How to Change the Terms of a Lease in California

How to Change the Terms of a Lease in California

As a landlord, you may have encountered situations where you needed to alter the terms of a lease agreement. Maybe you need to increase the rent, modify the payment schedule, or add new clauses to the lease. Whatever the reason may be, it’s essential to know the legal process for making changes to a lease in California. By following the correct steps, you can protect your rights as a landlord and ensure a positive working relationship with your tenants. 

Please note that this is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Laws may vary based on your location. 

Guidelines for Changing Your Lease Terms

Although landlords have the right to change the terms of a lease, there are many factors to consider, including how cooperative the tenant will be, the type of tenancy, the original terms of the lease, and what in the lease you’d like to change. 

  • Month-to-Month Tenants

For month-to-month tenancies, you must provide a 30-day written notice of the change in the terms of the tenancy. If the change involves a rent increase of more than 10%, a 90-day notice is required. However, if the increase is due to income or household size recertification, you only need to provide 30 days’ notice. The time period for these changes can be reduced to as little as 7 days if specified in the lease. 

Keep in mind that if you plan to mail the notice, you should also account for the time it will take the notice to reach the tenant. When sending the notice within California, an additional five days should be added for mailing. If the notice is mailed outside of California, ten days should be added for mailing.

  • Periodic Tenancies

For periodic tenancies, such as week-to-week tenancies, the notice must be equivalent to the term itself. Like month-to-month tenancies, this time period can be reduced to as little as seven days if it was previously specified in the terms of the lease. Periodic rental agreements allow landlords to increase rent more often than other types of tenancies, but keep in mind that the increases can’t be retaliatory. Many cities also have rent control ordinances that dictate when and how often landlords can increase the rent. 

  • Term Tenants

For term tenants, a landlord can only change if the provision allowing the change is enforceable. If the lease doesn’t authorize the change, the landlord can only make the change with the tenant’s consent or at the end of a fixed-term lease through a new lease or lease renewal. 

If the tenant continues on a month-to-month basis, the landlord can also make a change by giving a 30-day notice of change of terms of tenancy. If the change is a rent increase of more than 10% (when combined with all other rent increases in the last year), the landlord must give a 90-day notice of change of terms of tenancy. Additionally, it’s important to check the lease for any limitations on sending notices before the lease expires. 

These regulations apply to residential tenancies in general; however, separate regulations apply to mobile home and floating home marina tenancies. It’s also important to note that subsidized housing and housing subject to local ordinances may have additional requirements or limitations, such as temporary rent freezes, rent control, relocation assistance, minimum lease terms, just cause ordinances, or rent increases following a state of emergency. 

Before Sending Notice, Consider the Effects

Before sending a notice to change the terms of the lease, it’s important to evaluate all the potential impacts of the proposed change—the advantages as well as the disadvantages. For example, if you’re thinking about changing the lease to prohibit pets in a previously pet-friendly apartment complex, you should consider the possibility of negative effects, such as an increase in vacancy rates or negative feedback from existing tenants. 

If a tenant fails to comply with the notice, you can serve them with a notice to pay or quit or perform covenant or quit. If they refuse to comply with that notice as well, you can move forward with an eviction. 

Finally, landlords must provide notice of any change in property ownership or management within 15 days, including updated payment instructions (if necessary). The notice should include the name and street address or phone number of the property owner or manager. To ensure compliance with the law and protect your landlord-tenant relationship, it’s always a good idea to consult with legal professionals before making lease or ownership changes. 

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