Requirements When Leasing to Non-English Speakers

The Los Angeles rental market is incredibly diverse and with that diversity come thousands of foreign-language speakers who are not comfortable dealing in English .  So what happens when you try to lease your property to someone who only speaks a foreign language?  The answer is that there are specific requirements you must meet to ensure your lease is valid and enforceable.

The Background

Initially California law was not sympathetic to the plights of non-English speakers in this context, reasoning that one’s duty to read and understand should trump the need for different language versions of the lease. By 1978, though, California decided on a different course to prevent landlords from defrauding tenants by enacting California Civil Code section 1632.5.

California’s legislature built the law with very specific immigrant groups in mind, choosing very specific language speakers -- Spanish, Russian, Armenian, Tagalog, Chinese -- to make up the words of the statute.  As to be understood by the statute’s language, other language speakers are not to be excluded. That means that even when negotiating a lease with a person who speaks a language rooted in the most obscure of the world’s 197 countries (here’s looking at you, East Timor) you will need to follow the legal protocol or the lease will be void.

The Requirements (Choose One)

1.  Provide a Translated Version of the Lease in the Tenant’s Primary Language Before He or She Signs the Lease Agreement

    If the lease is for a period of one month or more, you must provide a translation of the lease agreement prior to having the tenant sign the English version of the lease agreement.  Translation is also required for any subsequent document that makes substantial changes in the parties’ rights and obligations but is not required for items incorporated by reference like rules and regulations.

2.  Have Tenant Bring a Translator

Encourage your prospective tenant to bring a translator with them to go over and sign the lease agreement if option one is not plausible.  The translator can be any person over the age of 18 who is fluent in both languages and cannot be affiliated with the landlord in any way so the court can ensure that there is no deliberate mistranslation of the lease.  

    If you need assistance with this process or if you have already leased your property without following this process, contact The Rad Firm, APC to get explore your options (310) 461-4766.