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Know Your Rights: Tenants

Right to a Habitable Home 

A “habitable home” is a house or apartment that is reasonably fit to live in. This means a rental should be free from unsafe conditions, substantial infrastructure issues, or other problems that significantly hinder one’s ability to live in the home. The home must have at least: weatherproof roof, windows, doors, and walls; plumbing or gas facilities in good working order; hot and cold running water; heat; electrical lighting and wiring in good working order; building and grounds sanitary and free from accumulations of garbage, rodents, and vermin; appropriate number of trash cans or receptacles; floors, railings, and stairways in good working order; operable deadbolt lock on each main entry door; window security or locking devices for windows. Therefore, landlords must bear the costs of repairing any significant damages or problems to a property that is not the fault of the tenant. (CA Civil Code §§1941, 1941.1, 1941.2, 1941.3)

Tenants Right to Privacy 

Landlords and property managers generally do not have the right to enter a person’s home at any time. A landlord must provide reasonable written notice before they access the home for repairs or any other specified reason. Tenants have the right to privacy and 24 hours’ notice is presumed reasonable when entering the property. In a true emergency situation, however, landlords may enter the property without warning. Failure of a landlord to give proper notice or enter for a legal reason is a violation of the tenant’s rights and may be considered trespass and harassment by the landlord. (CA Civil Code §1954) 

Security Deposits 

For unfurnished apartments, landlords can charge a security deposit up to two times the amount of monthly rent; the deposit can be up to three times the rent for furnished apartments. In California, landlords must return a security deposit and an itemized accounting with supporting receipts for deductions for cleaning or repairs within 21 calendar days after the tenant vacated the rental, as long as the tenant did not terminate the tenancy more than 60 days before the end of the term. No money can be taken out of the deposit unless the landlord offered the tenant in writing the opportunity to schedule a pre-move-out inspection, and the accounting of the deductions and accompanying receipts are provided to the tenant. The landlord has the right to deduct money from the deposit if someone moves out owing rent or other fees pursuant to the rental agreement, damages the rental property beyond normal wear and tear, or leaves the rental less clean than when the tenant moved in.  (CA Civil Code §1950.5)


A landlord can evict a tenant if they break material terms of the lease, including but not limited to failing to pay rent, having people or animals living at the house that are not allowed under the lease, or a crime is committed at the premises. Tenants are entitled to receive a notice from the landlord stating the breach of the lease. If the breach is curable, or fixable, then the tenants must be given the opportunity to cure the breach. The notice should give the tenant at least three business days (not including the date of service, weekend days, and legal holidays)  to pay the unpaid rent or fix what was done to breach the lease. If the tenant does not fix the issue the landlord has the right to file eviction proceedings in court the day following the end of the notice period. Tenants must receive notice of any court action, and be given the chance to appear in court. (CA Code of Civil Procedure §§1161, 10, 12, 12a) 

Rent Increase

With certain exceptions, residential landlords cannot increase the rent over the course of a 12 month period more than 5%  plus the percentage change in the cost of living (based on the Consumer Price Index, “CPI,” per region), or 10%, whichever is less. This year’s CPI, released June 14, is 4 percent for Santa Barbara County. Based on the most recent CPI for Santa Barbara County, the maximum amount state law allows Santa Barbara County landlords to raise rents is 9% in 2021. (CA Civil Code §1947.12)

Rentals that are excluded from the rent cap include housing built within the previous 15 years; dormitories; low income/affordable housing; single-family residences where the rental agreement informs the tenant that the rent cap under Civil Code §1947.12 does not apply; duplexes where the owner occupies one unit. (CA Civil Code §1947.12)

Local Resources to Help 

The IVCSD offers free rental housing mediation services for all Isla Vista residents. The service is available for both tenants and landlords, and the bilingual mediator can help solve disputes between tenants and landlords. The district mediator will meet with all parties involved to discuss the best way to find an equitable solution. We encourage Isla Vista residents to use this free service in order to maintain healthy relationships in their living situation. For any further questions on the IVCSD’s mediation services please email: 

The UCSB Associated Students offers the Isla Vista Tenants Union. This free resource provides more information for tenants on their rights and helps address housing needs in the community. The Tenants Union additionally has a lawyer that can meet with students to discuss legal matters regarding landlord and tenant disputes, and help students decide their next course of action.