Counsel, Advocacy & Representation for California Tenants

Landlords cannot cut services to utilities, or change locks to make you move in California

Even if you have been unable to pay the rent, or have had other problems, the law does not permit a landlords or property managers to use self-help eviction in order to force a tenant to leave.

Self-Help Eviction is illegal in California – Landlords Cannot Cut Off Utility Service to Force a Tenant to Leave

Sometimes landlords think that because they own the home you live in, they can rule over their tenants like medieval lords. They are wrong.  This is the Twenty-First century, and there are no peasants in California.  All renters have a legal right to due process, which means your landlord must go through the courts if he wants to evict.

It doesn’t matter whether it is because of ignorance, or malice, landlords that use oppressive tactics and threats to intimidate their tenants, and to force them to leave are breaking the law.

Don’t take it lying down, and don’t let them get away with it!

It is illegal, and you have a remedy.  It is also illegal for a landlord or property manager to threaten to use violence, or to enter into the tenant’s unit without the tenant’s permission in order to make him or her leave.

If you find yourself in this situation, and you press for your rights, the court can force your landlord must pay civil fines, and your attorney’s fees.

The primary legal protection for residential tenants in California who have had their utilities shut off by a landlord is found in Civil Code Section 789.3. This code section prohibits a landlord from cutting off utility services to a residential tenant for the purpose of terminating a tenancy. Landlords who violate this Section are liable to the tenant for damages in the amount of $100.00 per day for every day the tenant goes without utility service, plus actual damages caused by the loss of utility service, and the tenant’s attorney’s fees.

While the fine of $100.00 per day may not seem like much, it can add up quickly, and this fine does not include actual damages caused by the utility shut off such as the price of eating out when there is no gas or electricity to cook with, food spoiled from lack of refrigeration, the cost of being forced to pay for access to bathing and laundry facilities, and all other costs that a tenant may incur as a result of losing his or her home or access to utilities.

It is important that a tenant make a demand that the landlord restore utility service as soon as the water or electricity has been shut off.  This demand needs to be made in writing and documented by the tenant (keep a copy of all correspondence). Ideally, you will want to speak with a lawyer prior to sending this letter.

The letter to the landlord demanding the restoration of utility services should be direct and concise.

If a tenant cannot retain a private attorney, and does not qualify for Legal Aid assistance, then he or she should remember a few key points when writing the letter to the landlord demanding restoration of utility services.

Make sure that you keep a copy of the signed letter for your records and send it to the landlord via certified mail, so that you can show he or she actually received it.  The tenant should not make any threats, nor say anything that he or she would not want to repeat in public.
If the tenant is forced to bring a lawsuit, in order to have the utility services restored, then the letter may very well become evidence. It is not helpful in court to have a letter that is filled with personal attacks on the landlord, or otherwise shows the tenant in an unfavorable light.
It is important to remember that under the law, there is no reason that justifies a landlord shutting off a tenant’s access to utility services.
Even if a tenant is behind on the payment of rent, or the utilities, or even if the landlord has good cause to terminate the tenant’s right to continue to occupy the property, landlords must use the appropriate legal procedures to recover possession of the property.  

If your landlord has denied access to water or electricity, or has changed the locks to your home and will not allow you to re-enter



I do not represent, nor offer legal advice to tenants living outside of California.  If you live in a state other than California, then contact your local bar association and law enforcement when a landlord cuts of your utilities.

Contact Us

No one has to endure oppressive landlords.
Act now & take legal action to protect your home.

Get Representation

If you have a situation that is more than a question, and are already having a dispute with your landlord, then information alone is often not enough to settle the matter to your advantage. What most renters need, but seldom have, is an attorney who knows the law, and the landlord’s duties under the law, and is not afraid to advocate for tenants.

Even the most informed tenants can find the court system overwhelming.  Defending against eviction on your own is more than just challenging.  Fort the unprepared and unrepresented it is an ordeal filled with traps.  Tenants who go to court without an attorney frequently enter into bad agreements and suffer humiliation at the hands of the landlord’s lawyers. Having an experienced attorney on your side will make a difference.

Get Informed

If your situation is not a lawsuit in court, but rather a question, or a curiosity about what the law says, there are many places where you can find educational materials, and  every tenant should become familiar with the legal protections for tenants in California law.

Many times the answer to tenants’ legal questions are more complicated than they may first appear.  It’s important to be careful, and not to rely upon every piece of information posted online, or simply accept the advice of friends and neighbors.  Make sure the source of your legal advice is reliable and up to date.

Look around the website and see if we have information to help you.  If you have a question and you can’t find an answer,  click here to send us a comment.  An attorney that specializes in advocating for tenants will reply, and can direct you to the resources you need. 

Don't go to Trial unprepared

Written notices demanding the payment of rent, notices that threaten the termination of your lease, accusations of illegal activity, and notices of changes in terms and conditions of a lease from a landlord or property manager are often the prelude to legal action.  They must be taken seriously.  It is critical for tenants to respond to notice from a landlord intelligently and prudently.

Before you agree to excessive rent increases, or allow the oppressive actions of the owner or management intimidate you, meet with a professional.

Information, early in time, is the key to success.  Often times becoming informed can help you to avoid being on defense.  If you are not able to avoid litigation, then consult with an attorney who stands with tenants and defends their rights.

Don't Waste Time

When a tenant has a legal conflict with the landlord, there is often only a short period of time to act.  Under California law, landlords are usually required to give notice to tenants before they resort to legal action. However, most of these legally required notices give a tenant only three days to act.  When a tenant fails to act within the three days then the landlord can proceed to court.

Once an action to evict (also called unlawful detainer) is filed against a tenant in court, it can move very quickly.   Landlords enjoy a unique legal procedure, which is known as a summary proceeding.   Once a tenant is sued in court, and then served with an unlawful detainer summons, then he or she has only five days to respond.

If your landlord has sued you or is threatening to sue you, then you must act quickly. Hesitation and uncertainty can lead to a loss of money, loss of security and the loss of your home. Don’t wait.  Schedule an appointment for a consultation  immediately to discuss your case.