Whether you are a first-time renter or are suddenly having trouble with your landlord, you need to make sure you have read and fully understand your lease. Your lease dictates most of the terms of your agreement. Some other aspects of your rental situation are dictated by state law. If you are looking to rent a place or feel you are being treated unfairly by your current landlord, then go to your lease first.
Some California lease provisions you must understand include:
- Security deposit provisions: There could be one or more lease provisions regarding your security deposit. There should be information regarding about the amount, whether it will accrue interest, and when it can be withheld. This is also where state and local law comes in. You should carefully review what the lease says about security deposits and then compare it to your local law. Many city or county ordinances require that your deposit be kept in an interest bearing account and that you receive that interest each year.
- Rent requirements and late fees: Through a lease, you should know how much rent is, when it is due, how it can be paid, and what any potential fees for late payments or bounced checks. You should also compare your landlord’s rent requirements and fees with local ordinances and state laws. There are limits on how much landlords can charge for returned checks.
- Utilities: Do not sign a rental agreement that does not dictate which utilities you are responsible for and how you will be charged. You do not want to sign an agreement only to find out utilities are not included and your monthly expenses may hundreds of dollars more than anticipated. If you do not have separate utilities that you pay directly to providers, you need to know how your landlord will determine your portion of the utilities and when and how payments must be made.
- When your landlord can enter the unit: Some landlords are particularly bad about showing up at rented apartments or letting themselves in. Look to see what the lease says about when your landlord can enter the apartment and then be sure that lines up with local and state law. In almost all cases outside of emergencies, landlords need to give reasonable notice.
- Potential evictions: Leases will usually have one or more provisions that dictate when a landlord can evict you, including for not paying rent, conducting a business on the premises, or being a nuisance to neighbors or building. Make sure you are clear on all of the reasons a landlord can kick you out, and if you are unsure, contact a California tenants’ rights lawyer as soon as possible.
- Notice to terminate the lease: Before you sign a lease or agree to vacate your apartment, make sure you review what the lease says in regard to how much notice the landlord must give you to terminate your lease. If the lease says nothing about it, then notice to end your lease must abide by local and state law.
Do Not Sign a Lease You Do Not Understand
You should never sign a new lease you do not entirely understand. If you have any questions regarding the terms of the lease, reach out to one of the many pro-tenant organizations in California.
However, if you signed a lease and are now not sure of your rights, contact our San Francisco tenants’ rights lawyers at Brod Law Firm as soon as possible. Due to rising rents, California landlords are constantly trying to evict long-time tenants to make more money. However, a landlords’ business interests do not trump your rights as a tenant.
Call us today at (800) 427-7020 to learn more about your rights and legal options in your situation.
(image courtesy of Lili Popper)