A lease states the total number of months that the lease will be in effect—for example, six or 12 months. Most leases are in writing, although oral leases are legal. If the lease is for more than one year, it must be in writing.59
It is important to understand that, even though the lease requires the rent to be paid monthly, you are bound by the lease until it expires (for example, at the end of 12 months). This means that you must pay the rent and perform all of your obligations under the lease during the entire lease period.60
There are some advantages to having a lease. If you have a lease, the landlord cannot raise your rent while the lease is in effect, unless the lease expressly allows rent increases. Also, the landlord cannot evict you while the lease is in effect, except for reasons such as your damaging the property or failing to pay rent.
A lease gives the tenant the security of a long-term agreement at a known cost. Even if the lease allows rent increases, the lease should specify a limit on how much and how often the rent can be raised.
The disadvantage of a lease is that if you need to move, a lease may be difficult for you to break, especially if another tenant can’t be found to take over your lease. If you move before the lease ends, the landlord may have a claim against you for the rent for the rest of the lease term.
Before signing a lease, you may want to talk with an attorney, legal aid organization, housing clinic, or tenant-landlord program to make sure that you understand all of the lease’s provisions, your obligations, and any risks that you may face.
59 Civil Code Sections 1091, 1624(a)(3).
60 However, the tenant’s obligation to pay rent depends on the landlord’s living up to his or her obligations under the implied warranty of