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Is it legal to ask for first and last months rent?

Is it leagal in california to require first and last months rent in addition to security deposit when tenants move in?

Yes it is legal. The security deposit is often handled as an escrow deposit, owned by the tenant, but held by the landlord until the premises are surrendered in good condition  Landlords are not obligated to use security deposit funds as last month's rent. If your landlord does not agree to use your deposit for the last rent, he or she can serve a 3-Day Pay Rent or Quit Notice. To prevent having to go through legal action for eviction known as an unlawful detainer, landlords can ask for a tenant to pay the rent for first and last month upfront to prevent anyone from skipping the last month's rent.  Landlords do not have to rely on using the security deposit to cover the last's month rent as additional damage caused by a tenant or guests or any necessary cleaning may be needed in addition to an amount of rent, which may exceed the security deposit.  Thereby, they may ask for a full first and last month's rent in addition to security deposit.
In Conn you can escrow max of 2 months. Check your state statutes.
In these horrible economic times, many otherwise decent prospective tenants will have difficulty coming up with 2 months rent as security, and you may  miss out on some decent tenants who have good payment and credit histories because of this.  You may wish to consider dividing up the last month's rent security into monthly payments as "added rent" and offering that deal to your prospective tenants just as long as everything is spelled out accordingly in writing.
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