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Landlord Responsibilities When Dealing with Bilingual Tenants

Approximately 15.2 million Californians speak a language other than English as home. And the other Californians don’t speak English well (that’s a joke). The California Translation Act, codified at Civil Code § 1632 governs transactions affected in the five most common non-English languages spoken in California: Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean. The Act provides, When a residential lease is primarily negotiated in Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Korean, a translated copy of the lease must be provided in that language before the lease is signed if the lease is for more than a month. The translation must include material terms and conditions. However, a translated copy is not required if the tenant has an interpreter during the lease negotiations. The interpreter may not be an agent of the landlord and may not be a minor and must speak and read with full understanding English and one of the above specified languages.

Any material changes to the lease, such as rent increases, should also be provided in the primary language in which negotiations were conducted. Upon violation, the aggrieved party may rescind the lease. This may also mean rent increases violating the Act would have no effect and the aggrieved party might be entitled to a reimbursement of rents paid under invalid rent increase notices. What is less clear is whether other notices such as notices terminating a tenancy need to be translated. Section 1632 states, “a lease, sublease, rental contract or agreement, or other term of tenancy contract or agreement,” needs to be translated. Arguably, a termination notice is not a term of the tenancy and would not need to be translated. Any landlords contemplating an eviction should hire experienced legal counsel before serving such notices to avoid such notice being voided.

Copyright © 2018 by Fried & Williams LLP. All Rights Reserved. The information in this article is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. For any specific matter, please consult with an attorney.

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