Lease agreements can benefit the lessor and the lessee by ensuring each party can rely on the other to provide what each has promised. However, the property owner typically drafts the contract and has the upper hand.
While landlords want to protect their properties and income, a tenant has specific rights. California law helps to protect renters by establishing that a tenant cannot sign away certain rights. Consider the following clauses that are illegal in a California lease agreement.
Removing the right to adequate living conditions
A rental property must be habitable for its residents. Landlords cannot include terms that remove their responsibility to maintain a unit and keep it weatherproof and free of pests.
Landlords must also ensure tenants have access to working utilities and anything fulfilling a core function of the property. However, extra amenities that serve nonresidential functions (such as fitness centers or swimming pools) do not fall under this requirement.
Waiving the right to a 24-hour notice before landlord entry
Landlords must provide 24 hours written notice before entering a tenant’s home. This provision applies to making standard repairs or displaying the unit to potential renters. However, a landlord may enter without this much notice in the case of a life-threatening emergency.
Denying the right to a security deposit refund
Landlords can request a security deposit as a condition of property rental. This deposit is only to cover any damages by the tenant. Landlords must refund any portion of the deposit that they do not use for cleaning, repairs and back rent within 21 days.
Tenants also have other rights regarding evictions, privacy and discrimination. Property owners and renters alike should familiarize themselves with the details to avoid making a mistake and to protect themselves.