Know Your Rights: Tenant Protections Under California Law

Apartment Building

AB 1482, also known as the Tenant Protection Act, caps the amount that rent can be increased each year in many residential units. the rent in covered rental units can be increased by no more than 5%, plus the change in CPI (as calculated from April 1 of the prior year to April 1 of current year) or 10%, whichever is lower, during any 12-month period.  This does not apply to all housing, see below for excluded housing.

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Annual Rent Cap
  • Annual rent increases are limited to 5% + change in Consumer Price Index (CPI), or 10%, whichever is lower.
  • CPI is calculated from April 1 of the prior year to April 1 of the current year.


Excluded Housing:
  • Housing placed in service within the previous 15 years (rolling)
  • Housing subject to more restrictive local rent control
  • Duplexes - if the owner lives in the other unit
  • Single-family homes and condos that are not owned by a real estate investment trust or corporation and where notice is provided to tenant that AB1482 does not apply
  • College dorms
  • Mobile homes and RVs in mobile home parks that are owned by the occupant
  • Deed-restricted affordable housing
Just Cause
  • Landlords/owners need a valid reason to evict
  • Protections apply after 12 months of tenancy, or 24 months, if a new tenant is added
  • If the valid reason is No-Fault, the owner must pay relocation assistance equal to one month of rent.
Excluded Housing:
  • Housing placed in service within the previous 15 years
  • Most owner-occupied housing, including including housing where the tenant shares a bathroom or kitchen with the owner, single-family owner-occupied residences (where owner-occupant rents no more than two units or bedrooms), a duplex where the owner occupies one of the units as their principal place of residence, and mobile homes and RVs in mobile home parks.
  • Single-family homes and condos that are not owned by a real estate investment trust or corporation and where notice is provided to tenant that AB1482 does not apply
  • Hotels, medical care facilities, and K-12 or college dorms
  • Religious, elder care, and adult care facilities.
  • Deed-restricted affordable housing
At-Fault Just Causes for Eviction
  • Nonpayment of rent or breach of another material lease term (including unauthorized subletting)
  • Refusal to execute similar new lease
  • Nuisance
  • Waste (damage to property that diminishes its market value)
  • Criminal activity or using the unit for unlawful purpose
  • Denying access by landlord after proper notice of lawful entry
  • Failing to vacate a unit after termination as an employee if employment is a condition of occupancy
  • Failing to leave a unit after providing owner written notice of intent to vacate
No-Fault Just Causes for Eviction
  • Owner wants to take the unit off the rental market
  • Owner or their close family member(s) want to move into the unit
  • Owner intends to demolish or substantially repair the unit
  • A court or government agency issues order to vacate the unit due to habitability issues
Anti-Discrimination Protections

Federal and California law forbid housing discrimination based on a wide-range of protected characteristics, such as gender, gender identity/expression, race, national origin, immigration status, primary language, disability (mental or physical), sexual orientation, family status, and religion.  (For additional information, see e.g. (California Civil Rights Department) and (US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division).)

Anti-Harassment Protections

California law also protections tenants from harassment, which includes:

  •   Cutting off utility services;
  • Interfering with a tenant’s access to their housing unit;
  • Improperly removing outside doors/windows, personal property, or furnishings;
  • Engaging in theft or extortion;
  • Using or threatening to use force, threats, or menacing conduct towards a tenant that interferes with the tenant’s quiet enjoyment;
  • Threatening to disclose information regarding a tenant’s immigration status.

(See e.g. Civil Code §§ 789.3, 1940.2.)

Anti-Retaliation Protections

California law protects tenants from retaliation (i.e., taking adverse actions, such as trying to evict a tenant) for certain actions by a tenant, such as making complaints about a housing unit’s condition or organizing with other tenants. (See e.g. Civ. Code, § 1942.5.) 

Language Access Rights

When parties negotiate a lease primarily in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean, the lease and any other document “making substantial changes in the rights and obligations of the parties” must be translated into the language in which the parties negotiated the lease and provided to the tenant.  (Civ. Code, § 1632.)

Return of Security Deposits

A tenant’s security deposit must be returned upon move-out, except for amounts deducted for lawful purposes, including to cover unpaid rent, cleaning, and repair of tenant-caused damage beyond normal wear and tear. (Civ. Code, § 1950.5.)  Within 21 days of move-out, the landlord must provide tenant with either (i) the full security deposit or (ii) a statement listing and explaining any deductions from the deposit and the remaining deposit. 

Right to Privacy

Every tenant has a right to privacy.  A landlord may only enter a tenant’s housing unit:

  • In case of emergency;
  • To make necessary or agreed repairs, alterations or improvements;
  • To provide necessary or agreed services;
  • To show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, tenants, workers, or contractors;
  • To conduct an inspection in advance of the tenant moving out;
  • When the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises;
  • Pursuant to a court order; and
  • For certain health and safety purposes.

(Civ. Code, § 1954.)

Generally, the landlord may only enter a unit during business hours and must give advance notice, except (i) when responding to an emergency; (ii) if the tenant is present and consents to the entry at the time of entry; and/or (iii) after the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the unit.  (Civ. Code, § 1954.) 

Safe & Habitable Units

All rental housing must be habitable, which means it is fit to be safely occupied and complies with all applicable building and health codes. (Civil Code, § 1941.)  This includes such things as providing safe and working plumbing and hot and cold running water, heating, electrical equipment, floors, and stairs; effective waterproofing; windows and doors with working locks; and keeping the property free from roaches, rats, and other vermin.  (Civil Code, § 1941.1.)

Tenants who are displaced from their housing due to health and safety violations may be entitled to relocation assistance.  (Health & Saf. Code, §§ 17975, et seq.)  Some jurisdictions, including the County of San Mateo, have adopted local relocation assistance ordinances with increased relocation payments and other protections such as the ability of the County to advance payments to displaced tenants.  (See e.g. SMC Ord. Code, Chapter 3.108.)    

Tenant Applications with Criminal History

California housing providers cannot make statements (including advertisements or screening policies) indicating a blanket policy against renting to anyone with a criminal record (for example, statement such as “No Felons” or “We Don’t Allow Criminals Here”).   (2 Cal. Code Reg., § 12269.)  However, it is not unlawful for a housing provider to advertise or state that it will run a lawful criminal history check and to deny housing based on a past criminal conviction.

A criminal conviction excludes (i) arrests or infractions that did not lead to an actual conviction; (ii) participation in a diversion program; (iii) sealed or expunged convictions; (iii) juvenile court matters.  (2 Cal. Code Reg., § 12269.)   

Also, the decision to deny housing due to a criminal conviction must be based on a substantial, legitimate, and nondiscriminatory interest or purpose, such as the health and safety of other residents, employees, or property. (2 Cal. Code Reg., § 12266.)  In making that decision, the housing provider should consider “mitigating information”, which includes things like the following:


  • Age of the applicant at the time of conviction;
  • The amount of time that has passed since the date of conviction;
  • Evidence that the applicant has maintained a good tenant history before and/or after the conviction;
  • Evidence of rehabilitation efforts;
  • Whether the criminal conduct arose from the applicant’s status as a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking;
  • Whether the criminal conduct arose from the individual’s disability; or
  • Other relevant facts or circumstances surrounding the criminal conduct and/or conduct after the conviction.

(2 Cal. Code Reg., § 12266.) 

Tenant Remedies

Tenants who face violations of their rights have a number of remedies.  However, this area of law can be complicated and actions a tenant takes (or does not take) could have legal consequences, and tenants are therefore encouraged to contact a legal professional or legal services provider such as the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County ( or Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (

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Call Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County at: 650-517-8911, Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm.

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