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California Rental Lease Agreement | Laws

A California lease agreement is used by owners of residential or commercial property so they may set legally binding terms and conditions while renting space to tenants. There are a number of types of agreements that are specific to different rental situations. In most cases, the landlord/owner will have potential tenants complete application forms so they can select the best candidate for tenancy. Once a tenant has been chosen, the terms of the agreement can be discussed between the parties before the contract is signed.

Rental Application – This is the form used to examine each applicant before choosing an individual for tenancy.


Agreements: By Type (6)

Commercial Lease Agreement – Typically a longer and more detailed contract, a commercial lease agreement is used to rent office, industrial, or retail space to a business or individual.

Download: Adobe PDF, MS Word, OpenDocument

Lease with Option to Purchase (Lease to Own) – This agreement is used to rent out space on a fixed-term while providing the tenant the option to buy the place under certain terms and conditions.

Download: Adobe PDF, MS Word, OpenDocument

Month-to-Month Lease Agreement – A month to month lease can be terminated by either party (tenant or landlord) at any time as long as proper notice is given. If no notice is given, the lease continues in perpetuity.

Download: Adobe PDF

Roommate Agreement – Created for the purposes of establishing living arrangements between roommates sharing a residential dwelling. This agreement can be used to add roommates to a dwelling without them being on the original lease.

Download: Adobe PDF, MS Word, OpenDocument

Standard (1-year) Lease Agreement – The most common residential lease agreement used to establish a one (1) year tenancy with the option to negotiate additional years at the end of the fixed term.

Download: Adobe PDF, MS Word, OpenDocument

Sublease Agreement – Used by a tenant to rent out part of their rented property or the entirety of the dwelling to another individual. A sublease can only be created if the landlord has permitted such action in the original lease agreement.

Download: Adobe PDF

Landlord-Tenant Laws


Bedbug Infestations (CIV Code § 1954.603) – Before entering into a tenancy agreement, landlords must provide written notice to tenants with information concerning bed ugs.

Demolition (CIV Code § 1940.6) – Before signing a rental agreement, landlords must notify prospective tenants if they have applied for a permit to demolish a residential unit.

Death (CIV Code § 1710.2(a)(1)(A)) – Landlord must disclose to a new tenant if an occupant died on the premises within the last three (3) years.

Flood (GOV Code § 8589.45) – If property is located in a special flood hazard area, landlord must disclose this information to tenants.

Megan’s Law (CIV Code § 2079.10a(a)(3)) – A notice that must be included in every lease agreement so the prospective tenant is aware that they can perform an internet search for registered sex offenders in their area.

Mold (HSC Code § 26147) – Written disclosure must be provided to all tenants if there is mold present in the unit or building; if the problem was remediated, landlord is not obliged to notify prospective tenants.

Ordnance Locations (CIV Code § 1940.17(b)) – Landlords must notify tenants if the property is located in a neighborhood that was once used as a federal or state ordnance location.

Shared Utilities (CIV Code § 1940.9) – Landlords must notify tenants if the unit has a shared electrical or gas meter so they can understand how the costs of these utilities are split amongst tenants.

Smoking Policy (CIV Code § 1947.5)  – All lease agreements must have a section notifying tenants of the prohibited smoking areas around the building.

Landlord’s Access

General Access (CIV Code § 1954(d)(1)) – State law defines twenty-four (24) hours as a reasonable notice time before entering the premises for non-emergency reasons.

Emergency Access (CIV Code § 1954) – A landlord may enter a tenant’s dwelling for emergency purposes without notice.


Grace Period – None mentioned in state statutes; therefore, landlord is not obliged to provide any grace period for late rent payments.

Maximum Fees ($) (Tenant-Landlord Guide Page 30)– Late fees are not specified in California law, but it is noted in the handbook that late fees may not be more than a reasonable estimate of costs incurred by landlord for late rent payment.

Rent Increase Notice (CIV Code § 827(b)(2-3)) – Thirty (30) days notice must be provided to tenant if rent will be increased. If the rent increase is more than 10% of the lowest amount charged over the last twelve (12) months, sixty (60) days notice is required.

Security Deposits

Maximum Amount ($) (CIV Code § 1950.5(c)(1)) – Two (2) months’ rent if the unit is unfurnished and three (3) months’ rent if it is furnished.

Returning to Tenant (CIV Code § 1950.5(g)(1)) – Landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit no later than twenty-one (21) days after the tenant has vacated the premises.

Interest Required? – Not specifically mentioned in state statutes.

Separate Bank Account? – Not specifically mentioned in state statutes.