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  • Daniel Rodriguez

The Importance of a Written Lease in Residential Tenancies

Many tenants and landlords in California are aware that a written lease is not a strict legal requirement for residential leases. While landlord and tenants have the option to proceed under a written or oral lease, there are numerous advantages to only using written lease agreements. Landlords who make exceptions for certain tenants or who place convenience ahead of certainty can open the door to serious disputes that can tie up a property for, at minimum, months and result in significant lost revenue and expenses.

Thus, as a matter of sound business practice, all landlords should have a written lease signed by the tenant.  A well-prepared written lease will protect the parties and set forth the rules by which both the landlord and the tenant must play. In those situations where there is not a written lease, the landlord may still evict a non-paying tenant under the normal and usual unlawful detainer process. However, the judge may give the benefit of the doubt to the tenant in the absence of a written lease.

Sacramento real estate attorney of NewPoint Law Group, LLP can provide legal assistance and guidance with lease agreements for residential leases. We can assess already-existing lease documents for their legal sufficiency and other issues. If you are already in a landlord-tenant dispute, our lawyers can negotiate and, if necessary, litigate to achieve your goals. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us at 800-358-0305 today.

What Are the Advantages of Having a Written Residential Lease?

The advantages of a written lease are numerous and usually benefit the landlord. Typically, it is the landlord who presents a written lease for the tenant to sign.  Thus, the landlord is in a position of strength to dictate more favorable “pro-landlord terms.” For example, the lease may allow for recovery of attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. In the absence of a written lease with an attorneys’ fees clause, most unlawful detainer lawsuits will result in each side bearing their own attorneys’ fees regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. There are many other “pro-landlord” terms that should be included in a written lease, like issues which regulate tenant conduct and cleaning and security deposit issues, just to name a few.

Tenants Without a Written Lease Still Have Rights Under CA Law

Unfortunately, some landlords are under the impression that the lack of a written residential lease agreement means that the renter is not considered tenant, and thus not entitled to the protections of California state law. This is a dangerous assumption, as landlords who operate under this belief are unlikely to be granted the relief they seek by a court and may even become subject to fines and penalties for their actions. This is because, in the absence of a written residential lease, the resident is typically considered a month-to-month tenant unless the local jurisdiction has laws permitting only “just cause” lease terminations. Otherwise, a Civil Code Section 1946.1 sets forth the rules landlords must follow when terminating a month-to-month tenancy. Under the law, landlords may not constructively evict the tenant by turning off utilities, must provide sufficient notice, and engage in an unlawful retainer action to remove the tenant.

Should a Landlord Require a Written Lease if He or She Is Renting to a Friend or Family?

Often times, the landlord may not require a written lease when the tenant is a friend, a relative, etc. These types of exceptions can present difficult issues. This is because a written lease sets forth the rules in writing that both parties can clearly understand. Furthermore, the written lease represents the party’s agreement before disputes arose and distrust may have crept into the relationship. Absent a written lease agreement, the situation has the potential to devolve into a battle of the landlord’s word versus the tenant’s. While your legal goals may be accomplished eventually even without a written lease, it is often only after significantly more resources and effort has been expended.  Finally, from a non-legal perspective, a written lease agreement can often save a family relationship or a friendship by defusing the dispute early.

Work with an Aggressive and Strategic Sacramento Landlord-Tenant Attorney

NewPoint Law Group, LLP, LLP recommends that a written lease be used in all circumstances and that the landlord should be the party that presents the lease for the tenant to sign. Our attorneys can prepare written leases for the landlord to ensure that the landlord is in the strongest position possible. If you are already embroiled in a dispute or litigation, we may be able to advocate on your behalf. To schedule a confidential consultation at our Roseville or Folsom, California law offices, please call 800-358-0305 or contact us online today.

Be sure to check out our Unlawful Retainer Blog Series for further information:

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