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When Are You Required to Translate Residential Leases

Jun 5, 2008
California and most of the country has communities where a language other than English is very prominent. In these communities California imposes an additional burden on certain landlords who speak a foreign language. The same is true if the landlord employees leasing agents or employees that are bilingual and negotiation or deal in a foreign language. The landlords covered are those landlords that who negotiate with a residential tenant primarily in Spanish, Chinese, Taglog, Vietnamese or Korean.

The landlord is required to deliver to the tenant prior to execution of a lease, sublease, rental contract or agreement, or the term of tenancy agreement or contract an un-executed foreign language translation of the contract or agreement. Meaning the landlord has to give the prospective tenant a translated unsigned copy of the agreement in the language in which the negotiations took place, before the English language lease agreement is signed.

These requirement apply to leases where the lease is for more than one month. This is true for apartments, houses, and mobile homes. It applies to residential lease agreements only. These statutes do not apply to commercial property. An exception applies whent he tenant brings his or her own interpreter and the interpreter is at least 18 years of age. If happens to be a 14 child for example the statute still applies. If the tenant brings his or her own interpreter, the entire negotiations can be conducted in a language other than English and the lease agreement can then be in English, presumably because the interpreter would be able to translate.

The requirement is imposed on any landlord where the landlord is engaged in a trade or business who negotiate with residential tenants. The statutes do not specify what is meant by that, but it would likely mean someone that derives a substantial amount of income, such as when a landlord owns a rental property.

The parts of the contract that do not require translation are those parts that generally do not have a non-English translation such as names, titles of individuals, addresses, numerals, and dollar amounts. If there is dispute the English version determines rights and duties, but if the translated version differs from the English version then no contract exists because there was no agreement.

If the translation of the agreement is not provided, then the tenant has the right to rescind the agreement.

California statutes specify which languages must be translated, but it would be advisable to follow the rule for other languages as well to avoid rescission or other potential problems.

These statutes initially specified that it applied when the negotiations where conducted in Spanish and were late amended to include the other groups. It is likely that the statues will be amended again to cover other groups, so it is advisable to keep current on these changing laws to avoid rescission.
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