Ron Denhaan, Realtor (949) 290-3263. Orange County real estate specialist.
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home leasing faq

 Home Leasing FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

This article contains answers to common home leasing questions. These questions and answers have been compiled from "real world" leasing experience in Orange County, CA. Because a lease is a legal contract, I recommend that you protect yourself by using a knowledgeable and experienced Realtor to help you through the process.  A licensed Realtor can help you locate the right property, guide you through all of the paperwork, and ensure a smooth transaction, free of surprises. I am an area sales and leasing specialist. Call me today for leases, sales, rentals, anywhere in Orange County, California. - (949) 290-3263.  

Note: Because of the COVID situation, all tenants will be required to sign the PEAD form (Coronavirus Property Entry Disclosure and Advisory - Visitor). I will provide this form to you for signature and initials. I will need this form signed before we see any homes, although this rule may change depending on the COVID emergency status.  Everyone is advised to follow all COVID guidelines like wearing of face masks, social distancing, etc. 

Frequently Asked Questions


New laws

How do I locate suitable homes for lease?

Answer: A real estate agent such as myself, will work with you to discuss your needs, provide you with listings, and show you properties that meet your requirements (price, size, location, etc). It is very important that you give your agent as much information as possible about what you are looking for, including what pets you have, if you need a washer/dryer already installed, if you need lots of outdoor space, how many bedrooms and bathrooms, one level or two story ok, etc. Also, browsing properties on-line will help you narrow your search and help you come up with a final list of homes for viewing in person. My homes for lease page is here and includes available homes for lease in all areas of Orange County, CA. If you have pets, use this web page, which lists all leases that are pet-friendly. 

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Is there a cost involved if I use a real estate agent?

Answer: Usually not. The commission is typically paid to the agent (or agents) by the landlord, so there is no cost to you, the prospective tenant.

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How do I apply for the lease?

Answer: Once you have located a suitable home you will need to:
Home for lease

1. Fill out a lease application form. This is a brief, two-page form that asks you questions about your employment, residence history, credit, bank references, personal references, number of occupants, pets, and number of cars.

2. Fill out an authorization to run your credit report. The landlord and his/her agent will need to review your FICO scores, payment history, debts, and obligations. Landlords look for applicants with good credit, and your application may be rejected for on the basis of your credit report.

3. You may also be required to provide things like a copy of your driver's license, a tax return, pay stubs, recent bank statements, and past references,

4. Some agents may use a tenant screening tool like Rentspree. They usually change $30 per person to apply through this tool. 

Your agent will provide you with the lease application and can also arrange to run your credit report

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You showed me a great home for lease but I'd like to know what else is out there. Let's look some more.

Answer: There is a natural tendency to always wonder if the" grass is greener" at the next house, but if you shop endlessly, you may well lose a perfect home that you already saw. The lease market has become very competitive for nice homes. I'm often finding myself competing against multiple applications when I submit a tenant's paperwork. My advice is that if you find the right home, apply for it and stop looking over your shoulder. Don't assume the home will still be available later. There is a strict limit to how many homes I will show also. Keep that in mind. 

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You've shown me some homes in this city. I'd like to see some homes in these other cities too.

Answer: You should really decide where you want to live before contacting a Real Estate agent. Drive around each area and look at homes, schools, parks, shopping, commuting time, etc. We will be glad to assist you in this decision by sending you listings and providing you with information, but we're not tour guides. Our job is really to help you find a home for lease in the area of your choice. All of our expenses (including fuel!) are our own, so please help us help you by narrowing down your choices.

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I have bad, or less than perfect credit. Should I tell you before we look at homes?

Answer: Yes, definitely! You will save a lot of time and heartache by doing so!

There is nothing worse than finding the perfect home, only to be rejected on the basis of credit. It's discouraging and a waste of time for both you and your agent. Credit issues are not fatal, but they do require special handling on the part of your agent, who may need to check with potential landlords before showing you homes. Don't try to hide your credit issues. The truth will come out eventually, so allow your agent to run your credit report right away. Be up front and let your agent know about credit issues before you go out to see homes. You will save a lot of time and your agent will be in a much better position to locate a lease home that will accept your application. One solution is to use a co-signer or lease guarantor. Visit my specialty page leasing with bad credit. You should also consider getting professional help repairing your credit

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What forms will I need to sign once my application is accepted?

Answer: First, you will sign the lease agreement. This is the document that spells out all of the terms and conditions of the lease, including the monthly rent, late fees, length of the lease, amount of the deposits, and other expectations of both the tenant and the landlord. It is a legally binding contract, so be sure you read it, understand it, and agree to all of the terms before you sign!

You will also be expected to sign other forms such as agency disclosures (which describe your agent's role in representing you with this transaction), certain state & local area disclosures, smoke detector and water heater compliance, mold disclosures, and several others. These are not contracts in the usual sense - Just legally required documents that tell you things you might want to know about the area, the home, the neighborhood, etc.

Last, before you move in, your agent will accompany you on a thorough inspection of the home and will help you complete a move-in inspection document. This form protects both you and the landlord by noting all existing damage or items needing repair, and ensures that you will not be charged for any existing damage to the home later, after you move out.

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Can I negotiate the lease cost (monthly rent)?

Answer: Yes, you may negotiate the monthly rent or any of the other cost (deposits, utilities, etc). This is not to say that you will always be successful, but it's certainly worth a try. See my entire article can you negotiate a lease? here.

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Can I change the length of the lease?

Answer: Some landlords may agree to a shorter or longer lease term under certain circumstances. Most leases are for 1 year. This is usually the most desirable situation for the landlord, plus it gives you a full year of a guaranteed monthly rent without a rent increase. If a Landlord does agree to a shorter term (6-month leases are common) he/she may ask for a rent increase to compensate for the shorter term.

On the flip side, you may be able to get a lower monthly rent by signing a longer lease. If you want a lease that's less than 1 year, be prepared to look at several properties until you find one that will agree to the shorter term. An agent with experience in negotiating leases such as myself, can assist you in negotiating the terms of the lease. 

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What are my total costs to move in?

Answer: Typical costs include first month's rent and a security deposit, but may also include a pet deposit, key deposit, or other charges. The total amount to move in should be clearly spelled out to you by your agent, plus it will be printed on page one of the lease agreement. You will normally need to provide a cashier's check at the time that you sign your lease. 

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How is the security deposit calculated?

Answer: There is no set rule on how the security deposit is calculated - Landlords set this amount arbitrarily. However, there is a maximum amount that they are legally allowed to charge, as follows

1.  A maximum security deposit equal to two months' rent for an unfurnished home

2.  A maximum security deposit equal to three months' rent if the home is furnished

Usually the security deposit is less than two months rent, but the actual amount may vary. Be aware that there may also be additional deposits if you have pets, plus the landlord may charge for keys, remote controls, etc. All of these deposits are perfectly legal and fully refundable, as long as the home and all property are returned in good condition. In any case, no matter what the deposits are called, the total  of all deposits must still fall under the limits above. One exception is that an additional deposit may be requested when a tenant maintains a waterbed in an unfurnished property. The waterbed deposit cannot an exceed an amount equal to one-half month's rent, and the deposit does not have to be included into the maximum permissible security deposit limits, above.

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Do I have to pay the security deposit up front? Can I break it up into two payments?

Answer: I get this question a lot and with few exceptions, the answer is "Yes" and "No". Think about it this way. If you were selling something and a potential buyer said "please don't sell it to anyone else. I'll pay you in a month". Would you do it? Most likely not. What guarantee would you have that the buyer would come through? And would you want to turn down other buyers during that month? Of course not. The same goes for leasing a home. The security deposit reserves the home for you and gives the landlord the security to be able to take the home off the market. You must pay the security deposit up front, even if you are not moving in for a month.

Splitting the deposit? Don't ask! It's a sure sign that you really can't afford to lease the property.

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Will I be dividing monthly expenses like utilities and lawn maintenance with the landlord?

Answer: Usually you will pay for all of your own utilities (including water) while the landlord pays for items like gardening service, pool maintenance, and homeowners association dues. While this is a typical breakdown, it may vary somewhat for each lease. For example, water and lawn maintenance may be paid for by the association (and therefore, the landlord) in a condominium complex. The tenant/landlord breakdown of all monthly expenses must be clearly stated in the lease agreement, so you should take extra care to read this section of the lease contract carefully.

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Can the landlord charge me for gardening? HOA dues? Pool maintenance?

Answer: Yes, if it is agreed upon in advance and written into the lease contract. It is typical for the landlord to pick up these expenses and for the tenant to pay the rent and all utilities. However, the parties could agree to have the tenant cover some, or all of these expenses, as long as it is clearly stated in the lease agreement or addendum.

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Can I make changes to the home?

This is a very common question. Many tenants want to paint a room, add a doggie door, install a child-safe pool fence, etc. The most important thing to understand is that any changes to the home must be approved by the landlord. When requesting changes, always follow these guidelines:

1. Discuss the change with the landlord and get agreement in writing (e-mails may suffice). If you know beforehand that you are going to want changes to the home, have your agent write it up as part of a lease contract addendum. Otherwise, get permission from the landlord in writing.

2. Be sure to go over all plans with the landlord, including paint samples, plan diagrams, holes that will need to be drilled, etc.House painter rolling a wall

3. Discuss who is paying for it. Some landlords are OK with paint or modifications if the tenant pays for it. For larger modifications or improvements, the landlord may wish to share in the cost (or pay all of it) since he/she may be the long-term beneficiary of the change.

4. Unless you are a skilled contractor, get all work done by professionals. Amateur paint jobs and do-it-yourself carpentry are a "no-no", and you are asking for trouble later, when the landlord docks your deposit because of sub-standard work.

5. Keep good records. Save all letters, e-mails, and invoices in your "lease file". Good documentation will help you avoid misunderstandings or disputes later.

6. Last, and very important.  Make sure you and the landlord have a written agreement on what will happen with the change(s) when you leave. For example, are your paint colors staying on the walls or will you have to re-paint? Is the new pool fence remaining in place? Make sure you are on the same page regarding the "exit strategy".

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Will I need insurance or am I covered by the landlord's policy?

Answer: You should take out a Renter's Insurance Policy. In most cases, a landlord's insurance covers only structural damage to the building itself, and many landlord policies don't even go that far if the damage is caused by a tenant. A Renter's Insurance Policy is reasonably affordable and will protect your furniture and personal belongings in case of fire, theft, vandalism, floods, etc. It also provides you with liability coverage in case of accidental damage or injury to persons. For example, don't assume that the landlord's insurance will cover all of the repairs when your 100-gallon salt water aquarium suddenly springs a leak. You may wind up being liable for much of the damage! Get a renter's policy.

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Can the landlord enter the home?

Answer: Yes, but only for emergencies. For example, suppose you are renting a condo, and a bathtub overflows in the condo above yours. The landlord could check your unit for water damage even if you were not home.

The landlord can enter your home for certain other reasons as well, but only after giving you a 24-hour written notice and only during normal business hours. For example, if you plan to move, the landlord has a right to show the apartment or house to prospective tenants. Or, the landlord might want an electrician to check the wiring.

The landlord must give you a 48-hour written notice to make a pre-vacancy inspection of your unit.

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Who will be responsible for repairs?

Phone company tech The landlord has the responsibility of keeping the home in good condition, so repairs and maintenance of the structure, appliances, air conditioning system, plumbing, etc are the responsibility of the owner. However, if a specific problem is caused by the tenant, then the tenant is responsible for getting it repaired and for paying the bill. For example, if your child breaks a window in the home, you are responsible for replacing the window, not the landlord. Sometimes it's a fine line. A leaky faucet is the responsibility of the landlord, but if you (the tenant) clog a sink, get it fixed yourself - don't call the landlord.

Notify the landlord promptly regarding any needed repair, and never order a repair without his/her permission. Always allow the landlord to choose the repair company and order the repairs.

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My lease is almost up. Can I extend it?

Answer: Most lease agreements allow for an automatic month-to-month tenancy following the expiration of the lease (typically after the first year). In effect, the lease reverts to a "rental".  While you might appreciate the fact that you are no longer locked into a lease, there are certain disadvantages as well. The first is that your landlord could terminate your agreement with only a month's notice, in which case you would have to leave (in haste). The second is that you are no longer assured of stable rent for a year. The landlord could theoretically increase the rent each month. Because of these things, many people prefer to negotiate a new lease with the landlord rather than continuing with a month-to-month rental arrangement.

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Can I break the lease ?

Answer: If your landlord fails to hold up his end of the lease agreement, you may have legitimate grounds to terminate the lease. Otherwise, remember that when you sign a lease you are signing a legally binding contract. Therefore, this question cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no", as there are numerous legal and financial ramifications. Things happen however, and sometimes a job transfer, illness, or financial circumstance forces your early termination of a lease. Unfortunately, the subject is too complex to be covered here, so I will refer you to the following articles as a starting point. If in doubt, get legal advice from a qualified attorney.

Breaking a lease and leaving early

Can I break a lease to take a new job?

Breaking your lease - California tenant law

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When will I get my deposit back and will there be any deductions?

Answer: Your security deposits are fully refundable, and must be returned to you within 3 weeks of leaving the home, as long as:

1.  The home is returned to the landlord in the condition it was when you took possession (allowing for normal wear and tear)

2.  All keys, remotes, and similar items are returned.

3.  There are no unpaid late fees or rents.

4.  You have fulfilled all of your contractual obligations (e.g., getting the rugs shampooed after you leave)

The landlord will inspect the property when it is vacant and may take deductions from your deposit, if warranted. All deductions must be justified with proper documentation, and must include reasonable estimates for repairs or replacement of lost items, in writing.

Home in Ladera Ranch In the event of a claim by the landlord, don't assume that your deposit will cover everything! It is a widely-held myth that the landlord cannot charge you more than the amount of your deposit. WRONG!  In fact, your lease contract typically states that you are financially responsible for damage, lost items, cleaning, delinquent charges, etc., regardless of whether the amount exceeds the amount of the security deposit.

Don't you get paid to show us homes?

Answer: Regrettably no, wish we did! All of our expenses including car, gas, etc., are paid by us, and we only get paid if we complete a lease! This is why we are a little more thorough in making sure you are serious and qualified for a lease before taking on any showings. 

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I am looking at homes with you this afternoon and then later, at others with different agent

Answer: While we work with you. we ask that you work with us exclusively. We work very hard for you and expect that you will reciprocate by showing your loyalty to us and understanding that we cannot get paid unless we complete a lease. Showing homes to you while you are working with other agents means that we often work for nothing! We will refuse to work with clients who expect us to do this!

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Is it possible to buy the home after we lease it?

Answer: Maybe. It really depends on whether the landlord is interested in selling. You can always contact the landlord and ask. A lease-option is a possible solution. For information on lease-options, please visit my page here:

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How soon should I be looking for a lease?

Answer: The lead time is 30 to 45 days, maximum. It is unproductive to see homes if you are leasing further into the future because the landlords and their agents will not usually reserve a home for you more than 30 days in advance.

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We are looking to lease but have two dogs. Where shall we look?

Answer: The best source is my "pet-friendly" lease page here: Pet leases 

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Can we ask for a lower monthly rent?

Answer: Possibly. Many landlords are willing to do some negotiating. Just keep it reasonable. For example, I have had some clients who have asked me to submit an offer far lower than the asking rent ($1,000, $1,500, or more). Tenants do need to realize that the home owner (landlord) does have expenses like a mortgage payment, property taxes, HOA dues, gardener, etc. Because of this, there is a limit to what you can realistically expect. 

Also, if you have poor credit, please don't ask for a rent reduction! The challenge will generally be to get you accepted for the lease. Asking for additional concessions like a rent reduction will surely get you rejected! For more on negotiating a lease, see my page here: Can you negotiate a lease?

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On what basis can I be rejected for a lease?

Answer: Only for a few reasons including pets, smoking, water filled furniture, etc, but largely on the basis of financials. You cannot be legally rejected on race, religion, marital status, political leanings, and other personal matters. "Financials" may be a fairly broad brush however and may include items such as your credit, FICO scores, employment history, income, past rent payments, bankruptcies, past landlord references, etc. In California, a landlord does have the right to know that you are qualified for the lease and that you have the financial wherewithal to make the monthly rent payments. They can legally request documentation to ensure that they are satisfied in this regard. Also, they may choose not to accept you if you have pets, if you are a smoker, or have a water bed (i.e., they have the right to ensure that their property is kept clean and undamaged and they are allowed to specify these preferences).

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How many homes can we see?

Answer: For practical purposes, we try to keep it to three to five homes, maximum. We will always send you listings by e-mail of many homes for lease. It is really your job to browse these listings and select a cross-section of homes for viewing. If none of them fit or if they have the wrong criteria, we will be glad to correct this and send you a new set. Almost all of the listings have photographs and descriptions that should help a potential tenant decide if this is a home they would like to see. When clients want to see more homes after a viewing, they have usually failed to correctly outline their preferences or they may be shopping in the wrong price range. 

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While working with you, we are also shopping for a lease on Craigslist. Is this a problem?

Answer: We feel it is a "problem" for several reasons, and we would highly discourage you from shopping for a lease on Craigslist. First, we will not be able to work with you or show you homes if we find out you are also using Craigslist, as we only work with our clients exclusively. Second, while leases on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) are well controlled by licensed Realtors, I would characterize lease listings on Craigslist as completely uncontrolled (the "Wild West if you will).  While some listings may be legitimate, many agents use Craigslist as a "lead generator" and often post listings that are not their own. Also, many of the listings may be for lease "by owner". While this may sound appealing, consider:

1) Are you certain that the person you are contacting is in fact the owner of the home?

2) Some homeowners in distress (foreclosure, short sale, notice of default, etc) will lease out their home to collect some cash before abandoning it (this is occurring quite frequently in Southern Calif). The owner then disappears with your rent and deposit money, while the bank comes knocking on the door.

3) Is the homeowner using all of the standard California Association of Realtors lease and disclosure forms, or is he/she "winging it" by using forms from a stationary store? Do you really want to risk your deposit and legal protections?

4) SCAMS! There are scams running on Craigslist where an out-of-town scammer finds a lease listing on a site like Zillow, then quickly copies the photos and creates an ad for the same home at a greatly reduced price. They only post a phone number and when you call it, the scammer asks you to send them the money and they will send you the keys! Most people are naturally suspicious, but I've had this happen with one of my lease listings and people called me and said "Is your house really renting for $800?" (in a $2500 neighborhood). Be really careful of ever sending money with the promise of keys! It's usually a scam for sure!

With all of that, we would ask that you avoid Craigslist as a source of lease listings and stick to using a professional team of Realtors and the MLS to find your home!

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Does your web site list all of the homes for lease in Orange County or just your listings?

Answer: All of the  homes for lease in the Orange County Multiple Listing Service are listed on this web site, with the exception of homes for lease under $3,000 per month. Except for special cases, we are not able to work with lower cost leases or leases that are short term (less than 12 months). We also cannot work with lease listings that pay a sub-standard commission. An example of this would be low, "lump sum" commissions that are occasionally offered by property management companies or agents in certain areas of Orange County. 

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What if a home for lease is also for sale? Will I have to show it or could my lease be terminated?

Answer: If a home is simultaneously for lease and sale,  it does not mean that you will have any issues if you lease it. Once the owners decide to go with the lease, the listing agent will usually remove the "for sale" listing and the owner must honor your lease agreement including all terms. Note that this does not mean that the home cannot be sold while you are leasing it! An owner always has the right to sell the home. However, the owner must also honor your lease agreement and they cannot ask you to leave the home if you have a lease agreement with a specified term. There may be a clause though where you will need to cooperate with showings occasionally. If you are toyally opposed to doing any showings, have that placed specifically in the lease agreement. 

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What if I find out that the home I'm renting is going into foreclosure? Do I still have to pay the rent?

Note - See new California rental laws for 2013, below

Answer: Unfortunately, this type of situation is happening more and more. Home owners who are losing their homes to foreclosure will sometimes lease or rent the home out to collect some cash before the bank takes the home away. I have spoken to a number of tenants who believe that they should no longer pay the rent if they find out that the owner of the home has not been making payments to the bank. While this type of situation is complicated, here are some facts that you, the tenant need to consider:

1) Are you still living in the home? You undoubtedly signed a contract to lease the home, and under this contract, you are obligated to pay a monthly rental fee for every month that you are legally occupying the home of this landlord. The bottom line is, as long as you are living in the home, you must still pay the rent --You could be sued for breach of contract if you do not!

2) Regardless of your frustration, there is no clause in the lease contract that the landlord must pay the mortgage on the home. The landlord can technically do whatever he/she wishes with your rent money. They can pay the mortgage, put it in the bank, or flush it down the toilet. The point is, it is not up to you to dictate what the landlord does with your rent money.  

3) The main concern of the tenant is often, the disposition of their security deposit. This is a legitimate concern, for if the landlord is in foreclosure, chances are the security deposit will probably not be returned. This is further complicated by the fact that the standard California lease agreement forbids the tenant from using the security deposit as a monthly rent payment. 

If you do find yourself in this situation, I would recommend the following:

1) Contact the landlord immediately and express your concern. Ask if it will be OK to work out a deal, where perhaps you pay a bit less during the month or that the landlord will allow you to apply your security deposit to the rent. 

2) Get any agreements in writing! Verbal agreements are worthless. Get the landlord to sign off on the terms you agree on. 

3) Keep paying the rent and wait it out. The foreclosure process could take months. 

4) If the bank or lender does take the home back, do not pay any further rent to the former owner! Work instead with the lender. They will contact you after they foreclose on the home and will provide you with options. They may also offer you "cash for keys", which is a financial incentive to move out by a certain date.

5) Make sure on your next lease or rental that your Realtor checks for 1) existing notices of default 2) unpaid property taxes, and 3) the equity position of the home (i.e., making sure the rent payments can reasonably cover the existing mortgage). If tenants would insist that the steps are taken before they lease the home, they could spare themselves a lot of grief, later. 

To recap, it is a frustrating and confusing situation when you find out that you are now renting a home that is in the foreclosure process. Avoid handling the situation emotionally. Instead, keep your cool and handle the situation in a business-like manner.  

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What is the law as far as giving notice ? (both landlord and tenant)

Answer: For a month-to-month rental, a tenant may give the landlord 30 days notice to terminate at any time. The landlord must give the tenant 60 days notice (if you have been there one year or longer). Should you (the tenant) receive 60 days notice, it does not mean that you can avoid paying the remaining rent or that they are allowed to use your security deposit in lieu of rent! If you are on a lease, your term really ends based on the terms of the contract. As you approach your last 30 days, you may mutually agree to extend the contract via a month-to- month rental, draft an new lease, or, the landlord can ask the tenant to terminate the rental and vacate. 

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Can I use my security deposit for the last month's rent?

Answer: No!  (unless this was agreed to in the lease agreement). On the standard California Association of Realtors lease agreement, it is specifically forbidden to use the security deposit in lieu of rent. The purpose of the security deposit is to provide the landlord with reasonable fund for repairs if there are damages to the home after a tenant vacates. Any documented damages may be deducted from the deposit by the landlord after an inspection. In the event that a tenant were to use this deposit in lieu of rent, the landlord would then lack funds for repairs, should they be needed. The landlord's recourse would be to seek damages in court for either the last month's rent or for repairs. 

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What are some of the possible "red flags" on my lease application ?

Answer: Without a doubt, the number one "red flag" is poor credit (low FICO scores). It is hard to overcome low or very poor FICO scores through other means. Your income, job history, and bank reserves are also very important. The landlord will want to be sure you have adequate income to pay the rent, including sufficient reserves. Job history is also a factor. If you have only been in your job for a short time, the landlord may not feel secure enough to lease the lease the property to you. If they have questions, you may be asked to provide proof of your income, reserves, or job history, using recent bank statements, pay stubs,  a letter verifying your employment, or a tax return. 

Another factor that often results in tenants being rejected is, too many pets. Although there are many "pet-friendly" homes available for lease, you may be rejected if you have multiple pets or if your pets are very large. You may also have issues if the landlord feels your pet(s) are in any way a potential liability (e.g., certain dog breeds). 

Last, the standard California Association of Realtors lease application includes check boxes for questions such as "have you ever filed bankruptcy within the past 7 years?", "have you ever been convicted or pleaded no contest to felony?", or "have you ever been evicted (asked to leave a rental)?". Obviously, checking "yes" on any of these will also be a red flag to a landlord, but it is important to be upfront and honest about it. Falsifying an application could result in immediate eviction if discovered.

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We are not ready to lease yet, but would you show us some homes so that we can see what is out there ?

Answer  Sorry, no, I don't offer that service. We have to cover all of our own expenses, plus we only get paid when we close a lease. Because of this, we prefer to show homes only if you are serious about applying for a lease in the immediate future. What I can do is start sending you lease listings by e-mail. That way you will be able to browse homes for lease in your price range.

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Can a Realtor reject us based on our credit rating ?

Answer: Yes and no - Technically, it's the landlord that either accepts or rejects applicants. The listing Realtor may screen applications however, and may reject it if the landlord's credit threshold is known. Also, the landlord is perfectly free to establish this threshold. For example, some landlords may not feel secure about leasing their home to someone with a FICO score of 650 or below and they are free to reject your application on that basis.

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I want a lease soon. Can I e-mail you with my requirements ?

Answer: Yes, that's a great idea! Start with price range, how many bedrooms, and what cities you are interested in. Let me know also what your projected move in date is. You can also add things like pet-friendly, number of garage spaces, minimum square feet of the home, one-story, two-story, view, etc. We'll try to send you listings that match up as much as possible to your requirements. Please note that we are somewhat limited as to what we can search for. For example, we can't search for things like "upgraded kitchen", "large patio", "wood floors", etc. You'll have to review the photos of each home we send you to see if the home includes some of the features you are looking for. Send all of your requirements to me at

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I am short-selling my home with another agent. Can you still help me find a lease ?

Answer: I could, but you should really request that your short sale listing agent helps you to re-locate. I feel strongly that the agent that gets your short sale listing should also take the responsibility of helping you find a home for you to lease (see my blog article, here ) You would be surprised to find out that I do get the occasional call from someone who says " my agent referred you to me to help find a lease and he just sold my home". It often comes down to commission. Many agents are more than willing to take the sales listing, but are hesitant to help you with a lease, because leases are time consuming and typically pay very little. Whenever I am approached by someone who is looking for a lease while short-selling, I always ask that they speak with their short sale listing agent first. My opinion is that your agent has a duty to help you with the whole transaction, not just half of it! 

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Can the landlord increase my rent and how much notice will I be given?

Answer: If you are under a fixed term agreement such as a lease, the monthly rental amount is usually fixed for term of the contract (unless other conditions were specifically added to the lease).  Once the lease term expires, and assuming you would like to continue living in the property, you will either sign a new lease or switch to a month-to-month (or periodic) tenancy. The landlord does have the option at that point, of modifying the monthly rental amount. If the landlord increases the rent, you must be provided with 30 days notice if the increase is for 10% or less of the lowest rent amount you paid during the previous 12 months. If the increase is greater than 10%, then the landlord must provide you with 60 days notice. Note: New laws and emergency situations like the COVID pandemic have changed the rules for rent increases, so call or write me for more current information on this. 

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Of the homes that we'd like to see, you said one can't be shown because it pays a low, "Lump Sum" commission? What's that about?

Answer: Most homes for lease pay a fair commission to the tenant's agent. This is typically a percentage of the first year's rent. However, some leases offer to pay the agent a low, fixed fee, often called a "lump sum" commission. I have seen lump sum offers like $500 on a house leasing for over $5,000/mo. Also, figures like $300 to as low as $50 for a single family home leasing for $2,500/mo. This is insulting to all of us who are hard-working real estate agents, as it often doesn't even cover our expenses. While you might like the home, we hope you will also realize that we (like you) have to be paid fairly for our work. That is why we will not show you any homes that do not pay a reasonable commission.

Some areas of Orange County, CA are notorious for paying low lease commissions. For example, the city of Huntington Beach seems to have a "culture" of paying low, lump sum commissions to tenant's agents. It's so prevalent there that I have excluded this city from all of my lease searches and I urge clients to look for leases elsewhere. While it is prevalent in Huntington Beach and often in neighboring Fountain Valley, I have also seen low, lump sums in many other cities, though only sporadically. It's my belief that this "culture" is really perpetrated by the agents and property managers who agree to take these low paying listings!

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Is the home we are leasing supposed to have smoke alarms and CO2 detectors?

Answer: Yes, all homes are required to have working smoke detectors in the home and CO2 detectors on every level of the home. All bedrooms are required to have a smoke detector installed in the room. The home should also have smoke detectors in hallways. There are also supposed to be working CO2 detectors on each level or floor of the home. Generally speaking, a CO2 detector on the upper level should be in the hallway between the bedrooms. On the lower level, the CO2 detector is often placed closer to the garage entrance or to the kitchen. For specific information on these devices, see the links below and consult a professional. 

If you are leasing a home without smoke or CO2 detectors or if they are not working property, notify the landlord or property manager immediately!

What are California's Requirements for Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

What is the California building code for smoke detectors?

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  We want to rent a 2 bedroom home. We have 8 people who would live there. Is there any limit to how many people can legally live there? 


Answer: Yes, there is a limit. The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 specifically addresses the issue of local regulations regarding occupancy. Local and state occupancy regulations are not prohibited, so long as they are reasonable. Reasonable is generally considered two persons per bedroom, plus one additional person. This means that a landlord of a two-bedroom apartment would have a reasonable standard of a maximum of five people. In this case, the landlord can refuse to rent to you because of your intention to have 8 people live in the home. 


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New New California rental laws for 2013 affecting tenants and landlords

Landlord Must Disclose Notice of Default to Prospective Tenants: Starting January 1, 2013, every landlord who offers for rent a residential property containing one-to-four units must disclose in writing to any prospective tenant the receipt of a notice of default that has not been rescinded. This disclosure must be made before executing a lease agreement. If a landlord violates this law, the tenant can elect to void the lease and recover one month�s rent or twice the amount of actual damages, whichever is greater, plus all prepaid rent. If the lease is not voided and the foreclosure sale has not occurred, the tenant may deduct one month�s rent from future amounts owed. The written disclosure notice as provided by statute must be in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Korean. A property manager will not be held liable for failing to provide the written disclosure notice unless the landlord has given the property manager written instructions to deliver the written disclosure to the tenant. This law will expire on January 1, 2018.  

Tenant Entitled to a 90-Day Notice to Terminate After Foreclosure: Effective January 1, 2013, a month-to-month tenant in possession of a rental housing unit at the time the property is foreclosed must be given a 90-day written notice to terminate under California law. For a fixed-term residential lease, the tenant can generally remain until the end of the lease term, and all rights and obligations under the lease shall survive foreclosure, including the tenant�s obligation to pay rent. However, the landlord can give a 90-day written notice to terminate a fixed-term lease after foreclosure under any of the following four circumstances: (1) the purchaser or successor-in-interest will occupy the property as a primary residence; (2) the tenant is the borrower or the borrower�s child, spouse, or parent; (3) the lease was not the result of an arms� length transaction; or (4) the lease requires rent that is substantially below fair market rent (except if under rent control or government subsidy). The purchaser or successor-in-interest bears the burden of proving that one of the four exceptions has been met. This law does not apply if a borrower stays in the property as a tenant, subtenant, or occupant, or if the property is subject to just cause rent control. This law will expire on December 31, 2019. This new California law is similar, but not identical, to the 90-day termination notice requirement under the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (12 U.S.C. � 5201, et seq.) (as extended by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act), which is set to expire on December 31, 2014.  

Landlord May Dispose Abandoned Personal Property Less Than $700: Commencing January 1, 2013, the total resale value of personal property left behind by a tenant after termination of a tenancy that the landlord must sell at a public auction (rather than dispose of or retain for his or her own use), has been increased from $300 to $700, if certain procedures are followed. This law, however, also prohibits a landlord from assessing any storage cost if the tenant reclaims personal property within 2 days of vacating the premises. The statutory notices of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property have been revised to reflect these changes. Furthermore, a landlord�s notices of termination of tenancy and pre-move out inspection must contain specified language that former tenants may reclaim abandoned personal property left on the premises, subject to certain conditions.

There are many other rental rules and regulations constantly coming into law in California and the intention here has never been to keep current on all of these in this article. You are advised to always do the additional research needed to learn about rights, laws, etc.  


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Related links:  
I hope this article has answered some of your questions about home leasing. Do you have a question about leasing that was not addressed here? Please feel free to contact me! I am very experienced with leases and will be happy to help you find a lease, rental, option, or home for sale in Orange County, California, including Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, Ladera Ranch, Las Flores, Rancho Cielo, Walden, Orange, Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Tustin, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point, Wagon Wheel, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Robinson Ranch, Foothill Ranch, Portola Hills, or the Canyon areas (Modjeska, Silverado and Trabuco Canyons).

Ron Denhaan, Prudential California Realty           

Broker contact

DRE# 01728866

Ron Denhaan, Realtor


Copyright 2006. CDC Technology, Inc.  All rights reserved  No part of this article may be copied without the express permission of the author, Ron Denhaan, Realtor

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The information herein was written by Ron Denhaan, Realtor, Realty One Group West, and represents the opinions only of the author. This article pertains only to common real estate practices in the State of California, USA.  It does not necessarily reflect the views of other real estate agents, associations, or of Realty One Group West. While all of the information is believed to be true, we do not warrant the accuracy of the information. We cannot and do not warrant that the information in this article is absolutely current, although every effort is made to ensure that it is kept as current as possible. We encourage you to review other rental-related web pages, such as those produced by the California Department of Consumer Affairs and by HUD (Hosuing and Urban Development), in order to review and verify current tenant rights and rental laws. Rental laws are always changing, so you are encouraged to reference other sources of rental law information. 

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