Law Review: Residential lease notices can be tricky |

Law Review: Residential lease notices can be tricky

Landlords, listen up because many of you are making mistakes in your residential lease notices, which is understandable given the complexity of California laws — forever adding new notice requirements for residential landlords.

30 Versus 60-Day Notice

For about a million years, residential landlords and tenants in month-to-month tenancies were required to give 30-day notices to terminate the lease. As any real estate lawyer will recite: a month-to-month tenancy may be terminated by the landlord or the tenant without cause with 30 days written notice.

Well, as of a few years ago it got more complicated.

With a few exceptions, owners of residential dwellings (landlords) must give at least 60 days notice to a renter to terminate the tenancy if the tenant has resided in the dwelling for at least one year. The landlord must give 30 days notice to terminate a month-to-month lease if the tenant has resided in the dwelling for less than one year.

The tenant on the other hand need only give 30 days written notice of termination on a month-to-month residential tenancy.

Exceptions to 60 Days

The owner may give 30 days notice of termination if the owner has contracted to sell the residential unit and an escrow has been opened, the notice is given within 120 days after escrow is opened and the would-be purchaser in good faith intends to reside in the residence for at least one full year. Indeed a narrow exception.

Of course, if the tenant is in default, perhaps late paying rent, a shorter notice, generally a “three-day notice to pay rent or vacate,” may be given by the landlord.

Abandoned Property Notice

And, landlords, don’t forget when you’re giving notice of termination of a residential tenancy, you must include in the notice (and most of you don’t) the following:

“State law permits former tenants to reclaim abandoned personal property left at the former address of the tenant, subject to certain conditions. You may or may not be able to reclaim property without incurring additional costs, depending on the cost of storing the property and the length of time before it is reclaimed. In general, these costs will be lower the sooner you contact your former landlord after being notified that property belonging to you was left behind after you moved out.”

Yet Another Required Notice

It is commonly believed that when landlords lease to tenants for a term, meaning longer than month-to-month, the lease continues month-to-month after the termination of the lease term. For example, at the end of a one-year lease, if no notices are given by the landlord or the tenant, the lease continues month-to-month binding both parties on the same terms and conditions for one more month. Apparently some tenants were surprised to be stuck for another month.

In a little known part of the Civil Code, a residential tenant may end the lease when the term ends (and not be bound for another month) unless a special notice is included in the lease reciting the lease will be automatically renewed month-to-month if the tenant does not give notice of his or her intent not to renew or extend before expiration of the lease.

So tenants, know your rights. Landlords add to your residential leases in at least eight-point bold-face type a statement like: “THE LEASE TERM WILL BE EXTENDED MONTH-TO-MONTH IF THE TENANT REMAINS IN POSSESSION AT THE END OF THE LEASE TERM WITHOUT GIVING THE LANDLORD NOTICE OF INTENT NOT TO RENEW OR EXTEND.”

Hope you got that.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at or

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