California Sublease Agreement

The California sublease agreement is a contract between the tenant of rental property (“sublessor”) and a new tenant (“sublessee”) that allows the sublessee to take over all (or part) of the rental. The original tenant must have permission from the landlord to sublet the property.

A sublease applies when the original tenant wants to lease a large portion of the property in question, such as in renting a room and/or living space to a third party.  A sublease also applies when the original tenant wants to lease the entire property to a third party.

A person may decide to sublease their rental property if they will not be living there for an extended period of time, yet want to have the ability to return upon completion of the sublease.  It may also be an option for tenants that need to vacate their rental property permanently without being subject to penalties incurred by breaking their original lease agreement.  

A sublease agreement is a unique arrangement because it places the dual roles of tenant and landlord on the sublessor.  This puts a significant amount of responsibility on the sublessor. The sublessor is obligated to remedy any breaches of their original lease agreement, even if those breaches are initiated by the sublessee.  In most cases, the sublessee’s name will not be listed on the original lease agreement, making the original tenant, or sublessor, ultimately responsible for remitting missed rent payments to the landlord. The sublessor may also need to pay for damages incurred by the sublessee or initiate an eviction of the sublessee.  The sublessor would be solely responsible for correcting these types of situations, as stated by their original lease agreement, while taking appropriate legal action against the sublessee.         

Subleasing is a very positive experience when all parties honor their signed agreements and adhere to their responsibilities as landlord, sublessor and sublessee.  If a sublessor screens their potential sublessee’s thoroughly and creates an agreement with a trustworthy individual, subleasing can ultimately save the sublessor from the penalties of terminating a lease agreement early.

Some larger cities or states have specific laws that govern subletting a rental unit.  A sublease agreement must carefully take these regulations into consideration to be legally compliant.  Subleasing may not be permitted in all rental units on an individual basis. It is critical to review the original lease and obtain sublet permission from the landlord of the property prior to looking for a tenant to sublease all or part of a unit.  

Writing a California Sublease Agreement

Due to the complex nature of a sublease agreement and the additional responsibility that a sublessor must assume, it is critical to use a sublease agreement form that is detailed and state-specific.  This guide contains step-by-step instructions for creating a basic sublease agreement template that is legally compliant in the state of California.


The introduction of the sublease agreement should state the following:

  1. The full legal name of the sublessor.
  2. The full legal name of the sublessee.
  3. The complete address of the property in question, including street address, city, state and zip code.

Sublease Term

This section should describe the type of sublease that will go into effect.  Three possible options to select include:

  1.  Fixed sublease:  Indicate the start and end dates of the sublease.
  2.  Month-to-month sublease:  Indicate the start date of the sublease and the amount of notice that the sublessee must provide prior to vacating the property.
  3. Week-to-week sublease:  Indicate the start date of the sublease and the amount of  notice that the sublessee must provide prior to vacating the property.


This section must address the following details pertaining to rent payment:

  1. Rent amount.
  2. Weekly or monthly due date of rent payment.
  3. Instructions for remitting rent.  This should include the forms of payment accepted, the full legal name of the person(s) who may accept rent payment and the method of delivery that the sublessee should use to pay rent.


This section should provide a complete list of utilities that the sublessee must pay throughout the duration of the sublease.  This may include, but is not limited to:

  1.  Electricity.
  2.  Telephone.
  3.  Gas.
  4.  Water.
  5.  Trash collection.
  6.  Cable television.
  7.  Wi-Fi.

Security Deposit/Liability

In this section of the sublease, acceptable uses of the security deposit are explained.  The sublease should address the following points:

  1. The amount of money required to cover the security deposit prior to occupancy by the sublessee.
  2. Conditions in which all or part of the security deposit will be withheld upon conclusion of the sublease.  
  3. Estimated date that the unused portion of the security deposit and an itemized list of costs related to damages or repairs will be returned to the sublessee upon conclusion of the sublease.  
  1.   A liability clause stating that the unit and indoor/outdoor furnishings must not have more than a reasonable amount of wear and tear upon conclusion of the sublease in order to recover the security deposit.
  1.   Whether a move-in checklist will be completed when the sublessee takes possession of the property.

Additional Agreements

In this section, the sublessor should detail any additional circumstances that are not covered by the standard sublease categories, provided that they are compliant with California law.  Some examples of additional agreements may include:

  1.  Guest policy.
  2. How to handle disputes.
  3. Smoking policy.
  4. Procedure for altering the sublease if the alteration is agreed upon mutually.

Date and Signature

The date and signature section of the sublease is critical to making it a legally binding document.  This section should include:

  1. Date that sublease was signed.
  2. Sublessor’s printed name and signature.
  3. Printed name and signature of sublessor’s witness.
  4. Sublessee’s printed name and signature.
  5. Printed name and signature of sublessee’s witness.
  6. Statement of landlord’s consent to sublease, with their printed name and signature.  
  7. Initial spaces for each party to indicate that the original lease has been provided with the sublease.

California-Specific Considerations

California has strict laws regarding subleases.  Tenants must have a thorough understanding of these laws prior to subleasing their unit in order to avoid preventable penalties.  This section details sublease regulations that apply in the state of California.

California law requires that tenants obtain written consent from their landlord prior to subletting their unit.  Unlike other states, subletting in California is at the discretion of the landlord and is often addressed in the original lease.  If the original lease states that subletting is not permitted, it is unlikely that the landlord will provide consent.  

If a tenant decides to ask for consent to sublease their unit, they should do so by certified mail.  This ensures proof of delivery, if legally required at a later time. This written request should include:

  1.  The term of the sublease.
  2.  The sublessee’s name.
  3.  The current address of the sublessee.
  4.  The sublessor’s expected address after leaving their current unit.
  5.   All co-tenants’ signatures’ consenting to the sublease.
  6.   A copy of the sublease.  

After mailing a request to sublease, the tenant must wait for approval from the landlord.  If the lease states that subletting is not permitted but the tenant tries to request consent anyways, the landlord may refuse the request for any reason, even if that reason is typically regarded as unreasonable.  If the original lease mentions nothing about subletting, then the landlord may only deny a request to sublet if they have legal grounds for refusal.  

Some California cities have specific laws that regulate subletting.  San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Santa Monica have their own variations of obtaining written consent to sublease.  

Security Deposits

When subleasing in California, the same security deposit limits are in effect as in a typical residential lease.  Tenants who are subleasing an unfurnished unit may request up to two month’s rent to cover the security deposit. Tenants who are subleasing a furnished unit may request up to three month’s rent to cover the security deposit.  

In California, if a sublessor collects a security deposit from a sublessee, the unused portion must be returned to the sublessee within 21 days of the termination of the sublease.  The sublessee is entitled to itemized list describing the repairs, damages, maintenance or cleaning fees that the security deposit was used to cover. The sublessor may not use the security deposit for normal wear and tear to the unit.

Increasing Rent Payment

California law states that a landlord may increase the rent payment in a sublease situation.  It is important for the sublessor to address this with the landlord to ensure that they are collecting a fair amount for rent and deposits from the sublessee.  


The sublessor may evict the sublessee for breaches of the sublease.  The eviction process between sublessor and sublessee works in a similar way as an eviction between a landlord and a tenant.