California tenant rights

Landlord Harassment of Rent-Controlled Tenants

Illegal evictions and unlawful landlord harassment and intimidation are all too common in rent-controlled cities in California like Los Angeles, where the soaring market rate continues to rise. Los Angeles' Rent Control Stabilization Ordinance("LARSO"), like many other tenants rights laws in cities across California, shields tenants from landlord abuse by restricting the number of legal bases for landlords to evict tenants. LARSO of the Los Angeles Municipal Code("LAMC") limits landlords to fourteen(14) legal causes to evict a tenant including "at fault" evictions (8) and "no-fault" evictions(6). Landlords must provide tenants with specific relocation monies depending upon their age(62+), duration of the tenancy (greater than or equal to 3 years), and income amount and if the landlord qualifies as a "Mom & Pop Property." LAMC 1515.08.A.8. Currently(May 2019), tenant relocation monies under Los Angeles' rent control ordinance range from $20,450 to $7,900 per household.

Bottom line, if your landlord is harassing, intimidating, or otherwise interfering with the use and enjoyment of your home, and is serving you with various notices and claiming unheard of exceptions, you need to reach out and speak with a knowledgeable and experienced tenants rights attorney or lawyer versed in unlawful detainer and eviction proceedings. Your landlord's bad behavior could serve as a defense to any unlawful detainer matter(eviction) as well as the basis for damages in a tenant's rights civil suit. California law provides tenants with a multitude of actions to bring against landlords to enforce basic rights including quiet enjoyment, habitable living conditions and to be free of landlord harassment, intimidation, and other retaliatory behavior. Cal. Civ. Code 1927, 1941, 1942.2.

Landlords who flout the law through intimidation tactics the law are there to cheat tenants out of being fully compensated for the time, expense and hassle of having to relocate and find a new home (especially in a competitive in such a highly competitive space like our current housing and rental unit markets ). What drives these apartment building and other property owners is pure greed and the prospect of doubling (even tripling) rent rolls. Where a rent-controlled tenant may pay $1600 for a one bedroom, a market rate tenant could almost certainly pay $4000 for the same unit (albeit out of rent control). For tenants who have not moved from their rent-controlled apartment, duplex, or another rental unit for even ten or twenty plus years, the difference between market rate and the rent-control is staggering. If, however, a tenant is over 62, disabled or has lived there longer than ten years, a landlord cannot use the owner occupy exception to regain possession.

No matter how hard your landlord tries, do not let them convince you--in any way--that you are somehow responsible for their misfortune and financial problems. A landlord's business affairs and accounting have nothing to with your tenancy. The reduced rent you pay is a business risk that any reasonable party would understand and assume as an owner of rental properties in a rent-controlled city like Los Angeles.

Given the tremendous value of these rent-controlled apartments, condos, etc..., the local municipal laws and ordinances which implement rent control usually permit landlords to make "cash for keys" offers to buy out tenants. LAMC 151.91. The procedures required by these laws help ensure that the landlord does not unduly influence, harass and intimidate the tenant during the buyout of the rent-controlled unit and that the tenant is fully aware of their rights as tenants under the lease agreement and California and local(Los Angeles) law. LAMC 151.90.130. Better yet, the tenant buyout option encourages landlords to behave above-board and not abuse and misuse the narrow exceptions to wrongfully evict tenants. Landlords seeking end runs around local rent control laws and tenants rights, for example, often use the owner occupy exception to evict tenants on the pretext that the owner or qualified family member intends to move into the unit. LAMC 151.09.A.8. In addition to being governed by strict procedural requirements, this oft-abused exception carries especially trough penalties which can be as high as three times move out costs.

Rent control laws and other local and state law protecting tenants rights are complicated and vary widely from city to city across California, so hiring a seasoned landlord-tenant and eviction attorney is a must. Tenant or landlord, Reccius Law has the legal know-how and courtroom experience to protect your property rights and interests!


California tenant's rights are numerous and substantial under California landlord tenant law. Lawsuits against California landlords include numerous legal actions authorizing courts to award money damages and up to three times a tenant's damages. California Civil Code 1940 et. al. These California state laws are in addition to federal housing laws prohibiting landlord discrimination against tenants(ADA, FHEA) as well as local city laws providing renters with relocation fees, rent control, and eviction protection. California Proposition 10 recently expanded these renters rights by overturning California Supreme Court case Costa Hawkins.

Tenants should first ask their landlord about the security deposit since most landlords almost always violate the crystal clear language requiring landlords to return deposits or provide an accounting within 21 days of the tenant moving out("21-day rule"). California Civil Code 1950.5. Courts can order landlords to pay a tenant money damages up to twice the amount of the security deposit amount in addition to returning the original deposit amount.

Landlords in California are also bound by the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment and the Implied Warranty of Habitability which are included in every California lease. Cal. Civ. Code 1927, 1940.1, 1941. Where an apartment, condominium or another rental unit becomes unfit for the purpose for which it was leased, a landlord may be liable for the difference between the fair market value of the rental unit and the value of the unit with the condition(s). California Civil Code 1940.1. Bed Bug and Cockroaches (vermin infestation) and inadequate weatherproofing are among many of the per se violations which can entitle tenants to certain rights. Tenants may bring also bring a nuisance action where there is a reasonably offensive condition(high-voltage security lights in a bedroom window, noxious fumes filling home living areas) which interferes with use and enjoyment of the property. Cal. Civ. Code 731; Stoiber v. Honeychuck, 10 Cal.App.3d 903, (1980)

Landlords may also be liable for retaliation by evicting tenants with a 3-day notice to pay or quit or raising a tenant's rent after tenant exercises a legal right respecting his home. These renters rights include contacting the city housing authority or other building and safety department about the rental, using the repair and deduct method to fix an uninhabitable condition in the apartment or home Cal. Civ. Code 1942.5. Landlords can be liable up to $2000 in punitive damages for each retaliatory act against a tenant. A Landlord harassment lawsuit may also be included in a tenant's complaint, especially when the harassing behavior was done with the intent to get the tenant to vacate. California courts may order landlords to pay tenants up to an additional $2,000 per incident of landlord harassment. Cal. Civ. Code 1940.2.

State and Federal law also protect tenants from landlord discrimination based on race, gender, familial or another protected status by holding property owners liable for up to $4,000 per discriminatory act. Federal Housing and Employment Act ("FHEA");

In addition to these federal and California landlord tenant law, local laws such as the Los Angeles Municipal Ordinance provide additional tenants rights and remedies. Apartments, homes and other rental units in Los Angeles, for example, are governed strictly by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO). In addition to providing statutory tenant relocation monies to qualified and eligible tenants and restricting legal causes for eviction, the RSO provides grounds to sue like a legal action for a bad faith landlord eviction. With public policy strongly against slumlords and landlords who illegally try to remove their rental unit(s) from rent control, courts may award treble damages. LAMC

Other actions available to tenants under the Civil Code include Failure to disclose allocation of utilities (Cal. Civ Code 1940.9), Failure to correct building code and other municipal violations within 35 days (1942.4), Unlawful entry (no 24 hours notice)(1954) and failure to install deadbolt locks (1941.3).

A constructive eviction results when a landlord consistently violates one or more of these tenant protection laws and the apartment, home or other rental property is unfit for the purpose for which it was rented. If the tenant vacates the affected unit within a reasonable time of first discovering the condition(s) or issue(s), a tenant is relieved of future obligations to pay rent and be awarded damages related to being evicted. Pierce v. Nash, 126 Cal.App.2d 606 (1954).

Before filing a lawsuit against your landlord, consult with an experienced California landlord tenant attorney or eviction lawyer to get legal advice and possibly a free lawyer consultation about your rights.