The Residential Lease is used to create a fixed term tenancy in California. A landlord should use this agreement to

  1. Clearly set forth all the terms and conditions of the tenancy with the tenant, and
  2. Comply with California's requirements for renting residential real property (California Civil Code, starting at section 1925)
The lease agreement you may create using this website is very comprehensive and may be quickly customized to your particular needs. Simply select the answers to the questions in our Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease, and your signature ready document will be created. You will not need to rewrite paragraphs that you're not sure about, add disclosures you don't know about, or fill in blanks by hand. The Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease helps you professionally customize your document.

NOTICES: This residential lease contains the notices required by California law for non-separated gas/electric meters, owner/agent identification, and database disclosure. Please read the section below about disclosures to learn more this subject.



The term of a residential lease refers to the period of time during which the tenant will occupy the rented premises.

In a Residential Lease, the term is fixed. A fixed term, also known as a "tenancy for years", terminates on a given date without notice. This means there must be a definite start date and a definite termination date. This also means that neither party need give the other notice that the tenancy is terminating. However, this does not mean that the tenant must leave when the term ends. Pursuant to California Civil Code section 1945, if the tenant remains in possession of the premises after the residential lease terminates, and the landlord accepts rent from the tenant, the agreement is presumed to renew, but the term is capped at one month IF the rent is payable monthly, and capped at one year in any case. In many cases, this means that the fixed term tenancy converts to a month to month.

Properly describing the rental property is very important.

First, you can't use the same Residential Lease for an apartment, a condominium, and a house. Different properties require setting forth different rights in the agreement. For example, in an apartment complex, other tenants share common areas, whereas with a condominium, there are HOA rules to follow. Therefore, you must select the type of place you will be renting.

Second, the premises could include or exclude a variety of items, such a parking spots or storage space. It is important to note such items in the Residential Lease. Although the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease asks you about the most common items, if they are not applicable to your situation, please choose "Not Applicable." Additionally, if you have an item not listed that you wish to include or exclude, you may enter that item under the "Other" category. If you select "Include" or "Exclude", you must describe your item in the text box provided. Please be as specific as possible in your description.

Finally, the tenant is allowed to use the premises only for residential purposes. Depending on whether the tenant is renting a house, or merely a unit in a large complex, the landlord may allow or prohibit certain activities on the Premises and the surrounding areas. Each item must be marked as "Allowed" or "Not Allowed".

The Residential Lease must state where the tenant will deliver rent. Rent can be delivered by mail or in person. Therefore, the address entered in the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease should be a location that allows the tenant to personally deliver the rent.

If a late fee provision is chosen, the amount of the charge should not be too high. It must be a reasonable estimate of the landlord's actual damage that will be caused by tenant's failure to pay rent on time. Every landlord must assess his/her own situation. Landlords usually consider things like the following:

  • whether the landlord may not be able to pay his mortgage on time because rent was paid late, and the charges landlord will incur as a result
  • whether landlord may have to borrow money to cover the mortgage until tenant pays rent, and the charges landlord will incur as a result
  • what landlord's lost time value of money will equal
The costs associated with these and other factors should be used to estimate the landlord's damage. If the amount of the late charge is too high, it could be considered void. Between 3%-6% of the overdue rent payment is usually considered fair, but again, every landlord's situation is different. For landlord's, it is best to err on the side of a smaller late charge. It is important to remember that a late charge provision is not supposed to be an opportunity to make a profit; it is meant to compensate for damages that the landlord will suffer. The amount must be chosen accordingly.

MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF SECURITY DEPOSITS (and other things you should know)
Governing Law
Security deposits for residential tenancies are governed by California Civil Code section 1950.5.

Is There A Maximum Amount?
A landlord cannot demand or receive a security deposit that exceeds (in amount or value):
          1) two month's rent for an unfurnished unit, and
          2) three month's rent for a furnished unit.
If the tenant will have a waterbed on the premises, the landlord may increase the security deposit by another ½ months rent, pursuant to California Civil Code section 1940.5.

What Exactly Counts As Security?
The definition of a security deposit is provided in California Civil Code section 1950.5(b). This definition makes it clear that the label placed on a deposit, charge or fee is not what characterizes that deposit, charge or fee. For example, a key deposit would still be considered part of the security deposit. Even a charge for "last month's rent," is considered part of the security deposit. This means that a landlord cannot charge more than the maximum amounts stated above just by using a different name on the deposit, charge or fee. (This does not include a separate screening fee that may be charged pursuant to California Civil Code section 1950.6.)

What Could A Tenant Be Required To Pay Upon Move-In?
The landlord can require that the tenant pay, upon move-in, the first month's rent plus a sum of money, no matter what it's called, no greater than two month's rent (except in the case of a furnished unit).

What Can It Be Used For?

The landlord may use from the security deposit only those amounts as are reasonably necessary to:

  1. Compensate landlord for tenant's default in the payment of rent,
  2. Repair damages to the premises, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear, caused by tenant or by a guest or licensee of tenant,
  3. Clean the premises upon termination of the tenancy necessary to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy, and
  4. Remedy any default of tenant's obligation herein to restore, replace, or return personal property or appurtenances.
What Happens After The Tenant Moves Out?
Within three weeks after the tenant has moved out, the landlord must give the tenant an itemized statement indicating what the security was used for and a refund of any unused amount.

Responsibility for utilities is generally a matter open to negotiation between the parties. However, the landlord must disclose to the tenant whether the tenant's gas or electric meter serves an area outside of the tenant's unit by including a statutory notice disclosing that fact in the Residential Lease. See California Civil Code section 1940.9. If you use this wesite to customize your residential lease, our Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease asks you about this and includes the proper notice in the lease if you select "yes."

The residential lease must include the responsible party for each utility as decided between the parties. To allow for personal residences with existing service or for modern buildings, services other than traditional utilities have been included. You may add another service if the cost of that service is an issue. If a particular utility is not applicable to your dwelling unit, you should select "Not Applicable" in the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease.

If the landlord and tenant will split the cost of a particular bill, the percentage amount that each party will pay must be determined. This is indicated by entering the tenant's percentage amount.

Finally, if the landlord is paying for a particular utility, it is assumed that the utility will be kept in the landlord's name.

This provision refers to sleep-over guests. The Residential Lease allows tenants to have guests, but the number of guests and the duration of their stay is open to negotiation. If a guest is to stay long term, then he/she should be added as a tenant to the Residential Lease. Every landlord must consider his/her/its own unique circumstances. A large apartment complex may need stricter rules than a private residence. Furthermore, local rent control laws may exist that would affect eviction procedures of non-tenant persons who are staying on the premises. This should also be taken into consideration.

Any dwelling requires repair and maintenance from time to time. The landlord and tenant must agree who will be responsible for such repair and maintenance, and must indicate the same in the Residential Lease. While this issue is open to negotiation, many factors can affect the negotiation process. Such factors include local regulations or customs, whether the dwelling is furnished or not, whether any particular system or appliance is provided by landlord or tenant, and general market conditions.

Whether or not the tenant is responsible for the systems and appliances (which include things such as air conditioning, dishwasher, oven, stove, etc.), the Residential Lease should state what specific responsibilities the tenant has, if any. The Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease allows you to enter this information. If, for example, the tenant is supposed to water the plants in the balcony, or wash the rooftop patio every week, that information should be entered where requested.

To prevent problems down the road, either before move-in, or very soon thereafter, the premises should be inspected to the tenant's satisfaction. The landlord must deliver the premises in habitable condition. Items that do not affect habitability but that never the less are unsatisfactory to tenant should be noted. The tenant should prepare a letter to the landlord indicating all unsatisfactory items that either 1) the landlord should repair, or 2) that should be noted as damaged or unsatisfactory from the outset so that the tenant cannot later be blamed for the preexisting condition.

For example, if there is a cracked tile in the entryway of the apartment, this should be noted to the landlord. While the landlord may or may not repair this condition, it should be noted as preexisting so that the tenant is not later held responsible for its repair. If the landlord and tenant have inspected the premises together, both of them should sign the letter identifying the preexisting conditions. If the tenant provides this letter after move-in (so that the landlord has not inspected the premises with the landlord), the tenant should mail this letter certified and retain proof of the mailing.

Most landlords of larger apartment complexes have rules and regulations that all tenants must follow. These rules reflect the landlord's policy about certain things (such as hours of operation for the swimming pool, or use of a common recreation room), and may change from time to time. If such rules exist, they should be incorporated into the Residential Lease. The rules should be given to the tenant with the lease, and should be posted somewhere on the building. This is not an issue for owners of single family residences renting their own house.

If you prepare a Residential Lease for an apartment using the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease, any rules and regulations that the landlord has will be incorporated by reference. You will have to attach those rules to the end of the Residential Lease, and they must be posted somewhere obvious on the building. If you are renting out your own house, you will not need to do this unless you have your own rules and regulations for your house.

Assignment and subletting refers to a tenant's right to rent his/her leased premises to another. Since California law does not specifically allow or prohibit subleasing, a tenant's right to sublet is determined by the lease agreement between the landlord and the tenant.

Most landlords allow subletting only upon their express written permission, which permission will not be unreasonably withheld. This is the type of provision that will be included in your Residential Lease if you choose to allow subletting using the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease. If the landlord has a particular reason to not allow subletting under any condition, then "No" should be selected in response to this question.

This is a written statement made by the tenant regarding the current status of his/her tenancy. By signing an estoppel certificate, the tenant will be certifying certain details about the tenancy (rent, security, etc.). Landlords of large apartment complexes will usually require such a certificate in preparation to sell or refinance their building, although there may be other reasons for requiring an estoppel certificate.

Aside from the obvious duty to pay rent in a timely fashion, the tenant has other duties, either imposed by law or by the Residential Lease.

California Civil Code section 1941.2 imposes upon a tenant certain duties. These duties include keeping the premises clean, removing garbage from the premises, not allowing the premises to be damaged, and using the premises only for its intended purpose (sleeping, cooking, etc.).

Additionally, the Residential Lease you prepare using the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease imposes upon the tenant the duty to cooperate with the landlord in allowing the landlord to maintain the premises in tenantable condition as required by law. Thus, if the landlord needs to fumigate the premises to keep it tenantable, then the tenant is required at his/her own expense to temporarily move out to allow for the fumigation. In such case, the tenant's duty to pay rent would be abated for those days that the tenant must move.

Rental applications are used to collect employment, income and credit information necessary to determine a prospective tenant's credit-worthiness. If the tenant filled out a rental application, the landlord will be relying on the information in that application. This is important because the Residential Lease you prepare using the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease will contain language that incorporates the rental application and makes it part of the lease agreement. Thus, if the tenant provided false information in the application, it will be considered a breach of the Residential Lease.

This term provides that if litigation is commenced to enforce rights under the Residential Lease, the prevailing party (the party in whose favor the court rules) can recover from the other party the money he/she spent for attorneys and other costs. Generally, each party pays for their own attorney. However, if the parties agree to this type of term, the default legal rule will be changed.

Once an agreement is signed and first monies are collected, a landlord has a duty to hand over the keys and give the tenant possession of the premises upon commencement of the lease term. However, sometimes, the landlord may not be able to "deliver possession" of the premises to the tenant when promised. In legal terms, this is known as the landlord's failure to deliver possession.

A landlord may fail to deliver possession because the previous tenant does not move out when expected. It may also happen when the apartment is vacant, but remodeling the unit is taking longer than expected. In such situations, the landlord will likely not know when exactly possession can be delivered. Of course, this places the tenant in a difficult position. The tenant may be relying on moving in on a certain date because he/she has left his/her previous residence. Furthermore, the tenant's moving expenses will likely be increasing as the delay continues.

What are the tenant's remedies in such a case? If you use the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease to prepare your Residential Lease, the tenant's remedies will be twofold. First, the tenant is not responsible for any rent for those days that he/she does not have possession or cannot move in. Second, there will be a set period of time after which the tenant will be allowed to cancel the agreement and obtain a full refund of any monies paid to the landlord. Using the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease, you may choose to make this time period between 3 and 10 calendar days.

Although the tenant may have suffered other damages (for example, increased moving expenses due to the delay, or increased rent in another building), it is highly doubtful that any landlord would agree to compensate the tenant for such damages. If you use the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease to prepare your Residential Lease, the tenant's remedies will be limited to those two remedies discussed above.

NO, BUT the Tenant must follow the conditions and procedures in California Civil Code section 1940.5.

California Civil Code section 1962 requires disclosure of the owner's information, or the owner's agent's information, where personal service may be effected (As used herein, owner means landlord). Additionally, California Civil Code section 1962 requires disclosure of the manager's information. These disclosure are best made in the lease, even though California Civil Code section 1962.5 allows them to be made by posting appropriate notices on the property.

The owner's agent is someone authorized by the owner to accept personal service on the owner's behalf. The manager is the person or company that is in charge of managing the property. In small apartment complexes, or for people renting out their house, there may be no manager.


The Residential Lease you prepare using this website provides the following notices that landlord are required by California law to provide to tenants:

  1. The notice regarding non-separated gas/electric meters required by California Civil Code section 1940.9 (if applicable),
  2. Owner/landlord/agent information disclosure required by California Civil Code section 1962, and
  3. The notice regarding database disclosure required by California Civil Code section 2079.10a.

A LANDLORD MAY NEED TO PROVIDE OTHER DISCLOSURES THAT DO NOT NECESSARILY NEED TO BE CONTAINED IN A RENTAL AGREEMENT, DEPENDING ON THE PARTICULAR BUILDING AND/OR ITS LOCATION AND OTHER SITUATIONS. For example, if your building is in a former ordnance location, then as a landlord, you must provide tenants with a notice of former ordnance location. Also for example, if you (landlord) have contracted with a structural pest control company for periodic pest control services, you must give each new tenant a notice about this. You may also be required to give notices under a particular rent control law in your area. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR KNOWING ABOUT AND PROVIDING THE PARTICULAR NOTICES REQUIRED FOR YOUR OWN BUILDING AND SITUATION.

A guarantor is someone who guarantees the performance of another person's obligation. In the case of a residential rental agreement, the guarantor is obligated to pay the rent (or other monies owed to the landlord) if the tenant fails to do so.

For how long is a guarantor liable for the tenant's obligations? That depends on the guaranty made. A guarantor may only promise to cover the tenant for the first year, and whatever happens after that is not the guarantor's problem. Or, the guarantor may promise to cover the tenant as long as the tenant stays in possession of the premises. If you use the Intelligent Questionnaire for Residential Lease to prepare your Residential Lease, you may choose between these two types of guaranties.

It is important to know if you are in a rent controlled area. Every rent controlled area has different laws/ordinances affecting landlords' and tenants' respective rights. If you are in a rent controlled area, you should contact your applicable housing authority to learn more about your particular rights. This website does not have any information for any particular rent controlled area.

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