This article was posted on Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Rental property owners need to be cautious when entering into a lease, whether oral or in writing – with a tenant if the lease terms are primarily negotiated in one of the following five foreign languages: Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese or Korean.

If this occurs, then the owner must provide the tenant with a written and translated copy of the lease prior to the parties signing. This translated copy must include a translation of every term and condition in the lease, so a written summary of the terms is insufficient.

Owners should closely review California Civil Code § 1632 for additional notice requirements.

One exception to this rule applies if the tenant brings his or her own interpreter to negotiate the lease terms. However, this interpreter must: 

  • Be of legal age (not a minor)
  • Be able to speak and read fluently both in English and the foreign language and
  • Not be employed by, or even provided through, the owner

To avoid the possibility of noncompliance with this law and thereby giving the tenant grounds to rescind the lease, the owner’s safest course of action is to negotiate the lease terms exclusively in English.

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C. Danny Wang is an associate attorney at Steven Adair MacDonald & Associates, P.C. in San Francisco.  He can be reached at 415-956-6488 or via email at [email protected].

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