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What Is a California Lease Agreement?

A California lease agreement is a legally binding real estate contract between the landlord or property management company and the tenants. When signed and dated by the involved parties, it allows the tenant to take legal possession of the property. A California lease agreement can be used for residential or commercial property.

Most Commonly Used California Lease Agreements

The most commonly used California lease agreements include an apartment lease, a roommate agreement, month to month lease, commercial lease agreement, and a standard residential rental agreement.

While all of the most commonly used California rental lease agreements share many of the same elements, they also have some distinct differences.

  • For example, a roommate agreement may outline which areas in the rental unit or apartment are for the exclusive use of the roommate and which areas may be used by all of the residents.
  • A standard residential lease agreement may be for a year, and upon termination of that year, switch to a month to month or automatically renew. However, it may be similar to a month to month lease in some ways. For instance, both may require a 30 day written notice to move out at the end of the agreement if the tenant and landlord do not plan to renew their agreement.

How to Write a California Lease Agreement

California lease agreements must adhere to California laws. If they don't, they are unenforceable in court. There are a lot of different laws that you must consider. You'll learn more about many of them under the sections related to disclosures and security deposits.

Before you sign a California lease agreement, make sure that you read the terms. You also have the right to have an attorney review a California lease agreement before you sign it.

A sample California lease agreement needs:

  • Names of the parties - The landlord's full name or the property management company's legal business name. The full name of the tenant(s).
  • The property address for the leased space or rental property.
  • Term Information - The type of lease agreement the parties agree to enter into. For example, a month-to-month lease or a fixed term. A fixed term lease means that the parties agree that the tenant will hold possession of the space for a certain amount of time, usually one year. If it is a fixed lease, this section should include the date that the lease will end.
  • Rental Amount - The date that the lease will begin, the amount of the monthly rent, the day of the month that rent is due, and the address where the rent may be paid.
  • Late Fees - List any applicable fee that is due if the rent is not paid by a certain date.
  • Security Deposits - The amount of deposit that must be paid in advance of the tenant taking control of the property. A security deposit is used to repair damages caused by the tenant.
  • Initial Payment - The total amount of money that the tenant must pay to move into the space. This area should include the amount of the first month's rent, the security deposit, and the total of the two numbers added together.
  • Occupants - The full name of each tenant must be listed even if they are a minor or are not signing the lease for some reason. This part of a California residential lease agreement establishes who will reside in the residential unit. For commercial space leases, it designates those who have permission to use the space.  If the presence of additional occupants changes the price of the rent, it should be included in this section.
  • Utilities - Note which utilities or services a tenant does not pay.
  • Parking - Informs the tenant if they will receive a parking space. If a parking space is reserved and there is a designated spot, the spot should be listed in this section.
  • Furnishings - Tells tenants what they are allowed to install (such as a washing machine or dishwasher) or what they may not install. If the tenant is not allowed to bring their own appliances, that should be designated in this section.
  • Notices - Lists the names of both the landlord and tenant (or property manager) along with their proper address. This contact information should be used if the parties need to send out a notice to the other party for some reason.
  • Eviction - Lets prospective tenants know about how eviction proceedings would be carried out in the event of nonpayment or breach of other lease terms.
  • Additional Terms - List any other obligations that the parties agreed to that haven't been included in any other section of the lease agreement.
  • Signature and Date - The document should be signed and dated by all parties.

Which Disclosures Belong in a California Lease Agreement?

In California, there are several required disclosures and there are also optional disclosures. Additionally, the lease should explain when the landlord, property management company, or their authorized agent may have access to the property. In general, the landlord must provide at least 24 hours of notice for a non-emergency reason or for maintenance. For move out inspections, landlords must provide 48 hour notice under California law.

The landlord must include a bedbug addendum. This disclosure explains to the tenant that the landlord has no prior knowledge of existing bed bugs before the tenant moves in. The tenant is also instructed to confirm that their furniture doesn't have bed bugs before they move into the unit.

A demolition disclosure must be used if the landlord received any permit to demolish a residential unit. The landlord must tell the tenant about it in the disclosure before the landlord accepts a California lease agreement or deposit for the unit.

If the landlord has defaulted on the mortgage, they must inform the tenant of this at the time or before the lease is signed.

Under federal law, any residential unit built before 1978 is required to have a lead-based paint disclosure. This disclosure notifies the tenants that lead paint may still exist in the building even if it has been repainted.

The State of California also requires its lease agreements to include information about Megan's Law. This is a law that requires authorities to inform the community about the location of convicted sex offenders.

A mold disclosure must also be used to educate the tenant on the health risks posed by mold.

If the landlord of a residential unit has actual knowledge of any former federal or state ordnance locations in the neighborhood, they must disclose that to the tenant before the lease agreement is signed.

If a pest control company has conducted treatment on the property and filed a report, this information must be provided to the tenant.

If the unit has shared utilities, such as a shared electrical or gas meter, the landlord must explain in the California lease agreement how the utilities will be split among those involved.

The landlord must include a smoking disclosure that explains if smoking is allowed. If smoking is allowed, it must explain where smoking may be done, such as a common area.

Common optional disclosures include:

  • An asbestos addendum if the property has asbestos
  • A carbon monoxide detector compliance form is used if the landlord is required to have carbon monoxide monitors inside the unit
  • Covenants, conditions, and restrictions
  • Guidelines for grilling
  • Checklists for the move-in and move out process
  • A personal guaranty if the location is leased by a business and the tenant is high risk
  • Pet agreement
  • Pool and hot tub addendum
  • Renter's insurance addendum
  • Satellite dish addendum

What You Need to Know about California Lease Agreement Deposits

In California, the maximum security deposit that a landlord may charge depends on whether the unit is furnished or unfurnished. A security deposit for a furnished unit can be no more than three months' rent. The security deposit for an unfurnished unit can be no more than two months' rent.

According to state law, the landlord must return any and all security deposits due to the tenant (minus deductions that are documented on an itemized statement) within 21 days.

Download a PDF or Word Template

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