Rental Agreements & Its Impact on Tenants Rights . . .

As many of you rent a home in our high real estate market, you are well aware there are different types of rental agreements. A typical rental agreement can be a lease for a specific duration of time or on a month-to-month basis. In a lease, the tenant signs a contract agreeing to stay at a minimum time period for a certain monthly rent; leases typically are for one year. In a month-to-month situation, unlike a lease in which the tenant would breach a contract if he or she left prior to the end of the lease term, a tenant can leave whenever he or she chooses. Any lease for more than one year must be in writing to be enforceable.

Regardless of the type of tenancy, a tenant has certain rights and obligations.  Typically in a month-to-month tenancy, a landlord must give thirty (30) Days notice of a rent increase of up to 10% of the rent and sixty (60) days if the increase is more than 10% of the current rent. In a lease, the landlord cannot change your rent terms, unless the lease authorizes that landlord to do so. Be careful of lease agreements that look like and smell like a lease but contain a provision that allows rent to be increased on a thirty day notice – these agreements are only written month-to-month rental agreements.

A landlord cannot ask you to leave the premises unless there is a breach of a lease term prior to the end of the lease such as failure to pay rent or even pets. Unlike a lease, a landlord can give a simple thirty-day notice to move out in a month-to-month tenancy. In some cities, like Glendale, California, the time frame for this notice has recently been modified to a sixty-day notice to move out.

Tenants who are going to sign a lease should read it very carefully to ensure the written terms are exactly what both landlord and tenant orally agreed upon. A tenant should watch out for provisions in the lease that:

  • The landlord is not responsible for damage and injuries. This provision limits a tenant’s ability to hold responsible a landlord who is negligent in maintaining the place and the tenants, the tenant’s family and friends from injury, for example an injury due to broken steps or insufficient lighting. Under California law, such a provision is invalid.
  • The tenant is responsible for repairs. This provision requires tenants to give up his or her rights to make repairs and deduct the cost from the rent. This waiver is not valid under California law.
  • The tenant waives their legal rights to notice. With this provision the landlord can sue or evict, raise the rent or change the terms without providing the requisite notice of time to the tenant. This is not a valid provision.
  • The landlord has a right-to-reenter the premises to throw the tenant out if he or she does not pay rent. This provision is invalid as the law requires notice and legal action with the Court.
  • Landlord has a right to obtain attorney fees if landlord must go through legal proceedings to evict a tenant. This is a valid provision however it can cost the tenant thousands of dollars if evicted by the landlord. If negotiations are possible, this provision is better to be left out of your lease term.
  • Late charges must be reasonable based on administrative fees of the landlord and not a penalty. A penalty provision is invalid.

No matter what the provisions, a tenant must read the rental agreement, whether a lease or a month-to-month, carefully and consider how this will impact his or her tenancy before signing a contract.

This column is produced by Mary Der-Parseghian, Esq. For questions or comments, please send your message to 4727 Wilshire blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90010; E-mail: or call at 323-937-2727. For additional articles please visit our webpage at

© 2011. Der-Parseghian Law Group


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