Renting a Home in the Bay Area: Know Your Rights

With real estate prices in the Bay Area continually skyrocketing, buying a home is not an option for many residents. In addition to the low affordability, high prices equal high risks, which is particularly concerning for expats who are not planning to relocate permanently and would, therefore, be looking for a short-term investment in a home. Hence, most of us turn to renting a home.

Renting or Buying? keys in a door

When renting a home, you might feel that you are at the mercy of the landlord, but there are laws to protect you. This is also true for the landlords, of course, and it is of great importance to make sure you know your rights and obligations, preferably before signing a lease. You don’t want to be evicted, or held financially responsible for large claims, whether for fair or unfair reasons.


Though you can quickly find information through a quick Google search at places such as Wikipedia etc, and this may be perfectly accurate, we always recommend going straight to the source. This is the information provided by the State of California, with the laws described in understandable layman’s terms

renting a home - many tenants live in housing like this

Photo credit: Kimson Doan,

Knowing the law will help back you up when in discussions with your landlord, and so having at least some knowledge might be a very good idea. I have a friend whose previous landlord wanted to deduct the cost of repainting the walls from the security deposit, but when my friend could show that the state recommends that a repaint is to be expected after a lease longer than two years, she got to keep her deposit. That is a large sum of money, for only a small amount of work, researching her rights.


Conversely, if your landlord has specified certain terms in your lease, make sure you follow them. If they seem unreasonable, check whether they are legitimate claims for a landlord to make and if not – take it up with your landlord. Even if you might be in the right, violating claims that you signed on to accept might be taking you down a rocky road.


As pointed out in the above document, many of the laws are in fact more like guidelines, where, in a small claims court (which is where you and the landlord would end up, if in dispute over the security deposit, small damage claims, or such) much would be open to interpretation by the judge. Hence, it is probably wise to make sure to use common sense, and not believe that you can push every letter of the law to the extreme and still be in the right.

How has your experience of renting in the Bay Area been? Do you have any horror stories? Or have you had a success?


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