Rental Agreements

Downloadable Forms

Legal Jargon or Plain & Simple English?
Contrary to what many form writers seem to believe, it is not illegal to use plain English on lease and rental agreement forms.

For residential purposes only
Your rental agreement should include the words “for residential purposes only” to prevent a tenant from using the property for conducting a business that might affect your insurance or violate zoning laws.

Note on garages and outbuildings
If any part of the property is not being rented, such as a garage or shed you wish to use yourself or rent to someone else, make this clear by specifically excluding it from your description of the premises. If you don’t, the tenant has rented it.

Space-to-people ratios
You can legally establish reasonable space-to-people ratios, but you cannot use overcrowding as an excuse for refusing to rent to tenants with children. Discrimination against families with children is illegal, except in housing reserved for senior citizens only. To avoid discriminating against families with children, your safest bet is to adopt an across-the-board “two-plus-one” policy: You allow two persons per bedroom plus one additional occupant. Thus, a landlord who draws the line at three people to a one-bedroom, five to a two-bedroom, and seven to a three-bedroom unit will be on safe ground in this regard.

Limits on Use and Occupancy
When it comes to restricting how long guests may stay, it usually makes sense to include a reasonable time limit in your lease or rental agreement. Up to ten days in any six-month period is reasonable.

Late Fees for Paying Rent Late
Your late fee must correspond as closely as possible to the real monetary consequences you suffer (called “actual damages”) when the rent is late.

Utilities
This clause helps prevent misunderstandings. Normally, landlords pay for garbage (and sometimes water, if there is a yard) to help make sure that the premises are well maintained. Tenants usually pay for other services, such as phone, gas, and electricity. State law requires landlords to notify all prospective tenants, before they move in, if their gas or electric meter serves any areas outside their dwelling. (CC § 1940.9.)

Landlord’s Access for Inspection and Emergency
The law limits your right to enter property in the tenant’s absence or without the tenant’s permission. Although these limits apply regardless of what an agreement or lease says, it’s best to put the limits in writing to avoid problems later on. This clause makes it clear to the tenant that you have a legal right of access to the property to make repairs or show the premises for sale or rental, provided you give the tenant reasonable notice, which is presumed to be 24 hours.