California Rental Lease Agreements

The California Rental Lease Agreements are documents that detail the precise legal responsibilities landlords and tenants have to one another regarding the rental of a property. Put simply, the agreement outlines each party’s obligations, including, but not limited to the names of the landlord and tenant(s), the dollar amount of rent due each month, the responsibilities of each party, and the agreement’s end-date. Before entering into a lease agreement in the state of California, both landlords and tenants should become acquainted with California’s landlord-tenant laws, found in the Cal. Civ Code § 1925 – 1954 & § 1961 to 1962.7.

Types of Lease Agreements

Commercial Lease Agreement – This rental agreement is specifically made for business purposes, where a tenant wishes to rent out a commercial premise.

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Lease to Own Agreement – An agreement that establishes terms for a tenant to purchase the rented property during the term of their lease, should they wish to do so.

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Month-to-Month Lease Agreement – Allows for tenants to rent a property typically for thirty (30) day periods.

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Roommate Agreement – Suitable for roommates who wish to have their obligations and responsibilities to one another clearly outlined.

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Standard Residential Lease Agreement – Typically a one (1) year lease agreement that lists standard processes and procedures for the rental of a property in California.

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Sublease Agreement – Given that there are no laws in California regarding subleasing, this agreement serves as a useful tool to outline subleasing conditions of a given property.

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What is a California Lease Agreement?

California Lease Agreement establishes a legal relationship between two parties—the landlord and the tenant—for the lease of a property in California. The document is necessary in order to make clear the legal duties and responsibilities expected of each party. It is highly recommended that landlords require tenants to fill out a rental application so that they can screen candidates prior to committing to them.

State Definition (§ 800.5) – “means an agreement between the management and the homeowner establishing the terms and conditions of a tenancy. A lease is a rental agreement.”

When is Rent Due?

Under the California Civil Code 1947, rent is “payable at the termination of the holding” as it successively becomes due, whether the holding be “by the day, week, month, quarter, or year.” In other words, rent must be paid by the due date specified in the rental contract, of which is usually at the end of the month. There is no grace period under Californian law.

Landlord’s Access

Emergency (§ 1954-1): Landlords are allowed to enter the property in emergency circumstances.

Non-Emergency (§ 1954-2): Entry is allowed by landlords to “make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors or to make an inspection pursuant to subdivision.” However, entry should take place during normal business hours.

Required Disclosures

Bed Bug Disclosure (§ 1954.602): Landlords should notify tenants of any known bed bug problems. In line with a new bill introduced in 2017, landlords must provide more extensive information regarding bed bugs.

Carcinogenic Material: According to California Landlord-Tenant Practice, if a landlord has ten (10) or more employees, they must disclose the existence of known carcinogenic material, such as asbestos, to prospective tenants. 

Death in Unit (§ 1710.2): Landlords must inform tenants if a previous tenant died within the last three years, unless the cause of death was due to AIDS.

Demolish Plans (§ 1940.6): Landlords seeking to demolish a rental unit must give notice to tenants before accepting any money.

Flood Hazards (§ AB-646): Tenants must be informed if the property is situated either in a flood hazard area or an area with the potential to flood.

Lead Paint Disclosure: Federal law stipulates that landlords of properties built prior to 1978 must disclose known lead paint and hazards to tenants, as well as provide a copy of a government-issued pamphlet on the topic.

Megan’s Law: Rental agreements must include written notice about the registered sex offenders website, Megan’s Law.

Mold (§ 26147):  Prior to the lease being signed, any mold in the property that affects the dwelling or exceeds permissible exposure limits must be disclosed.

Ordnances (§ 1940.7): Any former ordnances in the neighborhood of the dwelling must be disclosed by the landlord.

Pest control (§ 1940.8): If a pest control service has been executed, landlords must provide new tenants with a copy of the notice provided by the pest control company.

Shared Utility Meters (§ 1940.9): A landlord must disclose when utility meters are shared between more than one rental unit before a tenant signs a lease.

Security Deposit Laws

Maximum amount (§ 1950.5.4): In California, a landlord may not demand or receive security for an amount in excess of two (2) month’s rent for unfurnished properties and equal to three (3) month’s rent for furnished properties, in addition to any rent for the first month paid on or before initial occupancy.

Returning to tenant (§ 1950.5.5): Any deposits should be returned to tenants within twenty-one (21) days from the time the tenant moved out of the property, with deductions listed in an itemized statement.

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