Have you ever been stuck in a lease agreement you desperately want to break? Whatever the reason, breaking a lease can be a daunting task, especially if you're unfamiliar with your state's laws and regulations. In California, tenants and landlords have legal rights when it comes to breaking a lease, but navigating the process can be tricky.
This guide will provide an overview of the steps you need to take to break a lease in California. So, let’s get right into it!
Rental Agreements in California
A rental agreement in California is a legal contract between a landlord and tenant that outlines the terms and conditions of a rental property. The agreement sets out the responsibilities and rights of both parties, including the amount of rent, the length of the lease, and any other provisions that may be relevant to the tenancy.
In California, rental agreements can be either oral or written, although a written agreement is recommended as it provides a clear record of the terms of the agreement. The agreement must comply with California landlord-tenant laws and regulations, which govern the relationship between landlords and tenants and provide protections for both parties.
Some common provisions that may be included in a California rental agreement include the following:
- Rent: The agreement should specify the amount of rent to be paid when it is due and the accepted payment methods.
- Security Deposit: The amount of the security deposit, the conditions for its return, and any allowable deductions should be specified in the agreement.
- Length of the Lease: The agreement should specify the lease length, whether it is month-to-month or for a fixed term.
- Occupancy: The agreement should state who can live in the rental property and any restrictions on the number of occupants, including the rules surrounding subletting.
- Repairs and Maintenance: The agreement should specify who is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the rental property.
- Termination: The agreement should specify the conditions for terminating the lease, including notice requirements and any penalties or fees for early termination.
Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in California
Tenants need to understand the obligations of their rental agreement and California law before attempting to break a lease. If a tenant has a justifiable reason to break a lease, they should provide proper notice and work with their landlord to minimize any penalties or fees associated with breaking the lease early.
If a tenant uses any of the below reasons to break their lease early, they must still provide proper notice and may be responsible for paying rent for the remaining lease term.
- Moving to a new city.
- Buying a home.
- Disliking the landlord or property.
- Roommate issues.
- Loss of a job.
Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in California
In California, tenants may be able to break their lease before its expiration date if they have a justified reason. Justified reasons for breaking a lease are typically related to issues that make the rental property uninhabitable or create an unsafe or untenable living situation.
Here are some examples of justified reasons to break a lease in California:
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to provide tenants with a habitable property. If the rental property is in such poor condition that it is not fit for human habitation, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease. This could include issues such as:
- Mold: If the rental unit has a significant mold problem, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease. The mold may be caused by water damage, poor ventilation, or other factors and could pose a serious health risk to the tenant.
- Pest infestation: If the rental unit has a severe infestation of pests such as rodents, cockroaches, or bed bugs, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease. These pests can carry disease and can make the unit uninhabitable.
- Lack of heat or hot water: If the rental unit does not have functioning heat or hot water, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease. This can make the unit unsafe and uncomfortable, especially during winter.
Health and Safety Concerns
If the rental property threatens the tenant's health or safety, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease. This could include structural problems, inadequate security, or dangerous or unsanitary living conditions.
Landlord Breaches the Rental Agreement
If the landlord breaches the rental agreement significantly, such as failing to make necessary repairs, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease. For instance:
- Failure to make necessary repairs: If the landlord has been notified of a problem with the rental unit that requires repairs and has not taken action to fix it, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease.
- Illegal entry or harassment: If the landlord has illegally entered the rental unit or harassed the tenant, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease.
- Violation of tenant privacy rights: If the landlord has violated the tenant's privacy rights, such as entering the rental unit without notice or sharing the tenant's personal information without permission, the tenant may have a justified reason to break the lease.
If the tenant is called for active military duty or receives orders to move to a new location, they may have a justified reason to break the lease. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects military members from certain things.
- Active duty: If the tenant is called up for active military duty and is required to relocate, they may have a justified reason to break the lease.
- Permanent change of station: If the tenant is a military member and receives orders for a permanent change of station, they may have a justified reason to break the lease.
Domestic Violence or Stalking
If the tenant is a victim of domestic violence or stalking, they may have a justified reason to break the lease under California law. The tenant may be required to provide documentation of the abuse, such as a restraining order or police report.
Breaking a lease in California can be complicated, but knowing your rights as a landlord is important. If your tenant has a justified reason to break your lease, it is important to document the issue and communicate with your tenant in writing.
At Action Properties, we understand that breaking a lease can be difficult. As a leading property management company in the Mountain View area, we have worked with landlords and investors for over four decades. If you have any questions about breaking a lease or need assistance with property management, please don't hesitate to contact us today! We're here to help.
This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.