California Rent Increase Laws: What Tenants Should Know

California is one of the states that has enacted rent control laws to protect tenants from excessive rent increases and unjust evictions. However, not all rental units are covered by these laws, and there are some exceptions and limitations that tenants should be aware of. In this article, we will explain the basics of California rent increase laws, the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, and the resources available for tenants who need help or advice.

What is the Tenant Protection Act?

The Tenant Protection Act (TPA) is a state law that took effect on January 1, 2020, and applies to most rental properties in California. The TPA limits the amount and frequency of rent increases, and requires landlords to have a valid reason for evicting tenants. The main provisions of the TPA are:

Annual rent increases are capped at 5% plus the change in the cost of living (based on the Consumer Price Index), or 10%, whichever is lower. This cap applies to the total rent increase within a 12-month period, regardless of how many times the landlord raises the rent. The cap does not apply to the initial rent amount that the landlord sets when a new tenant moves in.

Landlords must provide a written notice of rent increase at least 30 days in advance if the increase is 10% or less, or 90 days in advance if the increase is more than 10%. The notice must include the amount of the increase, the new rent amount, and the date when the increase takes effect.

Landlords must have a “just cause” for evicting tenants, and provide a written notice of termination that specifies the reason and the date when the tenancy will end. The just cause can be either “at-fault” or “no-fault”, depending on whether the tenant is responsible for the eviction or not. Some examples of at-fault just cause are non-payment of rent, breach of lease, nuisance, or illegal activity. Some examples of no-fault just cause are owner move-in, withdrawal of the unit from the rental market, or compliance with a government order. Landlords must also offer relocation assistance or a rent waiver to tenants who are evicted for no-fault reasons.

What are the exceptions and limitations of the TPA?

The TPA does not apply to all rental units in California. Some of the exemptions are:

  • Housing that is less than 15 years old, unless it is a mobile home
  • Housing that is restricted for low- to moderate-income households, or subsidized by the government
  • Single-family homes or duplexes that are owner-occupied, or owned by an individual or a trust, and not by a corporation, LLC, or REIT
  • Housing that is already subject to a local rent control ordinance that provides equal or greater protection to tenants

The TPA also does not prevent landlords from raising the rent to market rate when a tenant moves out and a new tenant moves in, unless the tenant was evicted for a no-fault reason. In addition, the TPA does not affect the terms and conditions of a fixed-term lease, unless the lease allows for rent increases or terminations during the lease term.

What are the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords?

Tenants and landlords have certain rights and responsibilities under the TPA and other state and local laws. Some of the common ones are:

Tenants have the right to a habitable and safe rental unit, and to request repairs or maintenance from the landlord if needed. Tenants also have the right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of their unit, and to not be harassed or discriminated against by the landlord or other tenants.

Landlords have the right to collect rent and security deposits, and to inspect the unit for damages or violations of the lease. Landlords also have the right to enforce the lease terms and conditions, and to evict tenants for a valid reason and with proper notice.

Tenants have the responsibility to pay rent on time and in full, and to follow the rules and regulations of the lease. Tenants also have the responsibility to keep the unit clean and in good condition, and to not cause damage or disturbance to the property or the neighbors.

Landlords have the responsibility to provide a written rental agreement, a receipt for rent payments, and a notice of rent increase or termination. Landlords also have the responsibility to maintain the unit in a habitable and safe condition, and to make necessary repairs or improvements within a reasonable time.

What are the resources available for tenants who need help or advice?

Tenants who have questions or concerns about their rental situation, or who believe that their rights have been violated by their landlord, can seek help or advice from various sources. Some of the resources available for tenants are:

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) provides information and publications on landlord-tenant issues, such as California Tenants – A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities, and California Rent Increase Laws: What Is & Isn’t Legal.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces the state laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment in housing based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, disability, familial status, or other protected characteristics. Tenants who have experienced or witnessed discrimination or harassment can file a complaint with the DFEH or contact them for more information.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) administers and oversees various housing programs and services, such as the Housing Is Key initiative, which provides rental assistance and eviction protection to eligible tenants and landlords affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tenants who need financial or legal assistance can apply for the program or contact the HCD for more information.

Local housing agencies and organizations may offer additional resources and support to tenants in their area, such as rent control boards, housing counselors, legal aid, or tenant unions. Tenants can search for local resources on the Housing and Homelessness Programs Directory or contact their city or county government for more information.


California rent increase laws are designed to protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases and unjust evictions, and to balance the interests of tenants and landlords. However, these laws are not always easy to understand or apply, and there may be differences or conflicts between state and local laws. Therefore, it is important for tenants to know their rights and responsibilities, and to seek help or advice when needed. By being informed and proactive, tenants can avoid or resolve many rental problems and enjoy a stable and secure housing situation.

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