Free California Rental Lease Agreement

California Rental Lease Agreement

California is a dream home for most people, yet there is an increasing number of people who find themselves on the wrong side of the law for contravening landlord-tenant laws in rental lease contracts.

If you are thinking of making California home, you should be aware of all the laws that govern rental lease agreements in California.

  • The Official Rules and Regulations

    • California Department of Consumer Affairs – Landlord Tenant Rules

    • A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities (PDF)

    • California Health and Safety Code

    • Title 5: Chapter 4: Identification of Property Owners – Cal. Civ Code §§ 1961 – 1962.7

    • Title 5: Hiring of Real Property – Cal. Civ Code §§ 1940 – 1954

Detailed Landlord and Tenant Rental Lease Agreement Laws in California

Security Deposits

What is the maximum security deposit allowed?

Tenants need to pay two months’ rent for unfurnished dwellings and three months’ rent for furnished dwellings.

Is there a stature for security deposit interest?

There is no state-wide statute on security deposit interests, but on about 15 localities, there are rental control ordinances which require that you pay interest. The localities include Los Angeles.

Is there a statute for separate security deposit bank account?


Are there pet deposits and additional non-refundable fees?

No, they aren’t allowed.

What is the deadline for returning the security deposit?


When can the landlord withhold the security deposit?

  • Security deposit is withheld in the following cases:

    • In case of unpaid rent

    • Repairing damages, besides the normal wear and tear resulting from the tenant’s actions.

    • For cleaning the rental unit when a tenant moves out – only to make the unit as clean as it was before the tenant moved in.

    • When the lease agreement allows, the withheld amount caters for the cost of restoring/ restoring furnishings, furniture and other personal property.

Should there be a written description or an itemized list of damages and charges?

Yes. There, although there is no need for documentation and receipts to accompany itemized lists if the cost of cleaning and the repairs cost less than $126,

Is record keeping of the deposit withholdings necessary?


What happens in case of non-compliance?

If there is a bad faith claim or retention by a landlord, then these may subject the landlord to statutory damaged up to twice the total amount of the security, in addition to the actual damages.

Lease, Fees, and Rent

When is rent due?

Unless there is a contract to the contrary, and if the rental lease is for less than a year, then the rent is due at the end of every month. In most leases, the rent is due at the beginning of the month.

What are the payment methods acceptable?

According to the statutes, the landlord should allow at least one form of payment that isn’t cash or an electronic funds transfer. This is the case unless the tenant has insufficient funds to pay or they stopped making payments through money orders – if this is the case, the landlord may require cash payments.

How long is a rent increase notice?

In California, there is a 30-day notice for rent increase when the increase is less than 10 percent the lowest amount of rent charged in the last 12 months. If the rent increase is more than 10 percent the lowest amount of rent charged in the last 12 months, then, a 60 days’ notice is necessary.

Are late fees allowed?

Yes. However, the fees should be reasonable, and also, the fees should obey the rent control laws. The fees are also only enforceable if specified in the lease agreement.

How much are the application fees?

The application fees are adjustable annually based on the changes in the Consumer Price Index as from January 1, 1998. By 2012, the maximum allowable application fee is $44.51.

Is prepayment of rent acceptable?

Yes. The landlord can collect one month’s pre-paid rent during the first month, as well as two or three months’ security deposit.

How much are the returned check fees?

The fees are equal to the actual bank fee. Also, the landlord could charge a flat (service) fee of $25 for the first occurrence and $35 for subsequent occurrences.

Can the tenant withhold rent for the landlord’s failure to provide essential services like heat and water?

Yes. This is because the property is under the “implied warranty of habitability.”

Can the tenant repair and deduct rent?

Yes. But, the deduction shouldn’t e more than one month’s rent. Also, the tenant cannot use this remedy more than twice in a 12-month period.

Can the landlord recover court and attorney fees?


Can the landlord make a reasonable attempt to mitigate the damages to the lessee, in an attempt to re-rent?


Notices and Entry

Is notice to terminate tenancy possible on a fixed end date lease?

No notice is necessary though it is safe to offer a 60-days’ notice.

Is notice to terminate any periodic lease of a year or more necessary?

Well, the landlord has to give a 60-days’ notice is all the tenants have lived in the building for more than a year.

Do you need the notice to terminate a periodic month-to-month lease?

Yes, the landlord must give a 30-days’ notice, and the tenant should also give a 30-day notice.

What are the laws governing the notice to terminate a periodic week-to-week lease?

The landlord should give a 30-days’ notice, and the tenant must give a 7-days’ notice.

What are the conditions on the notice to terminate a lease because of the sale of the property?

  • A 30-days’ notice for periodic tenancies require notice is ALL these conditions are true:

    • The landlord contracted to sell the rental unit to another person who intends to occupy the rental unit for at least one unit after the tenancy elapses.

    • The landlord should have opened an escrow account with a licensed agent or a real estate broker.

    • The landlord should give a 30-day notice no later than 120 days after they open the escrow account

    • The landlord shouldn’t have previously given you a 60 or 30-day notice.

    • The unit should be one that can be sold as a separate unit from the other dwelling units.

How long is the notice of date/ time of a move-out inspection?

48 hours

How long is a notice of non-payment?

Three days

How long is an eviction notice for lease violation?

Three days to remedy the lease violation or the landlord can just file an eviction. Also, the landlord can terminate the lease of subletting without any permission or in case of illegal activities on the premises.

How long is the required notice before entry?

24 hours

Is entry allowed with a notice for repairs and maintenance issued?


Is entry allowed during a tenant’s extended absence?


Is there a statute on giving notice to tenants for the use of pesticides?


Are lockouts allowed?


Is utility shut off allowed?


Disclosures and miscellaneous notes

  • Under this section of the lease agreement contract, landlords have to educate tenants on matters relating to bedbugs.

    • The disclosure also contains the copy of the lease,

    • Accepting the first qualified applicant

    • Utilities and San Francisco utilities

    • Move in conditions,

    • Mold

    • Demolishment

    • Sexual offenders

    • Ordinances

    • Smoking

    • Proof of domestic violence status

    • Proof of domestic violence status

    • Pests disclosures

    • Special treatment

    • Locks.

    • Abandoned property

    • Retaliation

Legal and Court-related issues

  • Small claims court limits

    • $10,000 but the landlord may not file a suit for over $2,500 more than twice in a year.

    • Small Claims Court Limits – Los Angeles: $10,000

    • Small Claims Court Limits – San Diego: $10,000

    • Small Claims Court Limits – Orange County: $10,000

    • California Courts – Judicial Branch – Small Claims

Eviction cases are not allowed

Business Licenses

There are no state-wide statutes for business licenses, but some localities require the licenses

In Daly City, all landlords/ property managers who don’t live in shared rental units have to get business licenses.

If you are in agreement with these laws and you’d like to get you California rental lease agreement, you can fill in our rental lease agreement forms here.