Making a Tenant Responsible for Repair Costs in California

1 Reply

To lease out a residential units in California I usually see the real state agents use month to month rental agreement  (C.A.R. form revised 12/15). Is this the best form to protect landlord for repairs?  Is it OK to add this part in addendum.

REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE: Tenant agrees to maintain the lawn, repair and/or replace any and all facilities related to the premises, to provide ordinary and customary preventive maintenance, and to maintain the building in good to excellent condition throughout the Term of this Agreement. This includes all walks, drives, electrical, plumbing, bath and kitchen fixtures, appliances, roofing, painting, lawn, landscaping, and all other exterior and interior items. The costs of such maintenance and repairs shall be allocated as follows: 

*The cost of repairs, maintenance and improvements, which are less than or equal to Five Hundred and no/100 Dollars ($500.00) per repair shall be paid by Tenant. Owner agrees to pay for fixing any roof leak, if Tenant immediately notifies Owner of the roof leak. If Tenant does not notify Owner immediately of the roof leak, the Tenant will pay for fixing the roof and any resulting damage to the building, regardless of cost.
*The cost of repairs and maintenance in excess of Five Hundred and no/100 Dollars ($500.00) shall be shared equally by Owner and Tenant, provided that Owner has approved of each expenditure in writing prior to the commencement of any work on the premises, and provided that the work is performed by a reputable contractor.
tenant law in the State of:

There are lots of options for lease agreement forms, but the C.A.R. lease is often used for several reasons.  The C.A.R. forms are standardized and accepted throughout the state; they have already been reviewed/approved by attorneys and have been determined to be legal; real estate agents, attorneys and judges are already familiar with them; and some (most) brokers probably require their agents to use the standard C.A.R. forms when engaging in real estate transactions.

Whether it's the "best" lease, well that depends on what you need.  It's only 6 pages.  There's a prominent landlord-tenant lawyer in my area who wrote his own and it's 33 pages.  I'm sure he'd argue that his is the best.  The point is, it all depends on your particular needs/circumstances.

As for the proposed language in your addendum, I'd say there's no way that's legal as it's currently written.  I just see so many problems with it.

A landlord in California generally cannot get out of their legal obligation to maintain a residential property in habitable condition, even if the tenant were to waive that obligation in the lease. 

What if the furnace went out (through no fault of the tenant) during the winter?  A home without an operable/sufficient heat source in the winter is considered uninhabitable.  Your addendum would make the tenant's responsible for paying $500 towards the cost of replacing your furnace.  What if they couldn't afford that at that time? 

Or what if there was a windstorm that caused a neighbor's tree to fall on the roof while the tenants were on vacation and unaware that it happened and unable to notify you "immediately" (whatever that means).  The way your addendum is written, they could come back from their vacation and find that all their stuff was ruined AND they would be on the hook to "pay for fixing the roof and any resulting damage to the building, regardless of cost".  So they have to pay $8k?  $10K?  More?  You might say that's a worst case scenario, but you have to think these things out if you're going to write your own legal documents.

I get that you want to encourage the tenants to keep your property nice and try to minimize your own repair costs, but unfortunately you just can't make the tenants responsible for everything.  Also, I actually think that when landlords try to put the repair costs on the tenants, it just ends up encouraging them NOT to fix things that are broken (or fix them correctly if the correct fix would be too expensive) which could, in turn, cause bigger problems and more expenses for you down the road.  Just something to think about.

Ultimately, I'd suggest if you're going to write/include your own addendums in the lease that you at least have an attorney review it first to make sure it's legal and will hold up in court.

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