Reviewing Your Residential Lease Agreement

Blog, Real Estate

Reviewing Residential Lease Agreement

Lease agreements are like any other form contract document. They get used daily but are rarely read. Agents may not realize the lease agreement being utilized in their practice may not afford the best protection for their landlord or tenant clients. Here are a few considerations when evaluating whether your form lease agreement needs an update.

Lease agreements cannot require a tenant to waive protections in Landlord/Tenant Law. However, the following terms are permitted:

  • Disclosure of residents (not guests) living in the property
  • Any limitation of occupancy
  • Term of the tenancy
  • Prohibit modifications
  • Prohibit or permit pets
  • Prohibition of subleasing
  • Require payment for remaining term upon early termination (mitigation)
  • Prohibit loud music during specified times
  • Prohibit more than a certain number of vehicles or parking spaces
  • Require landlord access with notice
  • Prohibit alteration to the property
  • Assignability of the lease (with or without landlord permission)
  • Disposition of the security deposit

The lease must also accurately identify who the landlord is and/or the landlord’s agent and identify all of the tenants that will be considered “Tenants” and responsible for paying rent. If the owner/landlord requires a guarantor of the lease, in case the tenants do not pay rent, such will need to be referenced in the lease agreement. The lease should also identify any appliances that are remaining with the property, responsibilities for trash removal, snow removal, and landscaping.

Perhaps the most important is a clear and concise description of the obligation to pay rent. When is the rent due? In what form is the rent to be paid? Where or to whom is the rent to be paid? What are the fees for the payment of rent late or a rent check returned NSF?

The lease should identify who is responsible for repairs and maintenance. Under the law, the landlord has a duty to keep the property in habitable condition, provide hot/cold water, and maintain supplied appliances in working order. Tenants have a duty to dispose of garbage, keep plumbing fixtures clean, operate all mechanicals, appliances, and fixtures properly, and refrain from destroying any part of the property.

If the rental unit is part of a community, it may be prudent to have the tenant acknowledge association requirements or a code of conduct. This may help to avoid nuisance allegations from neighbors and other community members.

As with any agreement involving real estate, it is important that all of the financial agreements and obligations are clearly set forth in writing and signed by both the landlord and tenant(s). A comprehensive lease that addresses some of the areas above will be an important tool in aiding your clients through the rental process.

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