Securing Interests: Navigating the Intricacies of Assignment of Rents in California Real Estate

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Your borrower has an income generating property (generally tenants who are paying monthly rent) and is (presumably) collecting it. He isn’t paying you, though. Where is the money going? You ask, and he tells you ghost stories about Wimpy paying for a cheeseburger on Tuesday, but Tuesday never comes. What can you do? As with all things litigation, folks respond to one thing – pressure. You need to gain leverage on him and make it easier for the borrower to do what you want him to do (pay) than it is for him to do what he wants to do (not pay). Gaining that leverage typically requires a lawsuit.

So, sue him! Get a receiver appointed and have the rent paid to you. Suppose that will get the attention of your borrower? I do as well.

I write today to provide a detailed overview of the concept of Assignment of Rents as it pertains to real estate holdings in California. This is a significant aspect for both lenders and property owners, and understanding its implications is crucial for informed decision-making.

1. Definition and Purpose:

Assignment of Rents is a legal mechanism used in real estate where a property owner assigns their right to collect rents from the property to a lender as security for a loan. This arrangement is particularly common in commercial real estate transactions. The primary purpose is to provide additional security to the lender; in the event of a default, the lender has the right to collect rents directly from tenants.

2. Legal Framework in California:

In California, the Assignment of Rents is governed by the California Civil Code § 2938. The statute outlines the conditions and procedures under which rents may be assigned and the rights of both the lender and borrower in such scenarios. It is essential to understand this law balances the interests of lenders, borrowers, and tenants.

3. Activation of Assignment:

Typically, the assignment becomes active (or “absolute”) upon a default by the property owner. Prior to default, the owner usually retains the right to collect and use the rents, often referred to as a “conditional” assignment.

4. Enforcement and Collection:

Upon default (generally, your borrower missing an installment payment), the lender gains the ability to enforce the assignment of rents. This may involve notifying tenants to pay rents directly to the lender or taking legal action to collect the rents (sue your borrower!). The lender’s right to collect rents is subject to existing tenancy agreements and state laws regarding tenant rights.

Your lawsuit will be filed seeking appointment of a receiver (the guy who will collect the rent, deposit them with the Court, which will account them to you). The lawsuit may also include any other causes of action which lie against your borrower (i.e. conversion, judicial foreclosure, breach of contract, breach of guaranty, child support, … whatever).  The motion to appoint a receiver will come about one month after filing, and you can expect to begin seeing the rent deposited during the following rent cycle.

5. Implications for Property Owners and Lenders:

For property owners, it’s crucial to understand assigning rents can impact their cash flow and control over the property in case of a default. This is a high leverage proposition. Without their revenue, it is extraordinarily difficult for them to operate. You’ll have their full attention (perhaps for the first time since default). For lenders, while it provides an additional security layer, it also imposes the responsibility of managing rent collection and possibly dealing with tenants directly.

6. Best Practices:

  • For Property Owners: Carefully review the terms of any loan agreement that includes an assignment of rents. Consider the implications of default and seek legal advice if necessary.
  • For Lenders: Ensure compliance with California law when drafting assignment of rents clauses and enforcing them. Clear communication with borrowers and tenants is key to smooth enforcement. Use counsel who is experienced in these matters. This isn’t an area to experiment with.


The Assignment of Rents is a critical tool in real estate financing in California, offering additional security to lenders while imposing certain obligations and risks. Both lenders and property owners should approach this arrangement with a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities under California law. Contact the team at Geraci with any questions you may have about Assignment of Rents.

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