It was the apartment of your dreams, so you signed the lease without giving it much thought. But now there are problems. And you don’t know what to do. Afterall, you signed the lease and now you have no choice. Not so fast. A lease is a contract and as such, it must be in accordance with the rules of contract law. One of the principles of contract law is that certain statements or policies can’t be a part of a contract. This includes illegal activities and activities that are against public policy. Even when a tenant has signed the lease, unconscionable or illegal terms of a contract make it unenforceable. Read on to learn about common but unenforceable Bay Area lease terms.
Excessive Security Deposits
Paying a security deposit is something that’s required for most renters. However, there are laws that determine how much is acceptable to charge for a security deposit. Under California law, a landlord can’t hold a deposit of more than two months’ rent for an unfurnished unit and three months’ rent for a furnished unit.
Early Lease Termination Fees
A lease with a clause the makes a tenant pay a set amount for breaking their lease early is illegal in this state. California caps what the landlord can recover when a tenant breaks a lease; they can only recover the actual damages suffered because of the termination of the lease. The landlord must mitigate the damages to re-let the property as soon as possible at the same rate. If the rental market is tight and the landlord can re-let the space right away, then the landlord hasn’t experienced any major damages due to the breach.
Prohibiting Jury Trials
If your lease contains an arbitration clause or anything that prohibits a jury trial in a dispute between the landlord and the tenant, it is unenforceable. However, mediation provisions are enforceable, as long as it doesn’t exclude a possible jury trial.
Waiver of Landlord’s Liability
All landlords owe a duty of reasonable care to their tenants and are liable to them if the tenant suffers damages for the landlord’s negligent acts. A landlord can’t waive or modify this duty. This means that any lease that contains a provision that exempts the landlord’s liability for negligence is legally void and unenforceable because it is “contrary to public policy.”
Expansion of Landlord’s Rights to Enter a Unit
California law identifies specific reasons and circumstances under which a landlord can enter a tenant’s unit. This includes entering for emergencies or making necessary or agreed upon repairs. A landlord can’t put anything in the lease that allows for other reasons to enter a unit.
Dealing with Unenforceable Bay Area Lease Terms? Get Legal Help!
Whether you’re renting an apartment for the first time in your life or for the umpteenth, people often don’t read every line of their lease. Although it’s best to be aware of questionable terms before you move-in and sign the lease, it’s possible to remedy the situation if you’ve signed something that’s unenforceable. Feel free to reach out to us to talk to an experienced landlord and tenant attorney at Wolford Wayne. Contact us right away to discuss your case.