California Landlord Disclosure Requirements

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A disclosure from the landlord describes information that is relevant to the health and safety of a prospective tenant who wishes to rent a property. Federal, state and municipal laws require landlords to disclose this information before a tenant signs a lease or a periodic rental agreement, as it could influence her decision to move in or find another place. California landlord disclosure requirements also require the landlord to inform the tenant of her legal rights and responsibilities while bound by the lease or agreement. If he fails to do so, he is in violation of the law and can face lawsuits, fines or criminal charges.

Lead Paint Disclosure Requirements

While not every state or municipality has disclosure requirements, all states must comply with informing prospective tenants of possible lead paint exposure for any structure built before 1978. The EPA requires landlords to:

  • Give tenants a government-sanctioned pamphlet entitled, "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home," that details the dangers of lead paint and how to prevent lead poisoning.
  • Inform tenants of any lead paint information relevant to the specific structure. In a multi-unit building, prospective tenants must also receive any records or reports of lead paint evaluation for the structure.
  • Include a Lead Warning Statement in the lease or attach it to the lease. This statement verifies that the landlord has complied with federally mandated lead paint disclosure requirements.

Landlords do not have to comply with lead paint disclosure requirements on housing built after 1978; when renting lofts, studios or efficiency apartments; or in the case of a short term rental in which tenancy is for less than 100 days. Single rooms in residential dwellings; housing intended and designed for disabled persons (unless a child under 6 will live there); and senior retirement communities with at least one tenant who is over 62 are also exceptions to the lead paint disclosure requirements.

Disclosure of Sexual Offenders

California law states that landlords must disclose information to prospective tenants regarding Megan's Law, a federal mandate that allows the public to search for registered sex offenders in any neighborhood. The database provides information about a sex offender's whereabouts in the area in which the tenant will live. However, the law prohibits landlords from discriminating against those whose names appear on the website.

The property owner must include the following specific language from California Civil Code Section 2079.10a in all leases and periodic rental agreements:

"NOTICE: Pursuant to Section 290.46 of the Penal Code, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public via an internet website maintained by the Department of Justice at www.meganslaw.ca.gov. Depending on an offender's criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and ZIP Code in which he or she resides."

Toxic Mold and Pest Control Disclosures

If toxic mold exceeds permissible exposure limits or poses a possible health threat to current or prospective tenants in a structure, the landlord must provide written disclosure of it. Before a tenant signs the lease, the landlord must also hand out a state Department of Health Services consumer handbook outlining the health risks of mold exposure.

If pests have been an issue in the structure, the landlord must provide new tenants with copies of notices from pest control companies hired to combat them. Any notices must contain the nature of the pest infestation, the frequency of the treatments, the pesticides used, their active ingredients and language specific to any illnesses a tenant may possibly incur due to pesticide exposure. The notice must also contain the pest control company's contact information, as well as the contact information of the county health department, the county agricultural commissioner and California's Structural Pest Control Board.

Tobacco Smoke Disclosures

If a tenant has a respiratory problem, such as asthma, exposure to secondhand smoke can be a matter of life or death. California Civil Code Section 1947.5 states that landlords who prohibit or limit smoking on the property must include a clause in the lease or periodic rental agreement. This disclosure only applies to leases and agreements signed after January 1, 2012. It does not apply to anyone who began occupying a unit before that date.

For tenants holding leases and rental agreements before January 1, 2012, the landlord must disclose any changes regarding limiting or prohibiting smoking on the property by giving tenants adequate notice in writing. This does not apply to tenants with a fixed lease until they renew their leases. However, tenants with month-to-month agreements must have received 30 days' written notice before those changes take place. The landlord must also follow any local ordinances limiting or prohibiting smoking on, or in, effect before that date.

Methamphetamine Contamination Disclosures

If contamination has taken place by activities specific to making methamphetamine on the premises and is subject to remediation, a landlord must provide written notice of the contamination and a copy of the remediation notice to prospective tenants who have applied for a unit. The tenant must acknowledge receipt of the notice in writing before signing the lease. Afterward, the landlord must attach the notice to the lease. A landlord's failure to provide disclosure of methamphetamine contamination and remediation can render the lease agreement void.

If the rental property is a mobile or manufactured home, the landlord must notify prospective tenants of methamphetamine contamination in the structure and detail the steps she has taken to remediate it. She cannot rent the property until she provides the tenant with a copy of the remediation order. If the tenant already occupies the structure, the landlord must attach the notice of methamphetamine contamination and remediation to the lease or rental agreement, according to California Health and Safety Code Section 25400.28.

Death and Miscellaneous Disclosures

If a previous tenant has passed away within the last three years in a unit that a prospective tenant wishes to rent, the landlord must disclose this information before the tenant signs the lease or rental agreement. He must also disclose the basic facts of the former tenant's death and state if it was due to natural causes, an accident, murder or suicide. A landlord does not have to inform the new tenant if the previous renter had HIV or AIDS. California law also requires the landlord to volunteer basic information about any tenant who died in the unit prior to three years before, if directly asked.

Other information a landlord must disclose to a prospective tenant includes:

  • An intent to demolish the rental property: A landlord must give written notice to a prospective tenant if she or an agent of the property has pulled permits to demolish the unit before accepting his deposit or screening fee. 
  • Payment of other utilities by the tenant: The landlord must disclose if utilities to the tenant's unit also serve other units and the fair division of the cost.
  • Bed bug information and prevention: The landlord must give potential renters information about the biology and behavior of bed bugs, how to keep them at bay and the importance of prompt written notices of any suspected infestations. 

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About the Author

Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.