Generally, landlords request that tenants sign a lease upon agreeing to rent an apartment. In California, the Department of Consumer Affairs notes that leases with a length of one year or less can be executed orally or in writing. Leases with a term of greater than one year must be written. Since California does not require landlords to use a standard lease agreement, you can create your own. For the most part, what you choose to include is up to you; however, covering several key bases offers protection and peace of mind to landlords and renters.
Include basic identifying information, such as your name, the tenant's name, the rental unit's address, the amount of rent and the terms governing the payment of rent, including your late fee policy. The California Department of Consumer Affairs also suggests including the amount of the security deposit. State law requires that a building owner or manager is named, along with contact information, in all apartment leases. Rent payment parameters are required as well, including acceptable forms of payment.
Detail who is allowed to inhabit the rental unit. In addition to the primary tenant, list the names of all subtenants, including children, and the names and types of all approved pets. Include key provisions of your pet policy in the lease.
List who is responsible for paying utilities and taking care of landscaping if outdoor areas exist on the property. If you agreed to conduct maintenance or repairs on the rental unit, note what you will do and by when.
Include a disclaimer noting that the California Department of Justice runs the "Megan's Law" website, which offers information about registered sex offenders in the state. California law requires inclusion of notices in all leases.
Place a clause in the lease that notes who is responsible for legal fees if a lawsuit should ensue between landlord and tenant.
Write into the lease any other agreements you have with your tenant. For example, if you provide a parking space, lay out the details associated with the location and use of the space. If you allow subletting of the rental unit, explain guidelines for the process.
- Due to the relative scarcity of items that California requires landlords to include in apartment leases, several law firms and organizations provide lease templates online. The San Francisco Apartment Association provides guidance in this regard.
About the Author
As a writer since 2002, Rocco Pendola has published numerous academic and popular articles in addition to working as a freelance grant writer and researcher. His work has appeared on SFGate and Planetizen and in the journals "Environment & Behavior" and "Health and Place." Pendola has a Bachelor of Arts in urban studies from San Francisco State University.
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