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Top 5 Rights Every Tenant Should Know in San Francisco, CA

Secure Your Tenancy With These Must-Know Rights For San Francisco Renters

Are you in need of legal assistance regarding your rights as a tenant? Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. is here to help. As a tenant in San Francisco, it’s essential to be aware of the rights every tenant should know in CA to protect yourself from potential disputes with landlords. 

Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. is a real estate law firm located in San Francisco that provides legal services in landlord-tenant law and real estate litigation. In this article, we will discuss the rights every tenant should know in CA, including security deposit laws, habitability requirements, and more. 

Stay informed and empowered as a tenant. Don’t miss out on this valuable information. Contact us today to learn more about how we can protect your rights at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C.

#1 Understanding Your Right to a Habitable Dwelling in California

In California, every tenant has the right to a safe and habitable dwelling. This means that landlords have an obligation to provide their tenants with a livable space that is free from hazards, such as mold, pests, and lead-based paint. As a tenant, it is important to understand what constitutes a habitable dwelling and how to enforce your rights in case your landlord fails to provide a safe and livable space.

Under California law, a habitable dwelling is defined as a rental unit that meets certain minimum standards of safety, sanitation, and maintenance. These standards include:

  • Providing adequate heating
  • Hot and cold running water
  • Working plumbing and electrical systems
  • Safe and functional gas facilities 
  • Free from structural hazards, such as broken windows, leaking roofs, and faulty stairways
  • Free from infestations of vermin such as rats and cockroaches

What if the landlord fails to provide a habitable dwelling?

There are times when landlords fail to provide a dwelling that meets basic standards of livability. In such cases, it’s important to know your rights as a tenant and the legal options available to you. 

  • Option 1: Withhold rent until the landlord fixes the problem, which is called the “repair and deduct” remedy. However, tenants must follow specific procedures and give the landlord a reasonable amount of time to make the repairs before withholding rent. 
  • Option 2: Move out of the rental unit and terminate the lease if the landlord fails to provide a habitable dwelling, which is known as the “constructive eviction” remedy. To pursue this option, tenants must show that the rental unit was so uninhabitable that it forced them to move out.

If a tenant’s living conditions are uninhabitable, they can take legal action against their landlord by filing a lawsuit for breach of the implied warranty of habitability. This type of lawsuit can seek damages for any harm caused by unsuitable living conditions, including medical bills or compensation for damaged property. 

#2 Navigating California’s Security Deposit Laws: What You Need to Know

When renting a property in California, tenants are typically required to provide their landlord with a security deposit. A security deposit is a sum of money that the landlord holds in case of any damages or unpaid rent at the end of the lease. Understanding California’s security deposit laws is crucial as it can affect how much of the deposit tenants receive back at the end of their lease. 

Here is what you need to know about navigating California’s security deposit laws.

Landlord may charge up to 3 months’ security deposit

Landlord may charge a tenant up to two months’ rent for an unfurnished property or up to three months’ rent for a furnished property as a security deposit. They must provide a written receipt of the security deposit within 21 days of receiving it. Additionally, they must keep the security deposit in a separate account and provide the tenant with the name and address of the bank where the deposit is held.

Landlord must return the security deposit after the tenant moved out

Landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days, along with an itemized statement of any deductions made from the deposit. Deductions can only be made for unpaid rent, cleaning expenses beyond ordinary wear and tear, and damages to the property caused by the tenant or their guests. It is important to note that they cannot deduct for normal wear and tear, such as fading paint or worn carpeting.

Tenants can take legal action if the landlord refused to return the deposit

If the landlord fails to return the security deposit within 21 days or deducts money for normal wear and tear, the tenant can take legal action to recover their deposit. The tenant may be able to recover the entire deposit, plus additional damages if the landlord acted in bad faith.

To ensure that you receive your security deposit back in full, document the condition of the rental unit before moving in and after moving out, using photographs or videos. This can help prove that any damage was present before moving in or was not caused by the tenant. Additionally, provide your landlord with a forwarding address to ensure that you receive the deposit and itemized statement within 21 days.

#3 Knowing Your Rights Regarding Rent Increases and Lease Renewals

Understanding what your rights are with rent increases and lease extensions is important if you’re a tenant in California. Landlords may choose to increase rent or change the terms of the lease when it is up for renewal. However, tenants have legal protections that can help them negotiate a fair agreement with their landlord. 

Here is what you need to know about your rights regarding rent increases and lease renewals.

Written notice of rent increase 

Landlords are required to provide tenants with written notice of a rent increase at least 30 days before the increase takes effect for month-to-month tenancies or 60 days before for tenancies of a year or more. They cannot increase the rent during the fixed term of a lease unless the lease agreement explicitly allows for it. They are also not allowed to increase the rent in retaliation for a tenant’s exercise of their legal rights, such as making complaints about the rental unit’s condition.

Tenants can negotiate the terms of the lease 

Tenants have the right to negotiate with their landlord about the terms of the lease, including rent increases. Tenants can propose a lower rent increase or request that the landlord waive the increase altogether. If the landlord is unwilling to negotiate, tenants may consider finding a more affordable rental unit or taking legal action.

Landlords have the option not to renew 

When it comes to lease renewals, landlords may choose not to renew a tenant’s lease for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory or in retaliation for a tenant’s exercise of their legal rights. However, they must provide tenants with written notice of non-renewal before the end of the lease term, typically at least 30 days before. Tenants should also review their lease agreement to see if there are any automatic renewal clauses that may apply.

Tenants have legal options 

If a landlord attempts to increase rent or change the terms of the lease in a way that violates California law, tenants have legal remedies available to them. For example, tenants can file a complaint with the local rent control board or take legal action against their landlord. It is important to keep a record of all communication with the landlord regarding rent increases or lease renewals, as well as any other issues that may arise during the tenancy.

#4 Protecting Your Privacy: California’s Laws on Landlord Entry

As a tenant in California, you have a right to privacy in your rental unit. Landlords are not allowed to enter your rental unit without your consent, except in certain circumstances outlined by California law.

For specific reasons or emergencies 

Landlords are allowed to enter a rental unit only for certain reasons, including to make necessary repairs, to show the unit to prospective tenants or buyers, or in case of emergency. However, even for these reasons, landlords must provide tenants with notice before entering the unit.

With proper notice 

Landlords must provide at least 24 hours of notice before entering a rental unit. The notice must be in writing and state the date, time, and purpose of the entry. If the landlord is entering the unit to make necessary repairs, the notice must also state the nature of the repairs and whether the tenant needs to be present during the repair.

As specified in the lease agreement 

Some rental agreements may include additional provisions on landlord entry. It is important to carefully review your lease agreement to understand the terms and conditions regarding landlord entry.

Tenants have the right to refuse entry to their rental unit if the landlord’s request does not comply with California law. They can also take steps to protect their privacy, such as installing a security system or changing the locks on their rental units. As a tenant, you should be familiar with the laws to know your rights and protect yourself from any unlawful entry by your landlord.

#5 What to Do if Your Landlord Is Violating Your Tenant Rights

In California, tenants have rights under the law against unfair treatment and misconduct from their landlords. However, there are times when landlords may violate your rights as a tenant. If this happens, there are steps you can take to address the issue and protect your rights.

Document the situation

If your landlord is violating your tenant’s rights, it is crucial to document the problem. This can include photographs, videos, and written complaints. Keep a record of all communication with your landlord, including dates, times, and the substance of the conversation. If possible, try to get witness statements from neighbors or other tenants who may have experienced similar issues.

Notify your landlord in writing

Once you have documented the problem, you should contact your landlord in writing to inform them of the issue and request that they take corrective action. If your landlord fails to respond or take corrective action, you may need to escalate the issue to a higher authority, such as a local rent control board or a court of law.

Take immediate legal action

If your landlord’s actions are severe or pose an immediate threat to your health and safety, you may need to take more action. For example, if your landlord has shut off your utilities or changed the locks on your rental unit, you can contact the police or our law office for assistance.

A tenant must remember that retaliation by a landlord against a tenant who has exercised their legal rights is illegal. If your landlord retaliates against you for asserting your tenant rights, you may be entitled to legal remedies, including damages and attorney’s fees.

We are Real Estate Attorneys Representing Landlords and Tenants in California

If you’re a tenant in California, knowing your rights is essential for protecting yourself. At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., we represent both landlords and tenants in matters related to eviction, real estate, and more. 

If you’re looking for legal assistance related to rights every tenant should know in CA, contact Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. Our team of experienced attorneys is dedicated to representing landlords and tenants in California. Don’t wait – protect your rights by reaching out to us today.

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