Glossary

The brief explanations below are provided solely as starting points for further research and do not constitute legal advice.  Members may find the explanations useful, however, to aid in discussions or to conduct deeper investigations, e.g. on the internet.  MRPA encourages its members to seek proper legal counsel for the latest, complete information on rules and regulations, the handling of contractual matters, etc.

Use the search-page shortcut of your browser (e.g. Control-F / Command-F) to find a term within the Glossary.

  • Abandon / abandonment 

A tenant's remedy of moving out of a rental unit that is uninhabitable and that the landlord has not repaired within a reasonable time after receiving notice of the defects from the tenant.

  • Abandoned Property

After a tenancy has terminated and the premises have been vacated by the tenant, there may be personal property left behind. California has specific laws governing treatment of a tenant’s abandoned personal property.  A landlord must follow very specific steps before disposing of such property. See California Code of Civil Procedures § § 1983 and 1986.

  • Accessory Dwelling Unit

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a small permanent home that may be established in addition to the main dwelling on a parcel zoned for residential use. Accessory dwelling units may be attached or detached from the main dwelling.  Seek requirements and implementation details for each specific municipality or jurisdiction.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. 

  • Amount of notice / amount of advance notice 

The number of days' notice that must be given before a change in the tenancy can take effect. Usually, the amount of advance notice is the same as the number of days between rent payments. For example, in a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord usually must give the tenant 30 days' advance written notice that the landlord is increasing the amount of the security deposit.

  • Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs 

A form that tenants may complete and give to the Clerk of Court to request permission to file court documents without paying the court filing fee.

  • Arbitration 

Using a neutral third person to resolve a dispute instead of going to court. Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the parties must follow the arbitrator's decision.

  • Arbitrator 

A neutral third person, agreed to by the parties to a dispute, who hears and decides a dispute. An arbitrator is not a judge, but the parties normally must follow the arbitrator's decision (the decision is said to be "binding" on the parties). (See arbitration; compare to mediator.)

  • Assign / assignment 

An agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant by which the new tenant takes over the lease of a rental unit and becomes responsible to the landlord for everything that the original tenant was responsible for. The original tenant is still responsible to the landlord if the new tenant doesn't live up to the lease obligations. (See novation; compare to sublease.)

  • California Apartment Association

The California Apartment Association (CAA) is the nation’s largest statewide trade group representing owners, investors, developers, managers and suppliers of rental homes and apartment communities.  CAA

  • California Building Code

The California Building Standards Code, Title 24 serves as the basis for the design and construction of buildings in California. CBC

  • California Department of Fair Employment and Housing 

The state agency that investigates complaints of unlawful discrimination in housing and employment.

  • Claim of Right to Possession 

A form that the occupants of a rental unit can fill out to temporarily stop their eviction by the sheriff after the landlord has won an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. The occupants can use this form only if: the landlord did not serve a Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession form with the summons and complaint; the occupants were not named in the writ of possession; and the occupants have lived in the rental unit since before the unlawful detainer lawsuit was filed.

  • Commercial Linkage Fee

A fee that is assessed on new non-residential construction such as office, hotel, medical, retail, and restaurants based on the principle that these new spaces will increase the number of workers, which creates a demand for housing. The fees collected are then to be used to support the creation or preservation of affordable housing to assist the workers who will make lower or moderate wages, e.g. those who cannot afford the current housing market prices. 

  • Condominium

California law refers to condominiums as "common interest developments". California regulates the rights and responsibilities of a condo owner.  Local communities may further regulate condominiums, e.g. via Use Permits, condo conversion development standards, etc. CA Condo

  • Constructive Eviction

Occurs when a landlord does not physically or legally evict a tenant, but takes actions or fails to take actions that result in the property being uninhabitable. For example, heat or water are not provided to the rental unit.

  • Cost Segregation

“Engineering-based” cost segregation studies are most commonly prepared for the allocation or reallocation of building costs to tangible personal property for tax purposes.  A building, termed "IRS § 1250 property", is generally non-residential real property (39-year) or residential rental property (27.5-year) property eligible for straight-line depreciation.  Equipment, furniture, and fixtures, termed "IRS § 1245 property", are tangible personal property.  Tangible personal property has a shorter recovery period (e.g., 5 or 7 years) and is also eligible for accelerated depreciation (e.g., double declining balance, bonus depreciation and § 179 deduction).  Therefore, a faster depreciation write-off (and tax benefit) can be obtained by allocating property costs to § 1245 property.

  • Costa Hawkins Act

The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act ("Costa-Hawkins") is a California state law, enacted in 1995, which established parameters for municipal rent control ordinances. Overview.

  • Credit report 

A report prepared by a credit reporting agency that describes a person's credit history for the last seven years (except for bankruptcies, which are reported for 10 years). A credit report shows, for example, whether the person pays his or her bills on time, has delinquent or charged-off accounts, has been sued, and is subject to court judgments.

  • Credit reporting agency 

A business that keeps records of people's credit histories, and that reports credit history information to prospective creditors (including landlords). (See also tenant screening service.)

  • Credit score 

A numerical summary of a person's credit worthiness that is based on information from a credit reporting agency. Credit scoring uses a statistical program to compare a person's history of bill paying, credit accounts, collection actions and other credit information with the credit performance of other consumers. A high credit score (for example, 750 and up) indicates that a person is a better credit risk, and a low score (for example, 300- 400) indicates a potential credit risk.

  • Default judgment

A judgment issued by the court, without a hearing, after the tenant has failed to file a response to the landlord's complaint.

  • Demurrer

A legal response that a tenant can file in an unlawful detainer lawsuit to test the legal sufficiency of the charges made in the landlord's complaint.

  • Discovery

The process through which parties to an action are allowed to obtain relevant information known to other parties or non-parties before trial.

  • Discrimination (in renting) 

Denying a person housing, telling a person that housing is not available (when the housing is actually available at that time), providing housing under inferior terms, harassing a person in
connection with housing accommodations, or providing segregated housing because of a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to them, as well as gender and perception of gender), sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, source of income, age, disability, medical condition, whether the person is married, or whether there are children under the age of 18 in the person's household. Discrimination also can be refusal to make reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.

  • Dishonored check

A check that the bank returns to the payee (the person who received the check) without paying it. The bank may return the check because the payor's (the check writer's) account did not have enough money to cover the check. This is called a "bounced" or "NSF" check. Or, the bank may return the check because the payor stopped payment on it.

  • Easement

An easement is a right to use land that belongs to another, as opposed to a right to possess land of another.

  • Electric Vehicle Charging

In California, three types of stations are used to charge an electric vehicle (EV): Level 1 and Level 2 are available to residences and businesses. Direct current (DC) fast charging is available only at public sites because of the high cost and power that it requires. PG&E EV

  • Electric Vehicle Charging Station

The California Building Code definition for Electric Vehicle Charging Station (EVCS) describes “One or more electric vehicle charging spaces served by an electric vehicle charger or other charging equipment.”  In order to install an EVCS in a residential building permit(s) and inspection(s) may be required.

An EVCS installed at privately-owned multifamily housing facilities may also have requirements for accessible EVCS dependent on use; please consult with the Department of Housing and Community Development for requirements.

  • Equity share

A joint purchase of property where-in all parties have an ownership interest. Typically, one or more investors make some or all of the down payment for the purchase, while an occupier lives in the property and pays the monthly expenses.

  • Escrow account

A bank account into which a tenant deposits withheld rent, to be withdrawn only when the landlord has corrected uninhabitable conditions in the rental unit or when the tenant is ordered by a court to pay withheld rent to the landlord.

  • Eviction

A court-administered proceeding for removing a tenant from a rental unit because the tenant has violated the rental agreement or lease, or did not comply with a notice ending the tenancy (It is formally called an "unlawful detainer" lawsuit).

  • Eviction notice (or three day notice) 

A three-day notice that the landlord serves on the tenant when the tenant has violated the lease or rental agreement. The three-day notice usually instructs the tenant to either leave the rental unit or comply with the lease or rental agreement (for example, by paying past-due rent) within the three-day period.  There are about ten circumstances in which a three-day notice may be issued. Seek proper legal guidance in this matter.

  • Fair housing organizations

City or county organizations that help renters resolve housing discrimination problems.

  • Federal stay (or automatic stay) 

An order of a federal bankruptcy court that temporarily stops proceedings in a state court, including an eviction proceeding.

  • Guest

A person who does not have the rights of a tenant, such as a person who stays in a transient hotel for fewer than seven days.

  • Habitable

A rental unit that is fit for human beings to live in. A rental unit that substantially complies with building and safety code standards that materially affect tenants' health and safety is said to be "habitable." See uninhabitable and implied warranty of habitability.

  • Holding Deposit

A deposit that a tenant gives to a landlord to hold a rental unit until the tenant pays the first month's rent and the security deposit.

  • Impact Fee

A fee that is imposed by a local government on a new or proposed development project to pay for all or a portion of the costs of providing public services to the new development.

  • Implied warranty of habitability

A legal rule that requires landlords to maintain their rental units in a condition fit for human beings to live in. A rental unit must substantially comply with building and housing code standards that materially affect tenants' health and safety. 

  • Initial inspection

An inspection by the landlord before the tenancy ends to identify defective conditions that justify deductions from the security deposit.

  • Item of information

Information in a credit report that causes a creditor to deny credit or take other adverse action against an applicant (such as refusing to rent a rental unit to the applicant).

  • Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit

A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) is a small living unit created out of a bedroom within an existing single family home.  Seek requirements and implementation details for each specific municipality or jurisdiction.

  • Just Cause Eviction Ordinance (JCEO)

Laws in some communities that limit the reasons a landlord may end a rental agreement beyond those identified by state law. Such an ordinance may also specify a notice-requirement and other conditions. 

  • Landlord

A business or person who owns a rental unit, and who rents or leases the rental unit to another person, called a tenant.

  • Lease

A rental agreement, usually in writing, that establishes all the terms of the agreement and that lasts for a predetermined length of time (for example, six months or one year). Compare to periodic rental agreement.

  • Legal aid organizations

Organizations that provide free legal advice, representation, and other legal services in noncriminal cases.

  • Lock out

When a landlord locks a tenant out of the rental unit with the intent of terminating the tenancy.  Lockouts, and all other self-imposed eviction remedies, are illegal.

  • Lodger

A person who lives in a room in a house where the owner lives. The owner can enter all areas occupied by the lodger, and the owner has overall control of the house.

  • Managed Retreat

Managed retreat, planned retreat, or managed realignment refers to one strategy for dealing with erosion of coastal property. Engineered solutions (such as sea-walls, beach replenishment, flood proofing) refers to an alternative strategy.

Managed retreat generally plans for and allows for the shoreline to advance inward unimpeded. As the shore erodes, buildings and other infrastructure are either demolished or relocated inland.  Obviously, there are competing considerations for private property rights, for recreation, and for coastal vulnerability.  The California Coastal Commission, the EPA, private firms, and individuals are involved with these issues.

  • Mandatory Mediation Ordinance

An ordinance requiring mediation between landlord and tenant under specific circumstances.

  • Mediation

A process in which a neutral third person meets with the parties to a dispute in order to assist them in formulating a voluntary solution to the dispute.

  • Mediator

A neutral third person, agreed to by the parties to a dispute, who meets with the parties in order to assist them in formulating a voluntary solution to the dispute. The mediator's decision normally is not "binding" on the parties. (See mediation; compare to arbitrator.)

  • Memorandum to Set Case for Trial

A court document filed in an unlawful detainer lawsuit requesting that the case be set for trial. This document also states whether the plaintiff (the landlord) has requested a jury trial.

  • Microhousing

Microhousing typically features small sleeping rooms with private bathrooms and units grouped together, with a shared kitchen or common area. These units are generally less expensive than standard studio or 1-bedroom apartments. This type of housing is targeted at young, single students or professionals in their 20s and 30s.

  • Month-to-month rental agreement

See periodict Tenancy rental agreement.

  • Motion to Quash Service of Summons

A legal response that a tenant can file in an unlawful detainer lawsuit if the tenant believes that the landlord did not properly serve the summons and complaint.

  • Move in Fee

California law prohibits a landlord from charging a new tenant non-refundable fees, i.e. "move-in fee", except for a reasonable fee which covers application screening.

  • Negligence

A person's carelessness (that is, failure to use ordinary or reasonable care) that results in injury to another person or damage to another person's property.

  • 90-day notice

A written notice from a landlord to a tenant informing the tenant that the tenancy will end in 90 days.  This type of notice may apply for a tenant who is receiving assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Section 8).  It may also apply following a sale of a rental unit at foreclosure.  Seek proper legal guidance for further details.

  • Novation

In an assignment situation, a novation is an agreement by the landlord, the original tenant, and the new tenant that makes the new tenant (rather than the original tenant) solely responsible to the landlord.

  • Nuisance

California Civil Code Section § 3479 defines a nuisance as “anything which is injurious to health, including but not limited to the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property…”

  • Occupant

A person who is not named as a tenant in the rental agreement or lease who has moved into a rental unit before the landlord files an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. Since the landlord does not know that the occupant is living in the rental unit, the landlord may be unable to name the occupant as a defendant in the unlawful detainer lawsuit.

  • Periodic Tenancy rental agreement

An oral or written rental agreement that states the length of time between rent payments - for example, a week or a month-  but not the total number of weeks or months that the agreement will be in effect. The tenancy continues until either the landlord or the tenant issues a notice to vacate or terminate tenancy. 

  • Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession

A form that a landlord in an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit can have served along with the summons and complaint on all persons living in the rental unit who might claim to be tenants, but whose names the landlord does not know. Occupants who are not named in the unlawful detainer complaint, but who claim a right to possess the rental unit, can fill out and file this form to become parties to the unlawful detainer action.

  • Relief from forfeiture

An order by a court in an Unlawful Detainer (eviction) lawsuit that allows the losing tenant to remain in the rental unit, based on the tenant's convincing the court that the eviction would cause the tenant severe hardship and that the tenant can pay all of the rent that is due, or otherwise fully comply with the lease.

  • Relocation Assistance

A form of financial assistance given to a tenant who is displaced. 

  • Rent control ordinance

Laws in some communities that limit or prohibit rent increases, and which may further limit the circumstances under which a tenant can be evicted.

  • Rent withholding

A tenant's remedy of not paying some or all of the rent if the landlord does not fix defects that make the rental unit uninhabitable within a reasonable time after the landlord receives
notice of the defects from the tenant.

  • Rental agreement

An oral or written agreement between a tenant and a landlord, made before the tenant moves in, which establishes the terms of the tenancy, such as the amount of the rent and when it is due. (See lease and periodic rental agreement.)

  • Rental application form

A form that a landlord may ask a tenant to fill out prior to renting that requests information about the tenant, such as the tenant's address, telephone number, employment history, credit
references, and the like.

  • Rental listing service

A business that offers lists of available rental units.

  • Rental period

The length of time between rent payments; for example, a week or a month.

  • Rental unit

An apartment, house, duplex, or condominium that a landlord rents to a tenant to live in.

  • Renter's insurance

Insurance protecting the tenant against property losses, such as losses from theft or fire. This insurance usually also protects the tenant against liability (legal responsibility) for claims or
lawsuits filed by the landlord or by others alleging that the tenant negligently injured another person or property.

  • Repair and deduct remedy

A tenant's remedy of deducting from future rent the amount necessary to repair defects covered by the implied warranty of habitability. The amount deducted cannot be more than one month's rent.

  • Resident Manager (or on-site Property Manager)

California law requires a "resident apartment manager" or some other responsible person to reside upon the premises and manage an apartment complex that has over 16 units. Duties may include maintenance, repairs, dealing with complaints, addressing emergencies, move-in's, move-out's, collecting rent, etc.

The compensation for this position is governed by State and Federal rules and regulations, e.g. minimum wage laws. Further, some municipalities require even higher minimums. If an owner wishes to offer a rental unit in compensation to the resident manager, rules governing "lodging credits" as specified by CA minimum wage law apply.

CA Quick Guide

CA Property Managers

  • Retaliatory eviction or action

An act by a landlord, such as raising a tenant's rent, seeking to evict a tenant, or otherwise punishing a tenant because the tenant has used the repair and deduct remedy or the rent withholding remedy, or has asserted other tenant rights. Retaliatory evictions and actions are illegal.

  • Right to hold over

The right to continue occupying a rental unit upon termination of a lease term. The conditions applying to hold over are usually specified within a lease agreement. 

  • Section 8

“Section 8” is a common name for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is a program designed to help lower-income individuals afford housing. 

  • Security deposit

A deposit or a fee that the landlord requires the tenant to pay at the beginning of the tenancy. The landlord can use the security deposit, for example, if the tenant moves out owing rent, or if the tenant leaves the unit damaged, or if the tenant leaves the unit less clean than when the tenant moved in.

  • Serve / service

Legal requirements and procedures that seek to assure that the person to whom a legal notice is directed actually receives it.

  • 60 day notice

A written notice from a landlord to a tenant informing the tenant that a tenancy will end in 60 days. (The amount of notice required typically depends on the type of tenancy and its duration.) A 60-day notice usually does not have to state the landlord's reason for ending the tenancy.  There are special exceptions to this, so conduct further research.

  • Small-efficiency dwelling units

Small-efficiency dwelling units (SEDUs) are small, self-contained apartments targeted at youth and elderly. 

  • Sublease

A separate rental agreement between the original tenant and a new tenant to whom the original tenant rents all or part of the rental unit. The new tenant is called a "subtenant." The agreement between the original tenant and the landlord remains in force, and the original tenant continues to be responsible for paying the rent to the landlord and for other tenant obligations. (Compare to assignment.)

  • Subpoena

An order from the court that requires the recipient to appear as a witness or provide evidence in a court proceeding.

  • Subtenant

See sublease.

  • 1031 Exchange

1031 refers to US Internal Revenue Code Section 1031. This section describes deferral of capital gains taxes for certain types of sales and re-investment.  Seek proper legal advice as to current IRS regulations.

  • Tenancy

A tenant's exclusive right, created by a rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant, to use and possess the landlord's rental unit.

  • Tenancy in common

A tenancy in common is a form of ownership for real property where two or more people share a property. Tenants in common do not need to own equal shares of the property. 

  • Tenant

A person who rents or leases a rental unit from a landlord. The tenant obtains the right to the exclusive use and possession of the rental unit during the lease or rental period.

  • Tenant screening service

A credit reporting agency that collects and sells information on tenants, such as whether they paid their rent on time, whether they damaged previous rental units, whether they were the subject of an unlawful detainer lawsuit, and whether landlords considered them good or bad tenants.

  • 30-day notice (by tenant)

A written notice from a tenant to a landlord informing the landlord that the tenancy will end in 30 days. A renter must give the landlord the same amount of notice as there are days between rent payments, unless otherwise specified in the rental agreement. A tenant's 30 day notice does not have to state the reason for ending the tenancy. 

  • 30-day notice (by landlord)

A written notice from a landlord to a tenant informing the tenant that the tenancy will end in 30 days. (The amount of notice required typically depends on the type of tenancy and its duration.) A 30 day notice usually does not have to state the landlord's reason for ending the tenancy. There are special exceptions to this, so conduct further research. CAA provides a sample form.

  • Three-day notice

See Eviction notice.

  • Unincorporated Marin County

There are many communities in unincorporated Marin County. In practical terms, some communities may overlap with cities or towns, e.g. parts of Greenbrae are within Larkspur.
Here are two references which list communities in unincorporated Marin County. WikiMarin communities, including some unincorporated areas.

  • Uninhabitable

A rental unit which has such serious problems or defects that the tenant's health or safety is affected. A rental unit may be uninhabitable if it is not fit for human beings to live in, if it fails to substantially comply with building and safety code standards that materially affect tenants' health and safety, if it contains a lead hazard, or if it is a dangerous substandard building. (Compare to habitable.)

  • Unlawful Detainer (UD) lawsuit

A lawsuit that a landlord must file and win before he or she can evict a tenant (also called an "eviction" lawsuit).  For Marin County, see Civil Court.  Here is a listing of some of the forms associated with a UD lawsuit:  CM-010, CIV-110, CM-200, POS-010, UD-105, UD-106, UD-150.

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The federal agency that enforces the federal fair housing law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, familial status, or handicap.

  • Waive

To sign a written document (a waiver) giving up a right, claim, privilege, etc. In order for a waiver to be effective, the person giving the waiver must do so knowingly, and must know the right, claim, privilege, etc. that he or she is giving up.

  • Writ of possession

A document issued by the court after the landlord wins an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit. The writ of possession is served on the tenant by the sheriff. The writ informs the tenant that the tenant must leave the rental unit by the end of five days, or the sheriff will forcibly remove the tenant. Marin County form.