Just be careful of the contract you are using. There are great advantages in using a Realtor to help you find a rental property. Not only do we have an extensive list of rental properties, but you can rely on the content of the lease agreements used by Realtors. Many times, the contracts used by individual owners who are renting their own properties are incomplete or even downright illegal. Standard contracts from the California Association of Realtors give you the best protection under the law as a tenant. And the best part is that the landlord normally pays for this service.....the tenant receives help and advice at no cost.
Another concern today is the seller's mortgage on the rental property. Your real estate agent should be looking at the title information of the rental property to make sure that there is not a Notice of Default filed against the property. We have seen many cases today where a tenant moves into a property only to find out that it will soon be foreclosed. Nothing worse than coming home from work and finding a Notice of Trustee's Sale on your front door.
Again, your best protection is to use an agent. Your agent will be able to guide you thru the process and help to protect you.
Hope this helps a bit! Bob