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A tenant estoppel certificate is a signed statement verifying and certifying the terms of a residential or commercial lease. It is often referred to as a tenant rental information declaration, rental information questionnaire, or estoppel agreement. No matter the title, it serves the same purpose and generally includes the same information. Generally, an estoppel certificate is a written, signed stipulation of facts to prevent a tenant from contradicting those facts. Landlords oftentimes ask tenants to sign a tenant estoppel certificate when they sell or refinance their rental property. 

What Is a Tenant Estoppel Certificate, and Why Do I Need to Know About Them?

Tenant estoppel certificates are extremely important documents. Unfortunately, many tenants sign them without thinking or carefully reviewing the terms of the tenant estoppel certificate. Do not make that mistake! 

When properly drafted, an estoppel certificate summarizes the terms of the lease or rental agreement between the tenant and landlord. Estoppel certificates are used to confirm the terms of a rental agreement, the amount paid by the tenant, whether the tenant owes any sums to the landlord, and whether the landlord is or is not in default under the lease. 

If the facts described in a tenant estoppel certificate are accurate, a tenant should not be concerned. However, it’s very important that the tenant read the certificate carefully. If the certificate mistakes facts by, for example, misstating how much a tenant is paying, or owes under the lease, the tenant could be bound by those statements! Likewise, if the tenant estoppel certificates states that the landlord has performed under the lease and is not in default, a tenant could be barred from raising a claim against the landlord should a dispute arise regarding payment or the physical condition of the property!

I Am a Tenant. Do I Have to Sign the Estoppel Certificate?

Generally, yes. Most lease agreements contain a clause requiring tenants to sign an estoppel certificate if asked. Refusing to sign one may even be considered a breach of your lease. Reviewing your lease in detail before deciding whether to sign the certificate is critical. If your lease contains such a provision, it usually includes information about how long you have to complete and sign the document. Typically, you only have a few days to complete it and return it to your landlord.  

Absent a provision in your lease requiring you to complete and sign the certificate, it may still be in your interest to complete it. An experienced attorney can guide you on why you should or shouldn’t sign one. 

Memorializing Verbal Agreements

If you are asked to fill out and sign an estoppel agreement, it is wise to memorialize any oral agreements you may have made with the landlord over your lease term. It is common for renters and landlords to agree to specific terms over time verbally. For instance, you may have asked your landlord about getting a cat. If the landlord agrees to this but it is not memorialized in your lease agreement, you will want to include it in your estoppel certificate so it is clear to the buyer and your new landlord that you can have the cat. It puts the new owner of the building on notice that you are allowed this privilege. 

Some examples of additional agreements include:

  • Use of a garage or storage area;
  • Use of shared common areas;
  • Exclusive use of certain areas (e.g., backyard);
  • Maintenance agreements such as a reduced rental rate in exchange for maintaining or cleaning certain areas of the property; and
  • Permission to sublet or rent a room.

To preserve any of these agreements, you will want to include them in your tenant estoppel certificate. 

If you are asked to sign a tenant estoppel certificate, you also need to make sure that you list all problems you’re having with the unit, and your landlord including any disputes over payment or the landlord’s failure to make repairs.

Contact Us

If you are concerned about a tenant estoppel certificate in California, contact us to discuss your rights and obligations.  

Author Photo

Victoria L. Ersoff

Victoria Ersoff is a litigation attorney with over 28 years’ experience on both sides of the courtroom, having represented both defendants and plaintiffs alike. Victoria’s proactive, innovative and aggressive approach to the practice of law has yielded an unbroken string of jury verdicts for her clients. She is nationally known for her expertise in all facets of toxic tort litigation and mass bacterial outbreaks including her handling of over 1,000 Legionnaires’ disease claims nationwide. Victoria is nationally known as the “go to” Legionnaires’ disease attorney. She has handled cases across the country including all facets of toxic tort litigation, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.

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