Question: I've owned rental property for over 20 years and am mystified about why some parts of a rental agreement are overridden by the California Civil Code and some are not. My rental agreements say a tenant and I must give each other a written 30-day notice to end the tenancy, but the law says I must give a 60-day notice for those tenants who have resided in the property for over a year. Why do I have to give a 60-day notice and the tenant is only responsible for a 30-day notice?
Answer: On the surface, this aspect of landlord/tenant law may sound confusing, but there is a simple explanation.
In general, a tenant cannot waive certain rights given to him or her by state law, and a landlord cannot state conditions that are contrary to landlord/tenant state law.
For example, if you had a clause in your rental agreement that stated you would settle a security deposit within 35 days after a tenant vacated, that clause would not be valid since landlord/tenant law states that 21 days is the maximum time period, even if the tenant agrees with the 35-day time period clause.
California Civil Code section 1953 lists the tenant rights that cannot be waived in a rental agreement or lease. These include the right to proper statutory notice, as well as the right to habitable or tenantable premises, restrictions on a landlord's right to enter the premises and a proper and timely accounting of the security deposit.
Excellent sources of information are the Nolo Press publications "Landlord's Law Book: Rights & Responsibilities" and "California Tenants' Rights." They should be available at your local bookstore or library.
For more information, contact a local fair housing or mediation program, or Project Sentinel at (888) 324-7468, or visit http://www.housing.org.
Van Deursen is director of Dispute Resolution Programs for Project Sentinel, a Bay Area nonprofit. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.