Question: I am a real estate agent who also conducts a rental property management business. One of my owners has instructed me to accept tenants for his property only if they sign a one-year lease. Our lease form contains a clause stating that each party must give the other a 30-day notice if the lease is not going to be renewed.
However, I know that state law requires a 60-day notice if a landlord is terminating a tenancy that has lasted a year or longer. If a tenant has been on a lease for a year and the lease won’t be renewed, do I have to serve a 60-day notice?
Answer: You have correctly pointed out that California Civil Code Section 1946.1 now requires a landlord to give a 60-day termination of tenancy notice to a tenant who has lived in the property for a year or more.
But this statute specifically applies only to month-to-month tenants. Likewise, month-to-month tenants who have lived in a property for less than a year are entitled to a 30-day notice.
The tricky aspect for you is that if you give permission to a tenant to continue in the property even one day after the one-year lease expires, that tenant becomes a month-to-month tenant automatically and would then be entitled to the 60-day notice required by Section 1946.1.
To protect your exclusion from this rule, you should be careful to give the 30-day notice required by the lease at least 30 days before the lease expiration date. If the tenant fails to voluntarily vacate, promptly take steps to evict the moment the lease expires.
If you want to maintain your relationship with a tenant, consider contacting the tenant before the 30-day notice period. You could explain the policy requiring a one-year lease and explore whether there is a mutually agreeable basis for continuing the rental relationship.
-- Martin Eichner, Project Sentinel
Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based mediation service.