How Do You Negotiate Lease Terms with Non-English Speaking Tenants?

If you have non-English speaking applicants, some states may have specific legal requirements to help these applicants understand the lease before signing it.

For example, in California, the landlord must give the tenant a written translation of the proposed lease or rental agreement in the language used in the negotiation (California law specifies Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean) before the tenant signs it. This law applies equally to the negotiations that are conducted orally or in writing. It does not apply, however, if the rental agreement is for not more than one month.

Regardless of whether or not the tenant requests the translation, the landlord must give the tenant the written translation of the lease or rental agreement. Naturally, the translation must include every term and condition in the lease or rental agreement. The translation may retain elements such as names, addresses, numerals, dollar amounts and dates in English. California landlords should always offer a translated lease to their tenants before signing the rental agreement or lease, not after they already signed.

However, the requirement of providing a written translation to your tenant does not apply if all of the following are true:

  • The tenant brought their own interpreter to go over the rental agreement with you.

  • The tenant’s own interpreter can fluently speak and read English, as well as the language used in the negotiation.

  • The interpreter is not a minor (under 18 years of age).

  • You did not hire, procure or provide the interpreter.

If the above exceptions do not apply, and a landlord who is required to provide a written translation of a lease or rental agreement fails to do so, the tenant can rescind the agreement.