California Rental Lease Agreements

The California Rental Lease Agreements are contracts used to add structure and provide legal protection for the parties involved in the renting of commercial or residential space. Once signed, the documents are legally binding and can be used to collect remedies in small claims court if one or more of the conditions of the lease are not followed. To better prevent against an unmanageable tenant moving into your property, require any possible tenants to complete our rental application.

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What is a California Lease Agreement?

California Lease Agreement is a formal agreement between the lessor (owner of a property) and lessee (moving into the property) that, once signed, binds both parties to a list of conditions that stay effective until the duration of the lease has expired. Things covered in the agreement include the amount of rent to be charged, what utilities the tenant will be required to pay, whether pets are allowed or not, and where the tenant can park, to name a few.

State Definition [Article 1 § 798.8] “‘Rental agreement’ is an agreement between the management and the homeowner establishing the terms and conditions of a park tenancy. A lease is a rental agreement.”

Types of Lease Agreements

College Roommate (Dorm Room) Agreement – A cordial non-binding document completed by students within a single college dorm defining the rules that they all agree to follow.

Commercial Lease Agreement – Used for the leasing of a property that will be used for commercial purposes.

Lease to Own Agreement – Gives the tenant the option to purchase the rented property at the end of the lease. Typically requires higher monthly payments in exchange for a lower purchase price.

Month-to-Month Lease – For short-term rentals; lease doesn’t end until tenant or landlord terminate it.

Roommate (Room Rental) Agreement – If you will be introducing another tenant into your rented property and need to set binding conditions, such as rent payments.

Standard Residential Lease Agreement – The most common lease agreement. Legally binding and includes terms of one (1) year.

Sublease Agreement – Used by tenants that don’t want to live in their rented property and need another individual to cover the payments. Requires permission by landlord if restricted in lease.

Is Subletting Allowed?

According to [§§ 1995.210 – 1995-270], subletting isn’t prohibited by law; instead, it is up to the landlord to decide whether subleasing will be permissible. In the majority of cases, subletting is barred explicitly in the agreement. However, the tenant can still request permission from the landlord in writing. If the landlord states the tenant can ask to have a subletter in the agreement, and the tenant doesn’t receive a response from a written request, it can be assumed that the tenant can sublease the rental.


When is Rent Due – Rent is required to be paid on the date specified in the agreement – typically the first (1st) of the month.

Raising Rent – If landlords plan on raising the rent, they must notify the tenant thirty (30) days in advance. If the amount of the rent increase is more than ten percent (10%) of the smallest rent charge in the past twelve (12) months, the landlord is required to give the tenant a forewarning of sixty (60) days.

Rent Control – Depending on the county in which the property is located, landlords can be restricted on the amount they can increase rent. Percentage increases are typically capped around 5-10%. For a location-specific breakdown of California’s Rent Control Law, head here.

Security Deposit Laws

Maximum Security Deposit – Landlords can charge a maximum of two (2) months’ rent if the property does not contain furniture and three (3) months if it is furnished. If the property will have a waterbed, the landlord can charge an additional half (1/2) a months rent.

Return Deadline – After the tenant has moved out of the property, the landlord has twenty-one (21) days to reimburse the tenant the security deposit (or the remainder of thereof).


In California, the landlord has to take definitive steps before eviction proceedings can ensue. If the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord can give the tenant a three (3) day notice before eviction proceedings can take place. The notice must state the name of the tenant, their phone number, property address, required payment, and who to make the payment to.

In addition to missed rent payments, the landlord can also issue a three (3) day notice if the tenant:

  • Violates a condition in the agreement
  • Significantly disturbs other tenants
  • Committed a felony on the premises
  • Stalked another tenant
  • Illegally houses weapons and/or ammunition
  • Uses the property for deliberate animal fights