Prior renting out a unit, every landlord should draft a written rental agreement that meets California state laws. Though this may seem rather routine, landlords have been known to lease out rental units without outlining the rental terms in writing. Unfortunately, landlords without a written rental agreement typically have difficulty terminating problematic tenants. Therefore, a well-drafted California rental agreement will let both the landlord and tenant know each party’s responsibilities in regards to the terms of tenancy. At minimum, it should identify the rental duration, security deposit, and rent amount. Contact us for more information on writing an effective rental agreement in California.

“Fortunately, A People’s Choice was able to help me create a new rental agreement that covers all the required notices and gives me more protection as a landlord. I won’t be caught short next time.” T. Willard
“When I had to evict a tenant, I discovered that my rental agreement was missing many important things. It did not even allow me to recover attorney fees if I had to hire one to help me with the eviction process! ” T. Willard

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Checklist of Important Clauses in California Rental Agreements

Identify All Tenants

Every California rental agreement should indicate the name of all tenants involved. Additionally, all adult tenants should sign the agreement and provide their personal information including date of birth and Social Security number. Collecting this data makes each tenant legally responsible for fulfilling all terms of the rental agreement. Then, as the landlord, you will have a right to file a lawsuit against all of the tenants in the event rent is not paid or property damage occurs. This personal information will come in handy should you file a lawsuit or collect a judgment.

Rental Duration, Security Deposit, & Rent Amount

A California rental agreement should clearly state the duration, security deposit, and monthly rent amount. The rental duration will depend on whether you seek a month-to-month, semi-annual, or one-year rental. Next, you should state the total rent collected per month as well as the date on which it is due. Then, state whether or not you will charge for late payments, and if so, when. Finally, include acceptable payment methods and to whom payment should be sent or delivered.

Note that most landlords require new tenants to pay a security deposit. Therefore, the rental agreement should identify the dollar amount of the security deposit and how it will be used. Some common examples include covering unpaid rent or damage to the property.

Responsibility for Repairs & Maintenance

The rental agreement should identify who is responsible for property repairs and maintenance. In addition, the agreement should state the period of time in which the tenant must notify the landlord of any necessary repairs for property damage the tenant is not responsible for. Last, identify any restrictions on different types of repairs or alternations the tenant can make. For example, note whether the tenant may paint a bedroom or make permanent modifications to the interior of the premises.

Dwelling Entry Notice

California law requires landlords to provide tenants with 24-hour notice prior to entering a rental unit. You should state this in your rental agreement. Eventually, if you intend to enter the premises, you must provide the tenant with legal notice in writing beforehand.

Illegal and Unacceptable Activities

It is important to include a clause in the rental agreement that prohibits illegal or unacceptable activities. This could potentially limit any liability that may arise in the event the landlord or tenant is sued for the tenant’s activities on the premises. For example, condominiums typically have CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions) that restrict certain actions on site. Thus, you should provide your tenant with these restrictions so they cannot say they “did not know” they were violating rules during their tenancy.


If you do not allow pets in the rental unit, you must insert a clause into the rental agreement prohibiting animals. On the other hand, if you are willing to allow pets, the rental agreement should identify any special restrictions such as weight, breed type, or number of pets. Furthermore, landlords may choose to add an additional “pet deposit” to cover any potential damage caused by a pet.

State Disclosures

Landlords must make several federal and state disclosures to a tenant prior to renting. For example, you may need to disclose that the property contains lead paint or other harmful chemicals known to cause cancer. Refer to the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ website for further information regarding mandated notices in California rental agreements. The California Association of Realtors also has a great rental disclosure reference chart.

Attorneys Fees Clause

If a landlord has to hire an attorney to formally file an unlawful detainer or eviction proceeding, the last thing they want is to lose out on legal fees. That said, a landlord may not necessarily need to hire an attorney for these proceedings. However, if a landlord does hire an attorney, and the rental agreement does not have an attorneys fees clause, the landlord may not be able to recover these legal costs.

Get Help With Your California Rental Agreement

Don’t be caught short. Unwanted tenants will use every possible legal loophole to stay in a rental property for as long as possible. Therefore, landlords need to take all means to protect their interest, property, and pocketbook. Make sure you have a solid, well-written California rental agreement.

Need assistance? Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to obtain a comprehensive checklist for a top notch California rental agreement.

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