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Month-to-Month Lease Laws in California

New California laws create more protection for month-to-month tenants, adding rent control and limits to when a landlord can terminate the lease.

Month-to-month leases are the most common type of rental agreement, mainly because of their flexibility. New legislation1 that went into effect in California in 2020 makes month-to-month agreements even more appealing to tenants: rent increases are limited and landlords can no longer end the lease whenever they want.

Even though many cities in the state have their own rent control and just cause ordinances, landlords must follow the rules that provide the most protection to tenants.

In this article

Establishing a month-to-month lease
Ending the lease
Modifying the lease

Establishing a month-to-month lease in California

Month-to-month tenancies are established in California in one of three ways:

  • The landlord and tenant have an oral agreement for a month-to-month lease.
  • The landlord and tenant have a written agreement specifically creating a month-to-month lease.
  • If a tenant continues to pay rent after their fixed-term lease is up and the landlord accepts it, it creates a new month-to-month tenancy.

While fixed-term tenancies typically last a year, month-to-month tenancies can be ended at any time by either party with a certain amount of advance notice.

Ending a month-to-month lease in California

The notice required to end a month-to-month tenancy in California is typically 30 days for both the tenant and landlord.2 That said, a written month-to-month lease may allow tenants, specifically, to give fewer than 30 days notice. It may also specify when notice must be delivered—often on the first of the month or another specific date.

If a tenant has lived in the rental for more than a year, landlords must give 60 days’ notice. If a tenant gets 60-day notice and wants to move out sooner, they can deliver a 30-day notice to the landlord. Landlords can also provide less notice in certain situations, like if the tenant doesn’t pay rent or violates terms of the lease, by starting the eviction process.

Unlike many states, tenants in California can give notice in the middle of a month and move out in the middle of the following month. In that case, they pay prorated rent for that month. So if a tenant gives 30-day notice on August 10th that they plan to move out September 10th, they’ll only pay rent for the first 10 days of September.

Notices must be delivered in hard copy form

California requires that notice regarding the termination of a month-to-month lease be hand-delivered or delivered by mail.3 Sending notice via email or verbally providing it is not permitted under state law.

Landlords may need just cause to end a month-to-month lease

Month-to-month lease agreements where the tenant has lived in the unit for fewer than 12 months can be ended for any reason—or no reason at all—as long as it doesn’t violate California’s extensive fair housing laws.

However, recent changes in state law require that landlords provide "just cause" to terminate a month-to-month lease when the tenant has lived in the unit for a year or more.4 Certain cities, like San Francisco, also require just cause to end any type of month-to-month tenancy. Just cause to end a lease includes the tenant doing any of the following:

  • Not paying rent
  • Unlawfully using the rental property
  • Subletting in violation of the lease
  • Engaging in criminal activity on the rental property

Landlords can also end a month-to-month lease for “no-fault” just cause reasons, like wanting to move into the unit themselves, substantially remodeling the unit, or taking the unit off the market.

The reason for ending the lease must be stated in the written 60-day notice.

Changing a month-to-month lease in California

Landlords must provide 30 or 90 days’ notice to increase rent

California’s new state-wide rent control provisions apply to most rental properties in the state.5 The new law caps annual rent increases and stipulates how much notice must be given to change rent. The amount of notice a landlord must give to raise rent depends on the increase:

  • If it’s greater than 10%, 90 days’ notice is required
  • If it’s 10% or less, 30 days’ notice is required

Landlords can only increase rent by 5% plus inflation or 10% per year (whichever is lower). In addition, they can only increase rent twice per year to reach the maximum increase.

The rent control laws don’t apply to all tenants in the state. It excludes renters living in:

  • Properties built within the past 15 years
  • Affordable housing
  • A duplex where the owner lives in one of the units

In those cases, rent can be increased by more than 10%, but 90-day notice is required.

Other types of lease modifications

Landlords who want to change any terms of a month-to-month lease—other than increasing the rent—must give tenants at least 30 days’ notice.6 However, if it's stated in the written lease, the notification period can be as short as seven days.

[1] Tenant Protection Act of 2019

[2] Cal. Civ. Code § 1946.1

[3] Cal. Civ. Code § 1162

[4] Tenant Protection Act of 2019

[5] Cal. Civ. Code § 1947.12

[6] Cal. Civ. Code § 827

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.