For both landlords and tenants alike, it is vitally important to understand the laws regarding Residential Lease Agreements in California. Like many other states, California has instituted precise measures which regulate the types of provisions a residential lease may contain. A very brief overview of California law is provided below.
Security Deposit Limits
The maximum amount that a landlord may charge as a security deposit depends on whether the unit being rented is furnished or unfurnished. If it is furnished, then a landlord may charge up to three months' rent as a security deposit. If the unit is unfurnished, then a landlord may not charge more than two months' rent. However, if the residence will contain a waterbed, then the landlord may charge an additional two weeks' rent as a security deposit.
A landlord must ensure that the rental unit is fit for human habitation (frequently referred to as "habitability"). Thus, a landlord must make repairs to the unit that are required to maintain that standard. Under California Civil Code Section 1941.1, a habitation is deemed "untenantable" if it lacks: effective waterproofing or weather protection; a water supply approved under local law that produces both hot and cold running water; heating facilities in good working order; appropriate receptacles for garbage; and other, basic facilities required under the Code. The actual list in the Code is quite extensive, and reference should be made to the Code for a full list of the obligations that a landlord must meet to comply with the law.
A tenant must generally maintain the rental unit in the same condition that it was at the commencement of the lease. However, a tenant is not liable for normal wear-and-tear. In addition, the tenant is responsible for remitting payment to the landlord on time and in full. The tenant is also responsible for informing the landlord of serious repairs which need to be made, and giving the landlord a reasonable amount of time to make such repairs.
It should be noted that in some local jurisdictions (for example, in San Francisco), there are local laws that impose additional obligations upon residential landlords. In some instances, those obligations are only applicable to "regulated" units, and may not be applicable to rentals involving single family homes and/or newly constructed properties.