This article is part I of a two-part series covering California’s Tenant Protection Act. This first part goes over just cause eviction laws. For information on the new rent caps enacted by the TPA, see Part II.

This past fall, Assembly Bill (AB) 1482 enacted California’s Tenant Protection Act (TPA) of 2019. The law made several significant changes pertaining to landlords and tenants, which will impact landlord practice in a big way going forward.

These changes will be effective until they are repealed on January 1, 2030. [Calif. Civil Code §1946.2(j)]

Who the TPA impacts

The applicability of the TPA is comprehensive, covering most multi-unit residential real estate housing in California and those single family residential (SFR) units owned by a REIT, a corporation or an LLC with a corporate member. However, there are numerous, sizable exemptions for multi-family units and conditions for SFRs to be excluded.

Properties exempt from the TPA

Multi-unit residential real estate exempt from the “just cause” eviction procedures include:

  • residential units that have been issued a certificate of occupancy within the previous 15 years;
  • a duplex of which the owner occupied one of the units as their principal residence at the beginning of the tenancy and remains in occupancy;
  • units restricted as affordable housing for households of very low, low, or moderate income, or subject to an agreement that provides subsidies for affordable housing for households of very low, low, or moderate income;
  • dormitories constructed and maintained in connection with any higher education institution in California;
  • units subject to rent or price control that restricts annual increases in the rental rate to an amount less than that set by the TPA;
  • multi-unit transient occupancy housing like hotels and motels;
  • accommodations in which the tenant shares kitchen or bathroom facilities with an SFR owner-occupant;
  • SFR real estate that can be sold and conveyed separate from the title to any other dwelling unit, like in a SFR subdivision or condominium project, provided:
    • the owner is not one of the following:
      • a real estate investment trust (REIT);
      • a corporation; or
      • a limited liability company (LLC) in which at least one member is a corporation; and
    • the tenant has been given written notice stating the rental property is exempt from the rent increase caps under the TPA. [CC §1947.12(d); CC §1946.2(e); See RPI Form 550, 551 and 550-3]

To notify the tenant of the property’s exempt status from the TPA, the landlord uses a checkbox in the rental or lease agreement to indicate whether the property is subject to just cause eviction requirements with the following statutory language:

[] This property is not subject to the rent limits imposed by Section 1947.12 of the Civil Code and is not subject to the just cause requirements of Section 1946.2 of the Civil Code. This property meets the requirements of Sections 1947.12(c)(5); (d)(5) and 1946.2 (e)(7); (e)(8) of the Civil Code and the owner is not any of the following:

(1) a real estate investment trust, as defined by Section 856 of the Internal Revenue Code;

(2) a corporation; or

(3) a limited liability company in which at least one member is a corporation. [See RPI Form 550 §10.1 and Form 551 §9.1]

For tenancies entered into prior to July 1, 2020 which do not include the notice, the landlord will provide the notice and, if applicable, indicate their exempt status using the separate Just Cause and Rent Cap Addendum, doing so no later than August 1, 2020. [See RPI 550-3]

When a residential property or tenancy does not meet any of the criteria for exemption, the landlord is to abide by the TPA limiting their ability to increase the rent or evict a tenant to regain possession.

Landlords exempt from the TPA requirements may continue to use all existing RPI forms, as these are unchanged by the TPA.

What the TPA does

Broadly, the TPA:

  • caps annual rent increases at 5% plus the rate of inflation for much of California multi-unit residential properties; [See Part II of this series, forthcoming]
  • requires “just cause” to evict tenants in place for 12 months or more.

Requiring a just cause for eviction makes it far harder for landlords to evict tenants in order to rent out their properties to new tenants at a higher rate. Further, if a tenant is being evicted at no fault of their own, the landlord may also be required to provide modest financial relocation assistance.

In response this change in tenant notice procedure, RPI (Realty Publications, Inc.) has published a new library of landlord-tenant forms to be used by landlords of properties subject to TPA limitations and procedures.

The new forms include the:

  • Just Cause and Rent Cap Addendum [See RPI Form 550-3];
  • 60-Day Notice to Vacate Under a No-Fault Eviction – For Properties Subject to Just Cause Eviction Requirements [See RPI Form 569-2];
  • 30-Day Notice of Change in Rental Terms – For Properties Subject to Rent Cap Requirements [See RPI Form 570-1];
  • Three-Day Notice to Quit – For Properties Subject to Just Cause Eviction Requirements [See RPI Form 577-1];
  • Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent – For Properties Subject to Just Cause Eviction Requirements [See RPI Form 575-3];
  • Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent with Related Fees – For Properties Subject to Just Cause Eviction Requirements [See RPI Form 575-4]; and
  • Three-Day Notice to Perform – For Properties Subject to Just Cause Eviction Requirements [See RPI Form 576-1]

Further, both the residential lease and month-to-month rental agreement have been revised to be compliant for both exempt and non-exempt properties.  [See RPI Form 550 and 551]

All new and revised forms are available for free download on the RPI Forms Download page.

“Just cause” required for certain evictions

For tenancies commenced or renewed on or after July 1, 2020, tenants are to be notified of the new “just cause” and rent cap protections extended to residential tenants by the TPA.

The following statutory language is to be a provision in all residential rental and lease agreements, written in no less than 12-point type:

California law limits the amount your rent can be increased. See Section 1947.12 of the Civil Code for more information. California law also provides that after all of the tenants have continuously and lawfully occupied the property for 12 months or more or at least one of the tenants has continuously and lawfully occupied the property for 24 months or more, a landlord must provide a statement of cause in any notice to terminate a tenancy. See Section 1946.2 of the Civil Code for more information.

This is incorporated as a boilerplate notice of tenant rights into RPI Form 550 §10 and Form 551 §9, our residential occupancy agreements.

Further, landlords of property exempt from the TPA need to notify the tenant in writing of their exempt status to qualify themselves for the exemption. The landlord notifies the tenant by using a checkbox in the rental or lease agreement to indicate whether the property is subject to rent limits and just cause eviction requirements. [See RPI Form 550 §10.1 and Form 551 §9.1]

For tenancies entered into prior to July 1, 2020 which do not include the notice, the landlord will provide the notice and, if applicable, indicate their exempt status using the separate Just Cause and Rent Cap Addendum, doing so no later than August 1, 2020. [See RPI 550-3]

Landlords of non-exempt property seeking to evict tenants need to show just cause when:

  • all tenants have continuously and lawfully occupied the unit for 12 months or longer; or
  • at least one tenant has continuously and lawfully occupied the unit for 24 months or longer. [CC §1946.2(a)]

At-fault just cause evictions

Just cause evictions notices are of two types, based on whether the tenant is:

  • at fault, called an at-fault just cause eviction [CC §1946.2(b)(1)]; or
  • not at fault, called a no-fault just cause eviction. [CC §1946.2(b)(2)]

An at-fault just cause eviction is further categorized as either:

  • curable; or
  • incurable.

To qualify for an at-fault just cause eviction, the tenant:

  • defaulted on a rental payment;
  • failed to enter into a landlord-requested renewal or extension of a lease which terminated on or after January 1, 2020 [See RPI Form 565];
  • breached a material term of the lease;
  • committed or permitted a nuisance or waste to occur on the property;
  • conducted criminal activity on the premises or common areas, or used the premises for an unlawful purpose;
  • assigned or sublet the premises in violation of the expired lease;
  • refused the landlord’s authorized entry into the premises; or
  • failed to deliver possession after providing the landlord notice to terminate the tenancy or surrender possession. [CC 1946.2(b)(1); See RPI Form 576-1]

Also classified as an at-fault just cause eviction is a tenant’s failure to vacate when the tenant was a resident manager or other employee of the landlord and their occupancy was provided in conjunction with their employment status and limited to the period of employment, and the employment has been terminated. [CC §1946.2(b)(1)(K)]

Editor’s note — When occupancy under a lease agreement expires, a landlord may require the tenant to enter into a written extension or renewal, rather than allow the tenancy to remain, converting the fixed-term tenancy to a periodic month-to-month tenancy. However, if the tenant fails to enter into a lease renewal or extension agreement and the landlord has not accepted rent for a holdover period, this is considered an at-fault just cause for eviction. [CC §1946.2(b)(1)(E)]

When the tenant under an at-fault just cause tenancy breaches a nonmonetary performance provision of a rental or lease agreement, the landlord of a non-exempt property serves the tenant a Three-Day Notice to Perform – For Properties Subject to Just Cause Eviction Requirements. [See RPI Form 576-1]

The Three-Day Notice to Perform is used when the tenant’s failure to perform is curable.

When the failure to perform is incurable — such as when a tenant commits waste to the property or engages in overt criminal activity — the landlord uses the Three-Day Notice to Quit, checking the box to note the breach is incurable, requiring the tenant to vacate and deliver possession within three days of service. [Calif. Code of Civil Procedure §1161(4); See RPI Form 577-1 §2.2]

However, when the failure to perform is curable, such as a breach of a lease term which may be fully corrected within a three day period, the landlord checks the box to indicate the breach is curable and states what the tenant needs to do to rectify or cure the breach in order to remain in possession. [See RPI Form 576-1 §4]

Unique to properties subject to the just cause eviction requirements, when the tenant does not cure the breach by full performance within three days after service of the notice to perform or quit, the landlord may not immediately begin legal proceedings to regain possession by pursuing an unlawful detainer (UD) action.

Rather, if the breach remains uncured on expiration of the Notice to Perform, the landlord is now further required to prepare and serve the tenant with an ultimate Three-Day Notice to Quit. [CC §1946.2(c); See RPI Form 577-1]

Here, the tenant who is served a notice to correct a curable breach and fails to fully perform or quit, is given three additional days to vacate — quit — after service of the final notice. When the tenant then fails to vacate and deliver possession, the landlord’s remaining legal remedy is to file a UD action to regain possession based on the tandem quit notices and seek an award for rent owed and associated costs. [CC §1946.2(c)]

Related, when the tenant commits a curable monetary breach, in order to initiate the eviction, the landlord uses a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent (with or without related fees). These notices include sections which identify the tenant as being under a lease which requires just cause to terminate the tenancy and indicates their failure to pay rent constitutes just cause for eviction. [See RPI Form 575-3 and Form 575-4]

Once the three days have passed and the tenant has still not paid the appropriate amount(s) – a curable breach – the landlord may serve the tenant with a Three-Day Notice to Quit without the further opportunity to cure the violation. [See RPI Form 577-1]

No-fault just cause evictions

Alternatively, a no-fault just cause eviction exists when the tenant is being evicted under no fault of their own for any of the following reasons:

  • the landlord or their spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parents or grandparents intend to occupy the premises;
  • the property is withdrawn from the rental market;
  • the property is unfit for habitation as determined by a government agency and through no fault of the tenant; or
  • the landlord intends to demolish or substantially renovate the property. [CC 1946.2 (b)(2); See RPI Form 569-2 §3]

An improvement qualifies as a substantial remodel or renovation when any structural, electrical, plumbing or mechanical system is replaced or substantially modified, requiring a permit from a government agency. This includes the abatement of hazardous materials like lead-based paint, mold or asbestos, which cannot be completed with the tenant residing in the unit, requiring the tenant to vacate for 30 days or longer.

Cosmetic improvements like painting or minor repairs that don’t require the tenant to vacate to ensure their safety are not considered substantial remodels. [CC §1946.2 (b)(2)(D)(ii)]

Recall that the notice to quit discussed above is used in the context of an at-fault eviction — the tenant has materially breached the terms of a rental or lease agreement and the landlord is using the breach to terminate the lease or rental agreement. [See RPI Form 577-1]

Alternatively, a notice to vacate is used in the context of a no-fault eviction to terminate a rental agreement and interfere with the automatic renewal of the periodic tenancy when a breach of the rental agreement has not occurred or is not an issue. [See RPI Form 569-2]

To terminate the tenancy of a residential tenant who has resided on the property for one year or more, residential landlords are required to give the tenant a 60-day notice to vacate.

Relocation assistance

Further, when a no-fault just cause eviction occurs for a non-exempt property, the landlord is required to provide relocation assistance to the tenant. Relocation assistance is equal to one month’s rent and is to be made:

  • as a direct payment within 15 calendar days of the notice to vacate; or
  • in exchange for the landlord’s waiver of the payment of rent for the final month before it becomes due. [CC 1946.2(d)(1); See RPI Form 569-2 §7]

Further, the landlord needs to notify the tenant of their right to relocation assistance in writing. This notice is provided within the body of the specialized 60-Day Notice to Vacate required for tenants who have resided in the property for 12 months or longer. [CC §1946.2(d)(2); See RPI Form 569-2 §7]

If the landlord fails to provide relocation assistance, the notice to vacate is void. [CC §1946.2(d)(4)]

Further, if the tenant receives the relocation assistance and then fails to vacate at the end of the notice period, the landlord is able to recover the relocation assistance as part of the damages in their action to retake possession. [CC §1946.2(d)(3)(B)]

If it was through the actions of the tenant that the property was rendered unfit for habitation, the tenant is not entitled to relocation assistance. [CC §1946.2(b)(2)(C)(iii)]

Tenants may not waive their rights provided to them under the just cause eviction laws. Any waiver made in the agreement is void as contrary to public policy.