California Strengthens Eviction Restrictions: Understanding Your Rights as a Landlord

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a new law into effect increasing restrictions on evictions statewide. The law, an update to the landmark 2019 Tenant Protection Act, makes it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants without fault. A landlord who attempts to evict a tenant without due cause may be required to permit the renter to remain or move back into the property and could also be liable for monetary damages.

The eviction reform bill is just one of a suite of new housing bills the Governor recently approved. Still, it highlights the importance of understanding your rights and responsibilities as a landlord. Keep reading to learn more about the new law, how it impacts your ability to evict tenants when necessary, and what you can do if you’re struggling with a difficult tenant.

Understanding California’s New Eviction Laws

The Tenant Protection Act is intended to safeguard renters against unjust evictions and rent increases. However, it accomplishes this by placing a substantial burden of proof on landlords. If a property owner wants to evict a tenant, the law requires them to provide evidence that the situation meets the standards for either an “at fault” or “no-fault” eviction.

At-fault evictions may occur when the renter has violated the terms of the contract in some way, and the owner wants to make them leave. They are stressful and financially complicated, but they may be easier for landlords to prove. The Tenant Act defines valid reasons for an at-fault eviction to include:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Destruction of property
  • Allowing or causing a nuisance on the property
  • Failure to sign a new lease (with similar, lawful terms) after the prior lease expired
  • Breach of the terms of the lease
  • Criminal activity on the property or toward the owner or manager

In short, landlords may evict a tenant who is damaging the property, breaking the law, causing a public or private nuisance, or violating their lease. The new law does not significantly alter these terms.

In contrast, a no-fault eviction occurs when the renter has done nothing to violate the contract, but the owner wants to withdraw the property from the market. The Tenant Act provides significantly fewer opportunities for no-fault evictions. The only permitted reasons include:

  • The owner wants to remove the property from the market entirely
  • The owner plans to move into the unit themselves or provide it to a family member
  • The property has been condemned
  • The owner intends to demolish or substantially renovate the property

The new law is intended to restrict these no-fault evictions further. If the owner wants to give the unit to a family member, they must identify the people moving into the property when filing the eviction notice. Furthermore, the rental must be occupied within three months of the prior occupants leaving, and the family must live there for at least a year.

Additionally, if an owner wants to renovate the property, they must prove that the renovation is considered “substantial.” They need to file copies of the contracts and permits for the renovation alongside other documents to demonstrate the project’s scope and prove that it would be unfeasible for the tenants to remain in the unit.

Your Rights as a Landlord in California

Despite the new restrictions, landlords still have rights over the properties they rent. California recognizes that owners of rental properties have the following four rights:

  • Collect Rent: The entire purpose of renting out a property is to collect the rent tenants pay. If a tenant fails to pay rent for a substantial period, the owner can take legal action.
  • Increase Rent: While state and local caps on rent increases exist, property owners are permitted to raise rents according to local ordinances.
  • Deduct From Security Deposits: If a renter causes damage beyond standard wear and tear, leaves the unit a mess, or fails to pay rent, the landlord may deduct the costs from their security deposit.
  • Evict Tenants: If a renter fails to meet the lease terms, or the owner has a justified reason for a no-fault eviction, the owner may evict them from the property after following due process according to their municipality.

California’s rental laws aren’t intended to infringe on these rights. However, they can make resolving landlord-tenant disputes more complex.

Four Steps for Handling Difficult Tenants

If you have a nuisance tenant, state laws require you to consider other options before considering eviction. Instead, you’ll need to take the following steps:

  1. Confirm the Breach: Work with an experienced real estate litigation attorney to confirm whether the renter’s behavior breaches their lease or otherwise may be grounds for a fault eviction.
  2. Communicate With the Renter: Talk to the tenant about the breach and ask them informally to address the problem. In many cases, this may be enough to resolve the issue.
  3. Provide a Three-Day Notice: If the tenant continues to violate their lease, you are required to issue a three-day notice of breach by law. The renter has three days to fix the issue after being given the notice, or you may have grounds to evict them.
  4. Evict the Renter: You will file an unlawful detainer lawsuit against the tenant in the local civil court. The judge will review the case, hear testimony from both sides, and decide whether to order the renter to vacate the unit.

The eviction process is complex; minor errors can delay matters or result in the judge ruling against you. It’s best to consult with a skilled eviction attorney like the team at Peterson Law, LLP, to ensure your case is filed correctly and that your nuisance tenant issues are resolved promptly. Schedule your consultation to discuss your circumstances and begin resolving your landlord-tenant dispute.