What Happens After A Rental Lease Expires In California?

You signed a 1-year lease when you moved into your California rental. Now it’s expiring, but you don’t want to sign another long-term lease. What are your options?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In California, a lease automatically converts to a month-to-month rental agreement after the initial fixed-term lease expires, unless the landlord or tenant provides proper notice.

This in-depth guide will cover topics like…

Read on to learn how month-to-month rentals work in California, how much notice is required, how rents can be increased, and key tips for tenants navigating lease renewals.

California Leases and Rental Agreements

When it comes to rental agreements in California, there are two main types: fixed-term leases and month-to-month agreements. Each type has its own set of rules and regulations that landlords and tenants need to be aware of.

Fixed-Term Leases

A fixed-term lease is a rental agreement that lasts for a specific period of time, usually six months or one year. During this time, both the landlord and the tenant are bound by the terms of the lease.

This means that the rent amount, lease duration, and other terms cannot be changed unless both parties agree to it. At the end of the lease term, the lease will expire, and the tenant will need to vacate the premises, unless a new lease agreement is signed.

It’s important to note that if the tenant continues to occupy the rental unit after the lease expires without signing a new lease agreement, the lease will automatically convert to a month-to-month agreement.

Month-to-Month Agreements

A month-to-month agreement, also known as a periodic tenancy, is a rental agreement that continues on a month-to-month basis until either the landlord or the tenant gives proper notice to terminate the agreement.

This type of agreement offers more flexibility as either party can end the tenancy with proper notice, typically 30 days in advance.

Month-to-month agreements are beneficial for both landlords and tenants who prefer a shorter-term commitment. Landlords have the flexibility to adjust the rental terms, such as increasing the rent, with proper notice.

Tenants, on the other hand, have the freedom to move out with relatively short notice.

Notice Required to Change Terms

Whether you have a fixed-term lease or a month-to-month agreement in California, it’s important to understand the notice required to change the terms of the rental agreement. For fixed-term leases, any changes to the lease, such as rent increase or lease extension, must be agreed upon by both parties and documented in writing.

Without mutual agreement, the terms of the original lease will remain in effect until the lease expires.

For month-to-month agreements, landlords must provide tenants with a written notice of any changes to the rental terms, such as rent increase, at least 30 days in advance. Similarly, tenants must also give landlords a written notice of their intent to move out at least 30 days in advance.

It’s always a good idea to consult the California Department of Consumer Affairs or a qualified legal professional to ensure you are following the correct procedures and adhering to the specific laws and regulations regarding leases and rental agreements in California.

California Notice Rules for Lease Expiration

When a rental lease expires in California, there are certain notice rules that both tenants and landlords need to be aware of. These rules are in place to ensure a smooth transition and protect the rights of both parties involved.

Tenant Notice to Vacate

When a lease is set to expire, tenants in California are generally required to provide a written notice to their landlord if they do not wish to renew the lease. This notice period is typically 30 days for month-to-month leases and 60 days for leases longer than one year.

It is important for tenants to adhere to these notice rules to avoid any legal complications or additional financial obligations.

Once the notice is given, tenants should ensure that they have documented proof of their notice in case any disputes arise in the future. This can be done by sending the notice via certified mail or by keeping a copy of the notice with a receipt of delivery.

Landlord Notice of Changes

On the other hand, landlords in California are also required to provide notice to their tenants if they intend to make any changes to the lease terms or rental agreement after it expires. This notice period is typically 30 days for month-to-month leases and 60 days for leases longer than one year.

Landlords should provide this notice in writing and clearly state the changes they intend to make. It is important for landlords to give tenants sufficient time to review and respond to the proposed changes. Failure to provide proper notice can result in legal consequences for the landlord.

Holdover Tenancies

If a tenant continues to occupy the rental property after the lease expires without entering into a new agreement, it is known as a holdover tenancy. In California, holdover tenancies are generally treated as month-to-month leases, subject to the same notice rules as mentioned earlier.

It is important for both landlords and tenants to be aware of the potential consequences of a holdover tenancy. Landlords may choose to take legal action to regain possession of the property, while tenants may be responsible for paying higher rent or facing eviction if they do not provide proper notice to vacate.

For more information on California’s notice rules for lease expiration, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Consumer Affairs: https://www.dca.ca.gov/.

Rent Increases in Month-to-Month Agreements

When a rental lease in California expires, tenants and landlords often transition into a month-to-month agreement. In this type of arrangement, the lease is not renewed for a fixed term, but instead automatically renews on a monthly basis until either the tenant or the landlord decides to terminate the agreement.

One important aspect to consider in month-to-month agreements is rent increases.

State Rent Control Laws

California has implemented rent control laws to protect tenants from excessive rent hikes. These laws vary depending on the city or county, so it’s crucial to check the specific regulations in your area.

Some cities, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, have strict rent control ordinances that limit the amount landlords can increase rent annually.

For example, in San Francisco, the Rent Board sets annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In 2021, the maximum allowable rent increase is 0.7%. On the other hand, Los Angeles has a Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) that limits rent increases to 3% per year for buildings built before October 1978.

Allowable Rent Increases

Outside of rent-controlled areas, landlords generally have more flexibility in raising rent. However, they must still provide proper notice and adhere to certain guidelines. In most cases, a landlord can increase the rent in a month-to-month agreement by any amount they desire, as long as they give the tenant proper notice.

It’s important to note that excessive rent increases may be subject to legal challenges, especially if they are deemed retaliatory or discriminatory. Landlords should be cautious and ensure that any rent increase is reasonable and in compliance with fair housing laws.

Proper Notice of Increases

California law requires landlords to provide written notice to tenants before raising the rent in a month-to-month agreement. The notice period varies depending on the percentage of the rent increase:

  • For increases of less than 10%, landlords must provide a 30-day notice.
  • For increases of 10% or more, landlords must provide a 60-day notice.

Landlords should include the new rental amount, the effective date of the increase, and any additional terms or conditions related to the rent hike in the notice. It’s essential to keep a record of the notice and ensure it is delivered to the tenant in a legally acceptable manner, such as via certified mail or in person with a signed receipt.

For more information on rent increases and tenant rights in California, you can visit the California Courts website, which provides detailed information on landlord-tenant laws and resources.

Tips for California Tenants When Leases Are Expiring

Negotiate Desired Terms

When a rental lease is about to expire in California, tenants have the opportunity to negotiate new terms with their landlord. This can be a great chance to discuss any changes or improvements you’d like to see in the lease agreement.

Whether it’s requesting a longer lease term, a lower rent, or additional amenities, don’t be afraid to express your desires. Remember, negotiation is a two-way street, so be willing to compromise as well.

It’s always a good idea to document any changes or agreements in writing to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.

Provide Proper Notice

One important aspect of the lease expiration process is providing proper notice to your landlord. In California, tenants are required to give written notice to their landlord at least 30 days before they intend to move out.

This allows the landlord sufficient time to find a new tenant or make any necessary arrangements. Failure to provide proper notice may result in financial penalties or difficulties in obtaining a positive rental reference for future endeavors.

Be sure to keep a copy of the notice for your records and consider sending it via certified mail to ensure proof of delivery.

Review Notices Closely

During the lease expiration period, both tenants and landlords may send notices to each other regarding the lease renewal or termination. It’s crucial to review these notices carefully to understand the terms and conditions being proposed.

Pay attention to any deadlines or specific instructions mentioned in the notices. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your landlord for clarification. It’s better to address any issues beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes later on.

Understand Rent Increase Rules

In California, landlords are allowed to increase the rent after the lease expires, but they must follow specific rules and regulations. It’s essential for tenants to understand these rules to protect their rights.

According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, if the rental unit is not rent-controlled, the landlord can increase the rent by any amount if proper notice is given. However, if the rental unit is subject to rent control, there are limitations on how much the rent can be increased.

Tenants should familiarize themselves with their local rent control ordinances and consult with local housing agencies or legal resources for further guidance.

Remember, being proactive and well-informed during the lease expiration process can help tenants navigate the transition smoothly and protect their rights. By negotiating desired terms, providing proper notice, reviewing notices closely, and understanding rent increase rules, tenants can ensure a successful lease renewal or move-out experience in California.


Now you know that your California lease will automatically continue month-to-month after expiration, unless proper notice is given.

Be sure you understand and follow all requirements for providing notice as a tenant. Get any agreed-upon terms in writing.

Knowing California’s rules for lease expirations and month-to-month rentals will help you smoothly navigate your options.

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