A fixed term lease starts and ends on specific dates. In this circumstance, a lease simply ends on the date specified within the lease. A periodic lease continues from term to term (i.e. month to month). Periodic leases remain in place until either a landlord or a tenant gives the other notice of at least the length of each term (i.e. month to month leases would require one month notice). In cases where the situation is based on subsidized housing, generally a ninety day notice is required; however we suggest contacting the housing agency for exact requirements. Properties that are under eviction control regulation, the landlord must have “just cause” to terminate the residential tenancy. Again, it is important to consult an attorney or your local state agency.
How much notice is required in order to evict my tenant?
A 3-day written notice is required before a landlord may file an eviction action in court. However, notices may differ based on the situation.
(1) If the situation is concerning non-payment of rent, the notice must specify the amount owed in rent only. The total may not include any other fees such as late charges, interest, or damages. This notice will give the tenant three days to pay or quit.
(2) If the reason for eviction pertains to other violations, a 3-Day Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit may be filed. Landlords may use this type of notice if the tenant breaks the lease or rental agreement and the problem can be fixed. For example, if the tenant is subletting the unit, not keeping the unit clean, or some other violation of the agreement, the notice will ask the tenant to correct the violation within three days or vacate.
(3) A 3-Day Notice to Quit may be used if there have been ongoing problems with a tenant who causes or allows a “nuisance” on the rental property, or is using the property for criminal activity. A 3-Day Notice to Quit may also be used if a tenants behavior threatens the safety and health of other residents/general public or if waste is committed that lowers the value of the property significantly. This notice is more of a warning and does not require a tenant to remediate.
As soon as the three day period passes and the tenant remains in non-compliance, the landlord may file a suit for eviction. Rental properties located in areas that practice rent or eviction control, may have different requirements. Landlords should check with their local housing agency to ensure compliance.
Notices should be personally delivered to the tenant. If the tenant is absent from his or her place of residence, the landlord may leave a copy with some person of suitable age and discretion. Notices may also be mailed, preferably certified and return receipt requested to the tenant at his or her place of residence. If the whereabouts of the tenant is unknown, the landlord may affix a copy in a conspicuous place on the property.
May I charge an application fee, late rent charge or a returned payment fee?
In California, the application fee cannot be more than the landlord's actual out-of-pocket costs, and can never be more than $49.50 per applicant. Additionally, landlords must provide rental applicants with an itemized accounting of the landlord's screening expenses.
Technically a late fee cannot be predetermined but there is an exception when it is difficult to assess the actual cost. But keep in mind when determining a late fee, that it must be reasonably related to the actual costs a landlord may incur as a result of the tenant's late payment.
Returned payment charges must not be more than $25 for the first check and a service fee of up to $35 for each subsequent check to that same payee. Reasonable cost should always be kept in mind when instituting any charges.
Are there any special considerations regarding security deposits in California?
Many states have limits and requirements regarding the security deposit, and California is no exception. A landlord may not demand or receive security in excess of an amount equal to two months' rent in the case of an unfurnished residential property, and an amount equal to three months' rent in the case of a furnished residential property. Security deposits are considered refundable, and include pet, lock, key, carpet etc., and in combination, none of these may exceed the amounts stated above.
California law mandates that a landlord notify a tenant in writing of the option of having an initial inspection two weeks before terminating a rental agreement or lease in order to identify problems (and possible deductions from the security deposit) and be given a chance to rectify them and avoid the deduction.