Almost 60% of people in Los Angeles rent their homes, according to the Housing and Community Investment Department, which is likely due to the high cost of owning a property in the area. Considering that such a large percentage of the population rent, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that tenant rights in Los Angeles are quite expansive. Below are some of the rights you absolutely need to know about when renting.

 

What is fair housing?

While this applies to any city you might be moving to in the United States, including New York and Chicago, it’s still important to reiterate that you have the right to fair housing. Thus, the landlord does not have the right to discriminate against you based on race, color, religion, national origin, and many more categories outlined by the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department. Blueground offers fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments in some of the world's most sought after cities. If you do suspect you are being discriminated against, head to the Southern California Housing Rights Center to report it immediately. It’s advisable to keep a record of your interactions with the landlord and provide this information in your complaint, along with the person’s name and title. Also, make sure to save any documents you received during these meetings, all along with notes of what occurred and what was said.

 

How do you define habitable housing?

living room in Los Angeles by Blueground with a grey couch, a coffee table and a green armchair. There is also a fireplace and a big TV screen

As a tenant, you have the right to live in clean and habitable housing, which means that the landlord is required to ensure that the unit they are renting out is livable. This means that it should have doors and windows that aren’t broken, walls and a roof capable of protecting you from intemperate weather, working plumbing, and it should be free of vermin, at the very least. You can always refer to California’s definition of the warranty of habitability for more details.

 

Can I withhold rent or “repair and deduct”?

What many people might not be aware of when it comes to their tenant rights in Los Angeles is that they can actually do something if their landlord doesn’t handle important repairs. Thus, you have the right to move out without notice, withhold rent, call health inspectors, or sue the landlord if they don’t fix things in a timely manner. It is illegal for the landlord to attempt any form of retaliation if you exercise this right.

You also have the right to “repair and deduct,” which basically means that you can make the repairs yourself and deduct the costs from the rent. Whether you opt to withhold rent or take the “repair and deduct” route, you have to abide by some rules.

First of all, the problem must be serious enough that it is putting your health and/or safety at risk, such as a major electrical problem or a broken heater in the middle of winter. A leaky faucet doesn’t apply.

Secondly, the problem must not be the result of your carelessness or neglect, and it must definitely not be a deliberate action.

You must inform the landlord about the issue (preferably in writing so you can provide proof) and give them a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem. By Californian law, landlords have 30 days to fix problems that impact the livability of the property, and less when an issue requires to be repaired faster, such as a broken lock on the front door, which would need to be remedied immediately.

Make sure to inform your landlord that you will withhold rent or get the work done yourself and deduct the cost from the rent. Note, you must withhold a reasonable amount based on the problem you are experiencing. You can’t stop paying rent completely unless you’ve been forced to move elsewhere due to the problem.

However, keep in mind that withholding rent can be problematic because you could find yourself with an eviction notice or could end up damaging your credit score. Some experts recommend that you continue to pay rent and then sue your landlord if you paid for the repairs yourself, or if you’ve had to move out because of it.

If you are experiencing problems with your landlord, your best option is to speak to an attorney, so you don’t end up causing yourself more problems in the long-term.

To avoid problems like this, though, your best option is to rent from a reputable landlord that rents out apartments where it’s clear livability will never be a problem. Blueground, for example, rents out stunning apartments that are furnished, fully equipped, and serviced in some of the best areas of Los Angeles. They have a great reputation for looking after their tenants thanks to a dedicated and responsive Client Experience team available by app and phone.

 

What are my California tenant rights when it comes to the security deposit?

A short summary of California Civic Code 1950.5 governing the state’s Security Deposit law:

  • There is no such thing as a “non-refundable security deposit”
  • You are not entitled to interest earned on your security deposit, nor does it need to be stored in a separate bank account
  • For unfurnished units, the security deposit can be up to two months’ worth of rent
  • For furnished units, the security deposit can be up to three months’ worth of rent
  • The landlord may only deduct from the security deposit if:
    • You default on your monthly rent
    • You damage the apartment beyond normal wear and tear
    • The unit requires extra cleaning costs necessary to restore it to its move-in condition
    • You violated the lease and as such there are potential future debts
  • You can request a walk-through inspection with the landlord in the last two weeks of the tenancy
  • The security deposit should be returned within the 21 days after move-out

 

Can I get into trouble for hosting a guest as a tenant in California?

Who doesn’t love to have a friend with a couch or spare bedroom in Los Angeles? Hence, hosting a family member or friend from out-of-town is a real prospect for renters in Southern California. Your houseguest truly falls into the legal definition of a “guest” if they do not provide any payment and do not receive mail at your address. They then become a tenant (and may need to be added to the lease) if they stay for more than two weeks within a six-month period. Oftentimes, the landlord or housing provider will have a guest clause written into the rental contract to clarify these matters, and perhaps add their own limitations.

 

Does renting an illegal apartment mean you have no rights?

open garage door in suburban white house with wooden fence.

There’s a large number of places being rented out in Los Angeles that aren’t legal, as in they don’t have the proper residential permits. For example, someone has turned their garage into something like a studio, but they haven’t obtained the permits for it, and that makes it illegal.

Some less than scrupulous landlords will point out that they are giving you a better deal because of the lack of legality and might use said issue as a way to convince you that you don’t really have any renters’ rights in Los Angeles because of it.

This is far from true. In fact, you have all the same tenant rights in Los Angeles as any other renter. However, to prove that you are renting the property, make sure that you always write a check or make payment in such a way that it can be tracked.  Also, ensure to include a memo in which you clearly state the address and that the payment represents rent. This way there is a paper trail that proves tenancy if you ever need it.

You have a lot of tenant rights in Los Angeles, just like in any other part of the U.S. And it’s always a good idea to make sure that you know exactly what rights you have, whether you’re a lifelong Angeleno or a transplant from elsewhere.

You also want to check whether your apartment is rent-controlled or not. It’s important to be aware of the laws set by the Rent Stabilization Board of Los Angeles (RSB) to protect tenants and landlords.

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