16 Key Terms Every California Lease Should Include
Once you find your perfect pad on apartments.com, the next step is signing a lease agreement. A lease is a contract where one party conveys property to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment. The SoCal market has some of the highest rents in the world. One recent international survey ranked Los Angeles as the 8th least affordable market in the world. In the US, only the Honolulu, HI and Silicon Valley markets scored worse than LA in affordability. With sky-high rents, it is important to read and research from the beginning to save yourself from future costly disputes. Make sure you fully read the document and understand the relevant terms and obligations before you sign a for a SoCal rental unit.
Most landlords simply hand prospective tenants a printed form that has been copied so many times that its barely legible. There is no “standard” lease in California, therefore, you must carefully read and understand every clause in the document before you sign. If the landlord and/or property agent provide you with information or promises that are contradictory to what is stated in the lease agreement, be very wary of signing. If the lease agreement references any external documents, such as a “tenant rules and regulations”, be sure to request a copy before signing your lease.
While rental units move fast, you should not rush into signing any document. Take the lease agreement home, review the document and consult with a local attorney if you have any questions. Following are 16 key terms that should be included in every written rental agreement or lease:
- The names of the landlord and the tenant(s).
- The address of the rental unit.
- The amount of rent to be paid.
- When rent is due, who rent should be paid to and where the payment should be sent.
- The forms in which rent payments may be made, i.e. check, money order or online.
- The amount and purpose of any security deposit. (See Security Deposit Basics).
- The amount of any late charge or returned check fees.
- Whether pets are allowed, including species and breed restrictions.
- The number of people allowed to live in the rental unit.
- Whether attorney’s fees can be collected in the event of a lawsuit between you and the landlord.
- Who is responsible for paying utilities (internet, electric, water, trash).
- For a house or townhome with a yard, who is responsible for yard maintenance.
- Any promised repairs, including the date by which the repairs will be completed.
- Whether you can sublet the rental unit.
- Conditions under which the landlord is allowed to inspect the rental unit. (See Landlord Entry Restrictions).
- The name, address, and telephone number of the rental property’s owner, manager and/or agent who is authorized to receive legal notices for the owner.
If you think a rental agreement or lease is unfair, then do not sign it. Ask to negotiate any terms that do not fit your needs and make sure that the negotiated term is included in your final written agreement before signing. If you disagree with a term, but are unable to negotiate with the potential landlord, then carefully consider the importance of the term to you, and any effect it may have on disputes arising in the future. While you can always find another apartment and landlord, you cannot change or undo a signed agreement just because problems arise down the line.
A difficult lease agreement is often the hallmark of a difficult landlord. Be sure to read your lease agreement carefully, weigh the importance of unfavorable terms, consider future difficulty with the landlord, and consult with a local attorney if you need additional assistance.
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