self-managing landlord

Ten Misconceptions About Tenant Rights

When it comes to managing rental real estate properties, understanding tenant rights is crucial for maintaining a positive landlord-tenant relationship and ensuring compliance with the law. Unfortunately, misconceptions are becoming more and more common, particularly regarding legal obligations and tenant protections. This article aims to dispel some of these common myths, particularly those that pertain to laws in Ventura, California, to help landlords navigate their responsibilities more effectively.


Misconception 1: "I Can Enter the Rental Property Whenever I Want"

One of the most pervasive misconceptions is that landlords can enter their rental properties at any time. Where we are located in Southern California, this is far from the truth. Landlords must provide tenants with a minimum of 24 hours’ written notice before entering the property, except in cases of emergency. Even then, the entry must occur during normal business hours, typically 8 AM to 5 PM, unless the tenant agrees otherwise.

California Civil Code 1954 gives five reasons that a landlord can legally enter a rental unit.

  1. In an emergency
  2. When the tenant has moved out or has abandoned the rental unit
  3. To make necessary or agreed‐upon repairs, decorations, alterations, or other  improvements
  4. To show the rental unit to prospective tenants, buyers, or lenders, or to provide entry  to contractors or workers who are to perform work on the unit.
  5. If a court order permits the landlord to enter.


Misconception 2: "I Can Raise Rent Whenever and By However Much I Want"

While landlords might believe they have the freedom to adjust rent as they see fit, California law places significant restrictions on this for some properties. We recommend seeking legal input to determine whether your property would be required to observe any restriction. Under the California Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482), annual rent increases for most residential properties are capped, plus the local rate of CPI, or 10% of the lowest rent charged in the last 12 months, whichever is lower. Moreover, rent control ordinances specific to Ventura County may impose additional constraints.

Under California law, there is no set maximum limit for rent increases. According to California Civil Code 827(b), landlords must provide tenants with at least 30 days' advance notice if the rent increase is 10 percent or less of the rent charged within the past 12 months. If the rent increase exceeds 10 percent, a 60-day advance notice is required. In properties under rent control, landlords are restricted to raising the rent by a predetermined percentage only once every twelve months.


Misconception 3: "I Can Evict a Tenant at Any Time for Any Reason"

Evictions are another area that come with many common misconceptions from landlords and tenants alike. In California, landlords cannot evict tenants without a legitimate reason, known as "just cause," for properties subject to AB1482 (California's Tenant Protection Act). Just causes include, but are not limited to: 

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Breach of lease terms
  • Causing significant damage to the property
  • Engaging in illegal activities.

For properties not subject to just cause eviction laws, different rules apply. We recommend hiring a professional property management company or a trusted, local legal firm to assist you in understanding all applicable laws and regulations. Staying compliant is essential as a landlord.

For properties exempt from AB1482, such as single-family homes not owned by corporations or properties less than 15 years old, landlords can terminate a tenancy without just cause, but they must follow specific procedures. These include providing a written notice to the tenant. Depending on the length of the tenancy, the required notice period varies:

  • 30-day notice: For tenants who have lived in the property for less than one year.
  • 60-day notice: For tenants who have lived in the property for one year or more.
  • To terminate a tenancy without just cause in exempt properties, landlords must comply with California Civil Code Section 1946.1, which outlines the requirements for ending periodic tenancies, including the necessary notice periods.

You can learn more about the eviction process in California by visiting the California Courts website, here


Misconception 4: "I Can Refuse to Rent to Someone Based on Their Source of Income"

Discrimination based on a tenant’s source of income is illegal in California. This includes rejecting applicants who receive government assistance, such as Section 8 housing vouchers. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination based on income source, and landlords must treat all applicants equally, provided they meet the financial and other legitimate criteria for tenancy.

It is essential that all landlords are aware of fair housing requirements and follow them exactly. Visit our learning hub to learn about the top three things you should do when dealing with an eviction, and about the good, bad and ugly sides of an eviction


Misconception 5: "I Don’t Need to Worry About Habitability Issues Until the Tenant Complains"

Landlords often assume they only need to address habitability issues when tenants bring them up. However, California law requires landlords to ensure their rental properties meet basic health and safety standards at all times. This includes providing adequate weatherproofing, plumbing, heating, and electrical systems, and ensuring the property is free of pests and mold. Failure to maintain these standards can lead to significant legal consequences, including rent withholding by tenants and costly lawsuits.


Misconception 6: "Oral Agreements Are Just as Binding as Written Leases"

While oral agreements are legally binding in California, they are far less reliable and harder to enforce than written leases. Written leases provide a clear record of the terms agreed upon by both parties, which can prevent misunderstandings and disputes. California law requires written leases for rental agreements lasting more than a year. For shorter terms, while not mandatory, a written agreement is still highly advisable.


Misconception 7: "I Can Charge Any Late Fee I Want"

Landlords might think they can impose any late fee for overdue rent, but in California, late fees must be "reasonable." Typically, this means that late fees should not exceed 5% of the rent. Excessive late fees can be challenged in court, and landlords may be required to refund the tenant.


Misconception 8: "I Can Ignore Tenant Requests for Repairs If I Think They're Unnecessary"

Ignoring repair requests is not only unwise but also illegal. Under California’s "repair and deduct" law, tenants can take matters into their own hands if landlords fail to make necessary repairs within a reasonable time. Tenants can hire a licensed contractor to make the repairs and then deduct the cost from their rent, up to a limit of one month’s rent. This process can be repeated twice in any 12-month period.


Misconception 9: "I Can Evict Tenants to Renovate and Then Re-Rent at a Higher Price"

Landlords may believe they can evict tenants to renovate the property and then lease it at a higher rate. However, if a property is subject to the law under California’s Tenant Protection Act, this constitutes an "eviction for renovation" and is subject to strict regulations. We recommend that all landlords seek professional legal or professional management help to determine which laws or regulations their rental property is required to observe. Landlords must obtain permits for substantial renovations and provide tenants with a 60-day notice. Additionally, tenants may be entitled to relocation assistance equivalent to one month’s rent.


Misconception 10: "Once the Lease is Over, I Can Remove Tenants Without Any Notice"

Even at the end of a lease term, landlords cannot simply remove tenants without notice, depending on the type of property and whether or not the unit is subject to the above rent control laws. It can get complicated; that’s why we always advise landlords to seek professional legal help and management assistance to ensure they are always compliant. For month-to-month tenancies, landlords must provide a written 30-day notice to vacate if the tenant has lived in the unit for less than a year, or a 60-day notice if they have resided for more than a year. Failure to provide proper notice can lead to legal challenges and potential penalties.


Misunderstandings about tenant rights can lead to costly legal battles and strained landlord-tenant relationships. By dispelling these common myths and staying informed about California laws, particularly those specific to Ventura County, landlords can foster more harmonious and legally compliant rental arrangements. Keeping up-to-date with local ordinances and state regulations not only protects tenants but also safeguards landlords from potential liabilities, ensuring a fair and equitable housing market for all.

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