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California Leases and Rental Agreements Laws

At one time or another, most of us have been on one side of the landlord-tenant relationship. Each state makes its own landlord-tenant laws, therefore, each state’s requirements for drafting and enforcing lease and rental agreements differ. Read on to get a brief overview of the laws governing these agreements in California, and the key things you should know before signing a lease or rental agreement.

State and Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

Even before a landlord-tenant relationship is formed, note that both California and the federal government impose anti-discrimination laws on the tenant selection process. This means that when deciding whether or not to lease to a potential tenant, a landlord may not discriminate based on the tenant’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status or disability; special accommodations for senior citizen housing, familial status or disability.

Key Lease and Rent Agreement Terms

Once a tenant is ready to sign a lease, there are certain terms and information that must be included in the final written agreement. Some of these terms include:

  • The physical address of the rental property;
  • The amount of rent to be paid;
  • When the rent is to be paid;
  • Where the rent is to be paid;
  • To whom the rent is to be paid and how to contact this person or entity (e.g. phone number, email, office address, etc.);
  • How the rent is to be paid (e.g. check, cashier’s check, etc.); and
  • The amount required for the security deposit.

The above is not an exhaustive list, but even that information can seem overwhelming and unimportant to a tenant -- especially once a rental amount has been agreed upon and the tenant has "passed" the landlord's screening process. However, skipping over key information (such as when and where rent payment should be delivered) could cause the tenant to miss a payment. This, in turn, may open up an opportunity for the landlord to start eviction proceedings. On the other hand, a landlord should ensure the lease agreement contains all the necessary terms, because he or she could lose an eviction proceeding if the lease is missing essential information.

Below is a table outlining the basics of California leases and rental agreements, with links to additional resources. 

Code Section

C.C. §51.2, 1945, 1950.5; Govt. Code §§12920, 12955

Terms of Leases

If tenant remains in possession and landlord accepts rent, parties are presumed to have renewed lease on same terms and for same time, not to exceed 1 year

Deposits

Limit 2 months rent for unfurnished, 3 months rent for furnished; interest on deposit not required; deposit must be refunded within 2 weeks of termination

Discrimination

No discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status or disability; special accommodations for senior citizen housing, familial status or disability

Uniform Residential Landlord & Tenant Act Adopted?

No

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a California Landlord-Tenant Lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

More Information

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, for more detailed information on California landlord-tenant law, you may want to take a look at the California Tenants Guide put out by the Department of Consumer Affairs. For more general information on a variety of related issues (such as rent and security deposits, landlords’ rights, tenants’ rights, and evictions), feel free to check out FindLaw’s section on landlord-tenant law. Finally, if you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you may want to consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified attorney.
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