof to proceed with a lawsuit for eviction. Situations that will warrant an unconditional quit notice according to § 1161(4) are:

  • Substantial damage to the landlord's or other tenant's property
  • Committing an illegal activity or enterprise on the premises
  • Subletting or assigning the tenancy property to a third party
  • Creating or causing continual nuisances on the premises

For an eviction notice without cause, the mode of notification may be altered according to the tenancy type. For instance, fixed term tenancy regulations differ from monthly rentals where payments are involved since factors like security deposits and lease renewal conditions may change.

Tenant Rights in Long and Short Term Tenancies

Unless explicitly stated in the lease agreement, the landlord is incapable of terminating the long term tenancy before the rental period is over. A tenant will either renew the lease or vacate on their own accord; otherwise, a reminder may be sufficient from the estate proprietor. If a tenant remains in the premises after the expiration of a lease agreement and the landlord agrees to accept rent, the terms change to a short term tenancy.

For monthly rental agreements that are less than a year old, a landlord wishing to evict the short term tenant must give a 30-day eviction notice under California Code Of Civil Procedures §1946. A tenant whose residency has exceeded one year is given the privilege of a 60-day notice to vacate, according to § 1946(1). The expiry of the tenancy notices for short term tenancies invariably terminates it, and in instances where a tenant has not complied, legal redress must then be sought by both parties.

Types of Defense for a California Tenancy Evictee

A tenant facing eviction has the right to seek a court’s ruling or necessitate an injunction in the eviction lawsuit. This will frustrate the landlord’s endeavor, especially if the tenant is still in residence as the law takes its course. Issues that would make a tenant seek legal redress pertinent to an eviction procedure are:

Improper service of the notice

If a landlord fails to follow the correct notice serving process, an eviction facing tenant has material for defense. A failure to give notice before taking legal action on a defaulting tenant or how the said notice was proffered might also stand to provide an advantage to the evictee. The landlord must also act within the stipulated notice expiry periods; otherwise, if they stay too long, a tenant can claim an improper service of the notice.

Partial payments acceptance

Non Complying tenants may seek to pay part of the owed rent contrary to tenancy or lease agreement procedure. A landlord accepting such payment waives the right to evict that tenant. The tenant also loses the right to claim any refund of such monies, especially if they signed a document stating so.

Failure towards maintenance and repairs of the rental unit

In the presence of a written notice to a landlord to make pertinent repairs or maintenance, a tenant can use such as a defense in an eviction case. If the tenant then goes ahead and makes the repairs out of pocket, they may deduct the costs from the rent due. The state of California, however, requires that cost deducted be not more than the rent amount for one month in short term rental arrangements.

Eviction as retaliation

A tenant may have been giving the landlord a hard time such as being the defender of other tenants or demanding that repairs be done. The landlord may also be violating State Building and Leasing Codes for which a tenant may be talking to authorities. A myriad of health and safety requirements might also be unfulfilled on the part of the landlord, and a tenant is threatening to tell. If the said landlord attempts to evict the problematic activist tenant and there is evidence of retaliation, this can be a good defense employed in halting the eviction processes with other repercussions on the landlord.

Constructive eviction

The rented premises may become uninhabitable, a condition whose interpretation means that the tenant is being denied full possession and use of the rental unit. If the tenant then feels unable to continue living in such a property and moves out on own accord, technically, they have been evicted. The tenant cannot, therefore, be expected to pay for services not received and may claim eviction by compulsion in retaliation to a landlord’s failure to pay claims. For the constructive eviction defense to hold, the tenant must prove that the landlord or property manager was issued with a written notice and ample time to rehabilitate the premises.

Landlord harassment

If a tenant has been subjected to self-help eviction practices by the landlord such as changed locks, removing property, or verbal orders to leave, the court can award damages for landlord harassment. The tenant may cite trespass, assault, slander, or intentionally causing emotional agony as a countersuit to a landlord’s unlawful detainer.

Why Get an Eviction Lawyer?

A landlord may be able to evict a tenant from the rental premises with a court order and the help of the County Sheriff Officer. Evictions carried out by a landlord, property manager or their proxies are an illegal activity under California law. The tenant must, therefore, find an eviction legal representative who will call a stay to the court eviction lawsuit with motions and appeals such as motions for automatic stay, a demurrer or relief from default.

An eviction attorney will help the eviction-facing tenant to interpret court instructions while exhibiting evidence or witnesses and testimonies. The circumstances and technicalities that require organizing benefit substantially from the advice of an eviction lawyer. A landlord’s lawsuit to evict a tenant, also called an unlawful detainer, can be delayed or overturned, allowing a tenant some leeway in terms of time to either prepare a defense or find other living situations.

What Does a Tenant Stand to Gain Fighting an Eviction?

A landlord as the plaintiff in an eviction lawsuit is barred from collecting rent including arrears until the matter is resolved. A tenant with competent eviction legal support has the advantage of case continuity while the unrepresented individual may not be kept up to date on the lawsuit’s progress or lack thereof. A landlord might also retain the property or use a collection service which can file a County Recorder's abstract judgment, gain access to tenant's bank accounts and garnishing their wages. Levy instructions will assist the landlord in recovering amounts owed from the tenant’s employers or bank; while the abstract judgment appears in credit reports and background checks.

In the event that the tenant wins the case, a court can rule that the landlord reimburses costs such as legal fees. There is a number of ways a tenant who wins an eviction lawsuit can collect these garnished wages that were taken from them with the assistance of the Sheriff. They can levy the landlord's bank account, collect the rent due to the landlord from other tenants, or receive compensation by selling the landlord’s properties at an auction. These services, however, will need the advancement of costs incurred from the eviction lawsuit winning tenant, which can be added to the judgment costs under the direction of an eviction lawyer.

If any of the tenant’s countersuit defenses are proven, the landlord may become entitled to pay various forms of compensation that an eviction lawyer can help negotiate. Temporary housing may be required for the landlord to provide if they lock out a tenant or evicts them illegally, while other penalties and damages may arise such as free occupancy or a total security deposit refund may apply.

What is Tenant Blacklisting?

Though uncommon in today’s litigation environment, before 2017, blacklisting services such as the Unlawful Detainer registry had a database of defendants in tenancy lawsuits. This made most tenants who were previously involved in such lawsuits to fail background checks during screening for new tenancies. However, the law maintains that the proceedings and parties to the suit be confidential to only those involved; the tenant blacklist services cannot publish the details unless it is in relation to creditworthiness.