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California Residential Lease Agreement

Create a California residential lease agreement that is specially tailored to your needs. Start your document now with the help of easy to follow step-by-step instructions and expert guidance.

Last Update May 1st, 2022

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What is a Residential Lease Agreement

A residential lease agreement is a legal contract between a landlord and a tenant. This is written to conform to state laws (for example, California lease agreements are tailored to the laws of California) on residency and rental real estate. It also outlines the most important details of the agreement between the two parties such as:

  • How long the tenant may legally occupy the property

  • The amount and due date of each rental installment

  • Additional fees and costs that the tenant is responsible for

  • Terms that police the use of the property

  • Violations that will void the agreement

  • Eviction procedures

Common Uses of CA Lease Agreement

California lease agreements can be used to manage and legally bind many different types of rental situations. This allows both landlords and tenants to flexibly choose the best kind of contractual arrangement to suit their respective needs. The most common uses of CA lease agreements are as follows:

  • Standard lease agreements: Under a standard lease agreement both the landlord and tenant commit to a fixed set of terms that last for a series of months or years.

  • Rent-to-own lease agreements: Lease agreements with rent-to-own options are designed for tenants that wish to buy the property they are renting. This requires them to pay a sum of money each month, in addition to rent, to cover the costs of the principal.  

  • Month-to-month rental agreements: Month-to-month lease agreements will often have similar basic terms to standard residential lease contracts. However, they differ as they can be renewed or ended on a month-by-month basis. Their terms may also be flexibly altered each month. 

  • Commercial lease agreements: Commercial leases are provided by landlords of retail property to tenants that intend to use the real estate to run a business.

  • Room rental agreements: In rental properties with shared living areas a room rental agreement can be used to rent a singular bedroom.

California Lease Agreement Laws

There are a few specificities to be careful of when creating a California lease agreement. California law sets strict rules on considerations such as:

  • Security deposits: In unfurnished properties, landlords can demand no more than 2 months’ rent as a security deposit. This rises to 3 months if the property is furnished. At the end of the lease if the tenant complies with the lease’s terms when vacating the property the landlord must return the security deposit within 21 days of them moving out (§ 1950.5 and § 1940.5 (g))

  • Landlord’s right to enter: Landlords can enter the rental property by giving 24 hours’ advance notice (a written notice is recommended). However, 48 hours’ notice is required before the landlord may enter to give the final inspection before the tenant moves out (§ 1954).

Required Disclosures for CA Lease Agreements

California law requires a number of important disclosures to appear in completed CA lease agreements. This is to properly inform the tenant of any health risks or potential issues with the property that they must be aware of. These essential addendums may include:

  • Asbestos disclosure: Obligatory for all properties built before 1979 where asbestos is known to be present by the landlord. (HSC § 25915 - 25919.7)

  • Lead-based paint disclosure: Rental units built before 1978 must disclose whether or not lead-based paint can be found on the property and where it is located if present (HSC § 17920.10).

  • Methamphetamine contamination disclosure: Necessary for properties where the landlord knows or suspects the use, storage, or production of methamphetamine has taken place (HSC § 25400.10).

  • Mold disclosure: Essential for properties where health risks may occur due to mold (HSC § 26147)

  • Military ordinance disclosure: Properties located within 1 mile of known military testing facilities must disclose the fact.

  • Death in a rental unit disclosure: A crucial addendum for properties and units where a death has occurred within the last 3 years (excluding HIV and AIDS-related deaths).

  • Pest control disclosure: Rental units that use pesticides for infestations or with pest control schedules must clearly disclose this information (HSC § 25207.1).

  • Bedbug disclosure: All rental units must provide an addendum that advises on how to prevent bedbug infestations (HSC § 1954.603).

  • Demolition permit order: Essential for properties that are scheduled to be demolished during the residential term (HSC § 19827.5).

  • Sex offender registry notice: All rental contracts in California must provide an addendum that residents have the right to access information on the sex offenders register (HSC § 1522.01).

How to Get a Lease Agreement in California

It is possible to create a California lease agreement completely online. Using our residential lease agreement maker you can tailor your document for your specific needs and take advantage of professional templates and expert tips.

Alternatively, it is possible to find forms and templates from the California Association of Realtors, which can be manually completed by landlords. Another option is to call upon the services of an attorney to draw up the document, although this carries additional costs.

California Residential Lease Agreement Sample

Before starting your own rental lease agreement, it can help to first examine a professional example document. To get an idea of how your final form should appear read through our California residential lease agreement sample below.

California Lease Agreement FAQs

It is important to carefully prepare a California lease agreement to suit the needs of the landlord and tenant exactly. If you still have any doubts about what to include in your final document, browse our FAQs below to find the answers you need.

Lease Agreement or Rental Agreement?

There is a key difference between a California lease agreement and a California rental agreement, which is the length of duration that they each cover.

Lease agreements are normally longer-term arrangements that can last several months or even years, in which their terms remain fixed. Rental agreements on the other hand are shorter-term in nature but are more flexible and may be changed on a weekly or monthly basis.

How to Renew a Lease Agreement in CA?

There are a number of ways to renew lease agreements in California. First of all, landlords and tenants can negotiate and agree on a new contract to replace an older expiring document. It is also possible to create an automatic renewal provision in the agreement for when it ends.

In the case of automatic renewal options, assuming no notice to end the agreement is given by either party before it expires, the contract will become either a month-to-month agreement or renewed for an additional term. 

Furthermore, it is important to be aware that if the landlord continues to receive rent from the occupant after the lease ends, the resident will become an at-will tenant. This means that the landlord will need to give sufficient notice before requiring the occupants to vacate the property.

How to Write a CA Lease Termination Letter?

If either the landlord or tenant for any reason needs to terminate a CA lease agreement early, they must provide the correct amount of notice in a written CA lease termination letter.

This letter needs to contain the following information:

  • The name of the landlord and the tenant

  • The date the letter has been written and signed

  • The name and address of the property in question

  • Information explaining why the tenancy needs to be terminated early

  • The reason the lease is being broken

  • The date that the resident will vacate the property

  • Acknowledgement of any penalties that will be incurred

  • Signature of the signing party

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