California Residential Lease Agreement

A landlord renting residential property to tenants will present them with a residential lease to sign as their rental agreement. A standard residential lease is a contract outlining the terms agreed to by, in this case, the “lessor” (or owner) and the “lessee” (or tenant).

This article will guide you through the rules and regulations to keep in mind regarding your California residential lease agreement.

Sample California Rental Agreement

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Download our free sample California residential lease agreement

This residential lease is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a lawyer before drafting your lease.

Guidelines for Renting Your California Residential Property

We strongly recommend that when you receive an application from a prospective tenant, you carefully check their credit history and current employment to verify that they will be able to pay their rent.

Rather than facing possible lawsuits or debt collectors as an individual or partnership, we recommend you form an LLC for your real estate business. This will protect your personal assets and keep them separate from the finances of your rental properties. An LLC will give your business other benefits as well, including a flexible structure that has great advantages at tax time.

Rules to Keep in Mind When Creating a Rental Lease in California

Security Deposits

The maximum you can ask is two months’ rent for an unfurnished apartment or three months’ rent for a furnished apartment.

You must return the security deposit within 21 days of a tenant vacating the apartment, and if you deduct any amount, you must provide an itemized list.

Late Rent

The tenant must pay the rent by whichever day of the month is stated in the lease as the due date.

Late fees must be “reasonable.” As an example, in Los Angeles County, 5% of the monthly rent has been deemed a reasonable amount for a late fee.

If rent is significantly late, you have the option to send a “three-day notice to quit,” which is an official form offering the tenant the choice of paying in full within three days or vacating your property.

Notice Given for Access

You must give the following minimum notice before entering your tenant’s domicile:

  • Emergencies: no notice required
  • Maintenance or for showing the property: 24 hours
  • Move-out inspection: 48 hours

Notices must be either:

  • Personally delivered to the tenant,
  • Left with someone at the property,
  • Left on, near, or under the entry door of the premises in a way in which a reasonable person would discover the notice, or
  • Mailed at least six days before an intended entry.

Required Disclosures

Shared Utilities
If the unit has a shared gas or electricity meter, the lease must state how the expenses are to be divided.

Flood Disclosure
You are required to notify your tenant if the building is located in a special flood zone.

Megan’s Law
Every California residential lease must contain the following phrasing:

“Notice: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at Depending on an offender’s criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and ZIP Code in which he or she resides.”

Lead Paint Disclosure
Landlords are required to inform their tenants of any lead-based paint in the walls or ceiling, including in the undercoatings. This is true for all housing units built before 1978.

Pest Control
If pest control has been performed on the building, a copy of the inspection report by the pest control company must be provided to the prospective tenant.

Bedbug Addendum
The landlord must affirm that there are no bedbugs on the premises before the tenant moves in, and the tenant must affirm that their furniture and belongings are also bedbug-free.

Smoking Policy
If smoking is permitted on the premises, the tenant must be made aware of all locations, including common areas, where it is allowed.

If you’ve received a permit to demolish a residential unit from your municipal office, you have to disclose this to your new tenant before you accept a lease or a deposit.

If you know, or have good reason to believe, that there is mold, whether visible or invisible, in the building or affecting the building, you are required to disclose this to your tenants before signing a lease.

If you’re aware of any federal or state ordnance in the neighborhood of the property, you must inform the prospective tenant. In other words, if the area is a former military ordnance location, there may still be dangerous live munitions there.

The Truic Flame Logo

Download our free sample California residential lease agreement

This residential lease is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a lawyer before drafting your lease.

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