California Tenant or Roommate Laws

California Tenant or Roommate Laws
••• Apartment image by John Sandoy from

Whether someone is renting a home or an apartment in California, there are laws to protect tenants and oversee the action of landlords. However, tenants must also adhere to laws when renting a unit. The California Department of Consumer Affairs has a guide called "California Tenants" that outlines the rights of tenants and the responsibilities of landlords. These laws do not extend to those renting a hotel room for fewer than 30 days.


A tenant or a prospective tenant cannot be denied a rental unit based on her race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or physical appearance. Tenants also can't be discriminated against if they have children under the age of 18, unless the residence is for senior citizens. A tenant can't be offered inferior equipment or services or have his rental agreement canceled or terminated without cause.


Tenants are required to pay the full amount of rent by an agreed upon date. A partial payment can result in an eviction. A tenant cannot be required to pay rent in cash unless he supplied a bad check in the previous three months. Tenants are legally entitled to receive a receipt when rent is paid, though a canceled check can be considered a receipt in case of a dispute with the landlord.


Both landlords and tenants are responsible for ensuring a rental unit is fit for living in. A landlord is responsible for making repairs to an apartment or house for rent if it is not habitable. That means defects or failures must be fixed before a tenant can occupy the rental unit. A tenant must take care of the rental unit, as well as common areas within the building, such as a hallway or lobby. Tenants are responsible for repairs due to damage caused by abuse or neglect or caused by guests. If a repair is required by the landlord, the tenant must inform him and is recommended to do so in writing and by telephone.

Moving Out

A tenant must give proper written notice to the landlord when moving out of the rental unit if signed to a periodical rental agreement, which states the time between rental payments, such as once a month. The number of days a tenant must give notice must be equal to or greater than the number of days between rent payments. However, the rental agreement may specify a different time frame. If so, the tenant is bound by that requirement.


An unlawful detainer lawsuit filed in superior court by the landlord is required to evict a tenant. In this case, the Department of Consumer Affairs recommends that the tent seek legal advice immediately. A tenant usually has only five days to respond. If a landlord evicts a tenant using unlawful methods, he can be subject to liability for damages to the tenant and face a penalty of up to $100 per day for each day the landlord used the unlawful methods.