At some point during your tenure as a landlord you will run into bad tenants that are not bad enough to evict but that you want rid of once their lease is up.  You might be worried that you have to renew a lease with such tenants but you have every right not to.

Must You Give a Reason for Non-renewal?

In most cases, you do not have to give a reason for not renewing a lease.  However, be aware that although you do not have to give a reason why you are not renewing a lease you cannot decide not to renew in retaliation or because of discrimination.  Although it can be difficult to prove if your tenant claims that you are not renewing his lease in retaliation because he exercised certain rights or because of discrimination he may be able to collect damages from you.  In California the court will presume retaliation in certain instances, so make sure you cannot be accused of retaliatory or discriminatory action when you give notice that you will not be renewing the lease of a problem tenant.  (Civ. Code §§ 1942.5)

Also note that if you rent to section 8 tenants you might be required to give a reason for nonrenewal.  With section 8 cases the local public housing authority (PHA) rules lease terminations, so you need to check with them before doing anything.  If you are working with the PHA and have a bad tenant that you would like to get rid of, contact your local PHA and inquire about their rules regarding lease termination, including whether or not you are required to give a reason for nonrenewal.  If you must give a reason, find out what reasons are acceptable and what reasons are not.  Be sure to put everything in writing so your decision not to renew is well documented, as it is always a good idea to have written proof.

If you decide not to renew a lease with a tenant, give them adequate notice.

Let your tenant know ahead of time that you will not be renewing their lease, even if it is a fixed-term lease that does not necessarily require notice.  You want to give the tenant enough time to look for a new place to live and to make moving arrangements.  It is a good idea to include a clause in your leases that specifies the amount of notice you will give a tenant if you decide not to renew their lease.  If you do not have a time frame specified in the lease, it is generally safe to give a tenant 30 days notice, depending on the type of lease and how long the tenant has lived at the property.

In California there is no requirement that you give notice if you choose not to renew a fixed-term lease but it is the right thing to do so your tenant has time to make alternate living arrangements.  If the lease is for a periodic tenancy with no fixed end date to the lease term you are required to provide written notice that you will be terminating the lease, even if the original agreement was verbal.  (This also applies if there was originally a fixed-term lease but the tenant held over and became month-to-month.)  For a month-to-month periodic lease California requires 30 days written notice of a decision not to renew (Civ. Code §§ 1946). For a periodic lease of one year or more California requires 60 days written notice if all tenants have lived at the property more than one year (Civ. Code § 1946.1(b)) and only 30 days written notice if any of the tenants have lived at the property for less than one-year.  (Civ. Code § 1946.1(c))


The bottom line is that you are not stuck with a bad tenant once their lease expires, just be smart about how you go about letting the tenant know that you will not be renewing their lease.

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