California Residential Lease Agreement

Last Updated: July 12, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

The California residential lease agreement (“rental agreement”) is a binding agreement between a landlord (“property owner”) and tenant (“occupant”) to rent residential property in exchange for rent payment. Governed by California’s landlord-tenant law, the contract has terms and conditions describing the duties of each party.

California Lease Agreement Disclosures

The following disclosures are either required for some or all residential lease agreements in California.

Disclosure Applicable to
Meth & Fentanyl All Units with Known Drug Contamination
Mold All Units with Known Mold
Sex Offender Registry All Units
Demolition Permit All Units with Planned Demolition
Military Ordnance All Units Within 1 Mile of Testing Site
Death All Units with a Death
Pest Control All Units with Pesticides Applied
Share Utility Meters All Units with a Shared Utility Meter
Bed Bugs All Units
Flood Zone All Units in a Flood Zone
Smoking Policy All Units with a Smoking Policy
Lead Paint All Units Built Prior to 1978
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Methamphetamine & Fentanyl Contamination Disclosure

Applicable to any property where the landlord has knowledge of a possible drug contamination AND remediation has not completed in California.

In California, any knowledge relating to methamphetamine and fentanyl manufacturing, use, or storage is legally required to be disclosed in a rental agreement. If the property is deemed to be contaminated, the landlord must include a copy of any notices received relating to methamphetamine or fentanyl contamination. They must also inform prospective tenants in the rental agreement about ongoing remediation efforts before the agreement is signed, and the tenant must agree to the notice before moving in. A notice from a local health officer shall deem the property as uncontaminated and no further action is required.

If contamination does occur, the landlord is required to pursue decontamination prior to the commencement of the lease term to ensure the safety of the tenant. Concentration levels of less than 1.5 μg/100 cm2 must be reached before the property is considered safe to live.

Methamphetamine contamination can be dangerous to Tenant(s) in high concentrations, presenting health concerns through absorption of the materials in the air.

This property:
[ ] Is contaminated above safe levels and is in the process of decontamination.
[ ] Is contaminated, but falls within safe levels after tests were conducted.
[ ] Has no suspicion of contamination.

Download: California Methamphetamine Disclosure Form (PDF)

Mold Disclosure

Applicable to any units with known mold that may pose a health threat in California.

In California, landlords must provide a mold disclosure when there is a known presence or a reasonable cause to believe that there is toxic mold (either visible, invisible, or hidden) or has a high chance of it forming. This disclosure must be provided alongside or on the lease agreement itself unless the mold was remediated to safety guidelines implemented by California. It may also be included in the absence of known mold as a safety precaution for tenants and to minimize landlord liability.

The landlord should distribute a consumer-oriented booklet from California’s Department of Health Services before a tenant enters a rental agreement.

Download: California Mold Disclosure Form (PDF)

Sex Offender Registry Notice

Applicable to all rental units in California.

In the state of California, prospective tenants and citizens alike have access to information relating to the sex offender registry.  This is known as Megan’s Law Disclosure. As an effort to protect tenants, this must be disclosed in every rental agreement. An example of a section to be included in the rental agreement would be:

NOTICE: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an Internet Web site maintained by the Department of Justice at www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offender’s criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and ZIP Code in which the offender resides.

Demolition Permit Disclosure

Applicable to any property with plans for demolition that will affect tenancy in California.

If a landlord has intentions to demolish a rental unit or building or a demolition permit has been applied for, California law requires this intention to be disclosed in the rental agreement. The disclosure should state the approximate date in which demolition will occur.

An example of a section to be included in the rental agreement would be:

DISCLOSURE OF DEMOLITION. On __/__/__, the following unit(s) are scheduled for demolition. On or after this date, active lease agreements will terminate for the affected unit(s).

Download: California Demolition Permit Disclosure Form (PDF)

Military Ordnance Disclosure

Applicable to any property within one mile of known ordnance location with explosive risk in California.

California requires landlords to provide a military ordnance disclosure as part of a rental agreement for any property that falls within one mile of military training grounds or ordnance storage. This disclosure, which is normally in the rental agreement, notifies the tenant that there is a possibility of live munitions near the rental unit.

An example of a section to be included in the lease agreement would be:

ORDNANCE DISCLOSURE. This property is located within one mile of a former federal or military facility which may contain explosive munitions.

Download: California Military Ordnance Disclosure Form (PDF)

Death in a Rental Unit Disclosure

Applicable to properties with a non-HIV or AIDS-related death in the past three years in California.

While not a tangible defect, psychological defects such as a death in a rental unit must be disclosed in California leases. This includes all forms of death with the exception of deaths related to HIV or AIDS, which are protected under the state statute. “Death” disclosures are often included within the rental agreement, even if there has been no death reported.

The following section may be included in your California lease agreement

At the time of this lease agreement, Landlord certifies the following information pertaining to the history of death in the rental property:

[ ] No death reported
[ ] Death by natural causes
[ ] The death was caused by violent crime: ________
[ ] Death by communicable disease:_______

Tenant has a right to have questions answered pertaining to death in the rental unit to the best of the Landlord’s knowledge upon request.

Download: California Death in a Rental Unit Disclosure Form (PDF)

Pest Control Disclosure

Applicable to units where pesticides are applied in California.

If pesticides are administered to a unit in a rental building, all adjacent tenants and anyone who is at risk of secondhand exposure must be given at least 24 hours of notice before the pesticide application is allowed. The application may require temporary displacement of other tenants, which must be disclosed in the lease to be enforceable and avoid potential damages charged to the landlord.

Additionally, if pesticide treatments are administered regularly there must be notice given to all new and existing tenants by the landlord and a copy of the notice from the pest control company on the expected terms of the contract. Pest control schedules or notices should be attached to rental agreements.

Download: California Pest Control Disclosure Form (PDF)

Shared Utilities Arrangements

Applicable to any units without individual meters in California.

In California, when each unit does not have its own utility meter, the landlord must disclose this information in the rental agreement. They must also provide and execute a mutual written agreement with the tenant for payment of services.

This agreement can include the landlord assuming the shared utility, installing a submetering system, allocating charges between multiple parties (when shared between units), or other methods of establishing a breakdown of utility payments.

The following is an example of a shared utility agreement section:

UTILITIES: This rental unit shares the following utilities with another unit or common area:
[ ] Electricity
[ ] Water
[ ] Gas
[ ] Sewage
[ ] Other: _________________________________________

This lease uses the following method for calculating utility charges between Tenant(s):
[ ] Home Square Footage
[ ] Number of Tenants
[ ] Even Split Between Tenants
[ ] Other:___________________________________________________________

Tenant agrees to pay the monthly utility charge to Landlord, plus a $__ service charge as part of each month’s rental payment.

Download: California Shared Utility Arrangement Disclosure Form (PDF)

Bed Bug Addendum

Applicable to all units in California.

To protect against the contraction and spread of an infestation, it is required that landlords in California include a bed bug section in their rental agreements. This addendum provides information about preventing infestations and the proper protocol if one arises. It also helps to limit liability for the landlord by establishing an understanding of the current status of the property, and protects in the case of an infestation occurring later in the lease term.

The following excerpt is the recommended notice to include in no less than 10-point font.

Information about Bed Bugs

Bed Bug Appearance: Bed bugs have six legs. Adult bed bugs have flat bodies about 1/4 of an inch in length. Their color can vary from red and brown to copper colored. Young bed bugs are very small. Their bodies are about 1/16 of an inch in length. They have almost no color. When a bed bug feeds, its body swells, may lengthen, and becomes bright red, sometimes making it appear to be a different insect. Bed bugs do not fly. They can either crawl or be carried from place to place on objects, people, or animals. Bed bugs can be hard to find and identify because they are tiny and try to stay hidden.

Life Cycle and Reproduction: An average bed bug lives for about 10 months. Female bed bugs lay one to five eggs per day. Bed bugs grow to full adulthood in about 21 days.

Bed bugs can survive for months without feeding.

Bed Bug Bites: Because bed bugs usually feed at night, most people are bitten in their sleep and do not realize they were bitten. A person’s reaction to insect bites is an immune response and so varies from person to person. Sometimes the red welts caused by the bites will not be noticed until many days after a person was bitten, if at all.

Common signs and symptoms of a possible bed bug infestation:
-Small red to reddish brown fecal spots on mattresses, box springs, bed frames, mattresses, linens, upholstery, or walls.
-Molted bed bug skins, white, sticky eggs, or empty eggshells.
-Very heavily infested areas may have a characteristically sweet odor.
-Red, itchy bite marks, especially on the legs, arms, and other body parts exposed while sleeping. However, some people do not show bed bug lesions on their bodies even though bed bugs may have fed on them.

For more information, see the Internet Web sites of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the National Pest Management Association.

This Bed Bug Addendum may also be included as part of the lease to ensure the tenant agrees.

Flood Zone Disclosure

Applicable to any property in a known flood zone in California.

If the landlord has actual knowledge of the rental property residing in a flood zone, they must disclose this fact to the tenant in the rental agreement with a minimum 8-point font. The disclosure must include:

  • That the property is in a flood zone.
  • Information about hazards can be found at the Office of Emergency Services website (and a link provided).
  • The landlord’s insurance does not cover personal loss and a recommendation to pursue renter’s and flood insurance.
  • Acknowledgement that the landlord is not required to provide further information than the above.

An example of a flood zone disclosure would be the following section:

FLOOD ZONE DISCLOSURE. This property is located in a known flood zone, putting it at a higher risk of flooding. Landlord and Landlord’s insurer are NOT responsible for personal loss occurring at this rental unit due to flooding or other hazards. It is recommended that Tenant pursues renter’s insurance and flood insurance. Information about hazards can be found on the California Office of Emergency Services’ website at https://myhazards.caloes.ca.gov.

The above notice is pursuant to section 1632 of the Civil Code and absolves Landlord of liability to flood-related damages.

Download: California Flood Zone Disclosure Form (PDF)

Smoking Policy Disclosure

Applicable to any property imposing a smoking policy in California.

In California, if a landlord wishes to prohibit smoking tobacco in any part of the rental dwelling, property, balconies, common areas, or anywhere else, they must disclose specifically where smoking is prohibited.

Download: California Smoking Policy Disclosure Form (PDF)

Lead-Based Paint Disclosure

Applicable to any rental units built prior to 1978.

It is a federal law in the United States that any home built prior to 1978 must disclose the risks posed by lead-based paints. This law requires landlords in California to:

  • Fill out and attach this lead-based paint disclosure form to the lease agreement.
  • Provide the tenant with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved pamphlet about the dangers of lead-based paint.
  • Provide additional records or reports about the presence or hazards of any known lead-based paint in the unit. For multi-unit buildings with common areas, this includes information from building-wide evaluations.

Download: California Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Form (PDF)

Optional Disclosures & Addendums (Recommended)

The following lease agreement disclosures and addendums are not required by California law in residential lease agreements, but either help reduce future conflicts with tenants or reduce legal liability for landlords.

Optional Disclosure How the Disclosure is Helpful
Landlord’s Name & Address Creates a line of communication for important notices and demands between tenant and landlord. Landlords or any authorized individual to act on behalf of the property should provide contact information (including their address) within or alongside the lease.
Late/Returned Check Fees Landlords should disclose if they will charge a late fee or a returned check fee in the lease agreement. In California there are no restrictions on late fees. For returned checks there is a $25 first time fee and then a $35 limit for each subsequent returned check.
Medical Marijuana Use Inform tenants if medical marijuana use on the property is permittable. Some state laws allow landlords to restrict marijuana usage to non-smoking methods only or inform tenants of designated smoking areas to not interfere with other tenants’ enjoyment of the premises.
Move-in Checklist A move-in checklist holds the tenant accountable for future damages that they may cause.
Non-Refundable Fees A non-refundable charge must be written in the lease agreement. If a non-refundable charge is not written in the lease, the tenant may be subject to a refund upon termination of the lease.

Consequences of Not Including Mandatory Disclosures

Disclosures outline the important health, safety and property information and vary by state. If a landlord does not provide the tenant with the federally or state mandated disclosures, they could face legal repercussions or monetary penalties.

In California, a landlord must comply with the warranty of habitability. If the landlord has actual knowledge of asbestos, mold, pets, or bedbugs on the property and fails to inform the tenant, the tenant can file a lawsuit.

If a landlord fails to disclose the lead-based paint hazard disclosure, they can face finds up to $18,364 per violation. (24 CFR § 30.65)

It’s best to check with your local laws on which disclosures are required to provide to your tenant.

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