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Does a California lease need to be in writing?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2023 | Landlord-Tenant Law |

Housing is hard to come by these days, especially for renters with the high costs of living. Being a landlord is no walk in the park in today’s climate either. If you are a landlord, there can be unique difficulties to the business of housing, especially in California. With both sides of housing, you may wonder as a tenant or a landlord, can you create a lease agreement orally or does it always have to be in writing?

Some California lease laws

California has many unique laws and, for better or worse, an oral agreement can constitute a lease agreement. California places a limit on oral tenancy agreements of 1 year. As such, if you and a landlord agree to an 18-month, 13-month lease term or anything beyond a year the lease must be in writing to be enforceable.

Landlords who agree to oral lease agreements must still provide written contact information for the landlord or agent. The landlord must also provide the tenant with written information on how to pay rent. And, keep in mind that many localities, like San Francisco, have their own landlord/tenant laws in addition to California law.

Concluding thoughts

Even if a lease is made through oral agreement, both parties are almost always better served by a written lease. California has many unique requirements for tenants and landlords and San Fransisco has another layer of unique requirements and if you are on either side of the lease agreement you may consider having the contract reviewed. Consider how much easier it would be to have a contract reviewed that is written. But, again an oral lease may be enforceable.