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Terminating a lease in California isn't as complicated as many people make it to be. Under most circumstances, the requirements to terminate a month-to-month tenancy are the same, unless the tenancy lasts longer than a year.

It's vital to comply with all of the termination clauses according to California law in order to avoid any legal issues between any of the parties involved in the lease. If you're looking to terminate your lease agreement with your former tenant, the following page will outline everything you need to know about this process.

Lease Termination Letter

A California lease termination letter, in essence, is a document the former landlord will use to mark the end of the rental agreement. The notice period for this lease termination letter will depend on some factors that we'll explain further in this article.

Proper Notice

State law permits landlords to terminate a lease at any moment they consider appropriate, as long as they provide the tenant with the appropriate amount of notice.

In most cases, you will have to deal with 30 days of notice for your rental agreement termination. However, keep in mind that the 30-day period only applies to rental agreements of less than one year, regardless of the date you set for rental payments.

On the other hand, if the property is under a sales contract and complies with the provisions stated in the state statute, the landlord may also be able to send a 30-day notice to their former tenants and reclaim property.

Now, if the rental agreement is longer than a year old, then the landlord must send a 60-day notice to vacate, as long as the unit meets the legal exemptions under the state's law. Both landlords and tenants can serve this notice at least 60 days before the lease agreement ends or before the termination date specified in the letter.

Summarizing, you have two options for a lease termination letter in California, according to § 1946 of the Civil Code.

  • If your month-to-month tenancy lasts for longer than a year - 60 days of notice.
  • If your month-to-month tenancy lasts for less than a year - 30 days of notice.

State Laws

California has certain rules surrounding ending a lease with written notice. If the landlord doesn't plan to renew the lease past its expiration date, then they must follow these guidelines:

At Fault Just Cause

The at-fault just cause clause is used by landlords to vacate their tenant if they violated the lease terms in any way; which counts as early termination. As opposed to a no-fault just cause scenario, an at-fault just cause scenario requires an eviction notice rather than a termination notice.

In essence, this clause applies in any of the following scenarios:

  • The tenant fails to pay rent.
  • The tenant violated the lease terms in any way.
  • Extreme damage to the rental unit.
  • Criminal activity.

No-Fault Just Cause

Overall, the no-fault just cause is used by landlords to end tenancies of one year or more, according to the Tenant Protection Act of 2019. Landlords can use the no-fault just cause termination clause under the following circumstances:

  • The landlord plans to withdraw the property from the housing market.
  • The landlord (or their immediate family) plans on occupying the unit.
  • The landlord will substantially remodel the property; this only applies if the remodel is expected to take over 30 days.
  • The landlord wants to demolish the premises or do particular demolition work.
  • The landlord wants to comply with a local ordinance.
  • A court or government entity discloses new habitability orders, which cause the landlord to end the tenancy.

Specifics for a 30-day Notice Period

Aside from being used to end tenancies of less than one year, the landlord must comply with the following scenarios:

  • They're ending a month-to-month lease.
  • They will use an established escrow to sell the rental unit under the state statute.

It's important to note that California's Civil Code requires landlords to include a statement regarding abandoned personal property, which states that:

"Tenants are allowed to reclaim their abandoned personal property at their former address without any additional costs, depending on the length of time that passed before it was reclaimed and the cost of storing said property. The sooner the tenant contacts the landlord, the lower these costs will be."

All of the specifics surrounding this clause can be found in California's Civil Code - Section 1946.2.

Specifics for a 60-day Notice Period

The particular clauses for 60-day notice periods are slightly more complex. Here's an outline of everything you should know.

Overall, landlords can terminate leases of one year or more, as long as they meet the following guidelines:

  • The landlord owns/occupies a single-family unit that has either a mobile home or a unit in which they're leasing no more than two units.
  • The landlord's housing got a certificate of occupancy within the previous 15 years.
  • The landlord has a real property that's alienable and separate from the title for any other unit.
  • The landlord's property contains two separate units within a single structure. In this case, the landlord would be the owner/occupier of one of the units, and none of the units would be a junior or regular accessory dwelling unit.
  • The landlord has any housing restrictions regarding affordable housing for families or individuals of very low to moderate income.

Early Lease Termination

The only scenario in which you may be able to terminate early is if the tenant fails to comply with the terms of the lease agreement in any way or pay rent. Otherwise, you're not legally allowed to break the lease early without notice.

If you do send notice, then you're able to terminate the lease at any moment you consider appropriate.

Serving The Notice

Landlords have three options to send the lease termination letter to their tenant:

  • Giving the notice to the tenant in person.
  • Giving the notice to a person who can accept the letter on behalf of the tenant.
  • Sending the notice through certified or registered mail with a return receipt.

If you're planning on using mail, make sure to add at least five additional calendar days to the notice period; this is to account for variability in common delivery times for the post office.

Penalties

Any landlord who fails to provide their tenant with written notice may have to deal with legal consequences. Moreover, these legal consequences will make it much harder for you to look for a new tenant or reclaim any property belonging to you.

Keep in mind that taking these cases to court may require you to spend money on legal fees and penalties, so it's always best if you send notice according to the specified periods on this page.

Termination of Tenancy

If there's not a fixed end date for the lease, landlords will have to send a particular notice depending on the payment frequency. In case you're dealing with a monthly tenancy, for example, you will have to send at least a 30-day notice to your tenant if they haven't been renting for over a year.

On the other hand, if the tenant has been renting for over a year, you must send a 60-day notice.

Termination of Tenancy with Specific Term

In case you want to end a fixed-term lease, you must consider the following:

  • You can't evict your tenant until the lease ends unless they violated the lease terms in any way or failed to pay rent.
  • If you're not planning on renewing the lease when it ends, then you should consider giving notice to your tenant.
  • In case the tenant fails to leave the property when the rental agreement ends and also fails to give notice, they may have to pay you one month's rent.

On the other hand, you could end a fixed-term lease early if you included a "Break Clause" on the agreement. You could also try to negotiate with the tenant.

How to Write One

There are certain things you must consider before writing a lease termination letter in the state of California. If you want your document to be legally-compliant, then you must ensure the document includes all of the following factors:

  • Full names of the parties involved in the lease agreement. Landlords must also include their address and phone number.
  • Termination date of the lease.
  • Full address of the property.
  • (If applicable) The reason why you chose to terminate the lease agreement.
  • Landlord's signature and printed name.
  • The current date and method of notice delivery.

As long as the lease termination letter has all of those items, you won't have any problems. On the other hand, if the document is missing any of these, a judge won't be able to proceed with your request.

Build Your Own

Drafting a lease termination letter yourself can prove to be complicated, regardless of whether you're ending a fixed-term lease or a monthly one. Thankfully, DoorLoop has a wide range of sources for rental agreements available to you.

Once you go to DoorLoop's "Forms" page, you will gain access to a California lease termination letter template that you can download in the following formats without incurring additional costs:

Word

PDF

On the other hand, you can download our customizable version of the document for a small fee; that way, you can draft your lease termination notice without any problems and save some time.

eSignature

If you are terminating your lease and need the tenant to sign, or you want to sign a new lease with a new tenant, you want to make the process as easy and efficient as possible.

With DoorLoop, you can get your agreements eSigned in a few seconds. You can also get to the eSignature step much faster by creating reusable templates that are autofilled with tenants' information.

DoorLoop also makes it so simple to find the best tenants in the first place by syndicating your listings on popular websites Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Apartments.com, and more. You can also make sure you're bringing in the best tenants by screening your prospects in seconds through DoorLoop.

For more information about DoorLoop, learn more or schedule a free demo.

Bottom Line

As long as you understand all of the rules surrounding a rental agreement document in California, you won't have any issues navigating all of the different clauses available for both parties.

In the case of lease terminations, the most important factor you must consider is the notice period you have according to the lease and all your rights when it comes to terminating a lease earlier than expected.

Still, if you're having any problems with your lease termination letter, you can download one of our free templates and get started with the process in the most efficient way possible. We hope this article has helped you understand the termination process for a rental property in California.

FAQs

How Much Notice Is Required to Terminate a Lease in California?

It depends on how old the lease is. If the lease hasn't been active for over a year, then you will only need to send a 30-day notice. On the other hand, if your lease goes for longer than a year, you will need to send a 60-day notice to your tenant.

Can a Landlord Force a Tenant to Leave the Property in California?

No. It's against the law to evict your tenant without due process. Any landlord who terminates the lease early without sending any notice risks getting sued by their former tenant.

Is an Email Considered Written Notice in California?

While email is currently one of the most efficient and commonly used channels for sending important documents, California doesn't typically recognize emails as a valid delivery method for a lease termination letter.

The law allows landlords to either get the written notice to their tenant personally or through certified or registered mail.

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David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!