Residential Leases

Tenants should remember two points about any residential lease: getting in and getting out.



Getting Out

When you terminate a lease, you terminate a CONTRACT. It is not illegal to terminate any contract, but there are consequences. Landlords often tell tenants they are not “allowed” to break the lease, but only a court can help the landlord who wants to make a tenant responsible for breaking a lease. In general, both the tenant and landlord have legal obligations to mitigate the financial damage caused by the other party breaking the lease. Usually, the tenant and landlord each look for a replacement tenant, but this does not always work out for one reason or another. Sometimes, the tenant claims that the landlord forced the tenant out due to any number of legal violations like landlord harassment, a landlord’s refusal to make necessary repairs or to quiet a noisy neighbor. Before getting in but certainly before getting out, a tenant should talk with a lawyer to manage risks. Start by making an appointment here.

Getting In

Landlords often use “boilerplate” lease forms, usually available on the internet, that are computer-drafted to make them cheap to buy and easy to understand. When you get into any lease, you are signing a contract governed by California law. Tenants commonly have landlord disputes which involve the wording of the lease agreement between them. Always look at the lease: does it mention “subtenants”, access to amenities like laundry or parking, extra costs for utilities? A tenant often lives in their home longer than the term of a standard written lease (usually twelve months), and in this case, a tenant enters into a month-to-month leasing agreement with the landlord. A month-to-month agreement may be beneficial to a tenant who may want to leave at any time, or it may be detrimental to a tenant whose landlord is looking to terminate the tenancy quickly as possible.


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