California Residential Lease Termination Notice


Purpose. A California lease termination letter (“Notice to Vacate”) is a recommended document to end month-to-month lease agreements in California.

Read further to learn more about notice requirements and the residential lease termination process in California.

What is a Lease Termination Notice?

A residential lease termination notice is notice from either the landlord or tenant to the other party indicating the sending party’s intention to end the lease at a particular date.  The notice period required depends on 2 things: the party giving the notice, and whether or not the lease has a fixed term. For tenants, with a fixed-term lease, they must comply with the notice requirements stated in the lease, for those with a lease without a fixed term, the tenant is to give notice that is as long as the period in between rent payments with a maximum of 30 days. So, if the lease is from week-to-week, the notice of termination by the tenant must be given at least a week prior to the next payment. In case of a month-to month lease, it will be 30 days’ notice from the tenant.

For landlords, here are two types of residential lease termination notices used in the state of California:

  • 30-Day Residential Lease Termination Notice:  This notification is delivered when the tenant has been living at the rental property for less than one year.
  • 60-Day Residential Lease Termination Notice:  This notification is delivered when the tenant has been living at the rental property for one year or more.  

Writing a California  Residential Lease Termination Notice

Many landlords find it easier to create a comprehensive residential lease termination form that can be efficiently completed when they need a tenant to vacate a rental property.  This form can be reviewed in advance by the landlord’s legal team, ensuring that all necessary components are present. A landlord should create separate forms for providing a 30 day notice to terminate the lease and providing a 60 day notice to terminate the lease.  This guide contains step-by-step instructions, organized by section, that a landlord can use to draft a residential lease termination notice that is legally compliant in the state of California:

1. Residents’ Name

List the full legal names of all tenants, subtenants or other residents that will be expected to vacate the premises following the 30 or 60 day notice given, depending on how long they have resided at the property.

2. Property Location

List the complete address of the property in question.  This section should include fields to fill in the following details:

  •  Street address.
  •  Unit number, if applicable.
  •  City. 
  •  State. 
  •  Zip code.  

3. Date of Lease Termination

The date of lease termination must be 30 or 60 days from the time that the tenant receives the residential lease termination notice, depending on the circumstances described above.  This section should list two possible lease termination dates:

  • First, there should be a statement that tenancy will be terminated 30 or 60 days following receipt of the residential lease termination notice.
  • Next, it should list a specific date that is 30 or 60 days from when the notice was delivered, including the month, day and year.

The residential lease termination notice should contain language that states that the lease will be terminated on the later of these two dates.  This ensures that the tenant has the full 30 or 60 days required by law to vacate the premises, in the event that the notice was mailed or not served directly to the tenant out of necessity.  

4. Lease Termination Expectations

This section should contain a detailed description of what is expected of the tenant at the time of lease termination.  It should also describe the potential consequences for not adhering to these expectations. The following issues must be addressed in this section:

  • The tenant must vacate the rental property on the date indicated on the residential lease termination notice.
  • The tenant must remove all personal belongings upon vacating the rental property.
  • The tenant is expected to pay rent until the date of lease termination listed on the residential lease termination notice. 
  • If the tenant does not adhere to these expectations, the landlord may take legal action.
  • Any legal action taken could result in the tenant’s payment of attorney fees, court costs and damages.

5. Right to Inspection

This section describes the tenant’s right to have a preliminary inspection performed on the rental unit prior to termination of the lease under the following conditions:

  • The tenant may be present during the inspection.
  • The inspection should happen no sooner than two weeks prior to the termination of the lease.
  • The tenant shall receive an itemized list of repairs that would be deducted from the security deposit and have an opportunity to arrange for these repairs to be completed prior to termination of the lease.
  • The request to have an inspection performed should be stated in writing with a specific form provided by the landlord.

6. Delivery Date

In this section, the person serving the notice to the tenant must state the date the notice was given to the tenant.  Create a separate space to indicate the month, day and year of delivery to minimize confusion. This section should only be completed after the notice has been served.

7. Method of Delivery

This section states how the notice was served to the tenant.  Since there are a limited number of accepted ways to deliver a residential lease termination notice, some landlords find it more efficient to list all methods directly on the notice with a box next to each one for the Server to indicate which method was used.

  • Delivery of the notice directly to the tenant.  This selection should include a space to record the full legal name of the person who received the notice.
  • Delivery of the notice to a responsible adult at the tenant’s residence or place of employment with the intention of that person forwarding the notice to the tenant, and mailing a copy of the notice to the tenant at their residence on the same date that it was delivered.
  • Posting a copy of the notice in a highly visible location at the tenant’s residence, and mailing a copy of the notice to the tenant at their residence on the same date that it was posted.

8. Verification Signature

This section verifies that the notice was delivered in legally compliant manner by the Server.  It must include the following information:

  • Date served, including the day, month and year.
  • City served.
  • State served.
  • Printed name of Server.
  • Server’s signature.

California-Specific Considerations for Lease Termination

California Civil Code 1946 and 1946.1 contain regulations specific to terminating a rental agreement, including the rights and expectations of a landlord and tenant.  The following state-specific regulations should be followed while creating a legally compliant residential lease termination notice:

Minimum Lease Termination Notice

In California, a minimum of 30 days notice is required to terminate a residential lease when the tenant has resided at the property for less than one year.  A minimum of 60 days notice is required when the tenant has resided at the property for more than one year. This regulation applies whether the lease termination is initiated by the landlord or tenant.  This minimum lease termination notice is generally in effect for month-to-month lease arrangements, although it can be applicable to term tenancies.

Maximum Lease Termination Notice

There is no limit on the maximum amount of notice to give in a lease termination by either the landlord or tenant.  The landlord or tenant is allowed to give much more than the 30 or 60 days required by California law. 

Written Notice

In the state of California, notice to terminate a residential lease agreement must be delivered in writing.  Oral communication of intent to terminate a residential lease is not accepted by law.

Stating the Reason for Lease Termination

If the residential lease termination is occurring in a California city that is not subject to rent control, it is not required by law to state a reason for the termination.  It is against California law to terminate a lease as a form of retaliation toward a tenant, therefore, many landlords provide a “good faith” reason to prevent such retaliation.  

If the lease termination is occurring in a city that has rent control regulations, a reason for lease termination is required.   

Accepting a Residential Lease Termination

California law states that if a tenant decides to terminate a residential lease agreement in a legally compliant way, the landlord must accept the termination.  The landlord does not have the right to dispute the termination if it is conducted according to California law.  

If a landlord decides to terminate a residential lease, the tenant has the right to dispute the termination if it is considered unlawful.

Reclaiming Personal Property

California law requires the residential lease termination notice to contain language that addresses the ability of the tenant to reclaim belongings that have been left behind after vacating the property.  This section should state that under certain circumstances, a tenant may be able to reclaim their abandoned belongings, subject to potential costs related to storage incurred by the landlord. Generally, California law supports a two-week time frame for a tenant to reclaim their belongings before a landlord may get rid of the items in an appropriate manner.