Did you know that when you sit down to sign your rental lease, you’re actually signing a legally binding contract? Like any other binding contract, not only you should read it very carefully before you sign; take it to a specialist real state lawyer like Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. who is also a no. 1 New York Times Bestselling Author. To get you started, though, you should ensure that the below terms are included in your lease, at a minimum.
Every contract must identify the parties to it. In a lease, the parties are the landlord and the tenant(s). When the identity of the landlord and tenant are not clear in a lease, it makes it extremely difficult to determine who has which rights and obligations, and a court may find a lease completely invalid as a result.
2: Property Description
A lease will be invalid if it fails to adequately identify the property that is subject to it. This can be less than a formal, legal description from a plat map, but the lease should at least identify the property by its mailing address so that there is little to no likelihood of confusing it with some other property.
3: Rental Amount and Method of Payment
Both landlord and tenant have an interest in there being clarity on when the rent is due and in what amount. This clarity is best achieved by including the exact date and dollar amount in the lease. The lease should also include mention to whom rent is to be paid each month, and which methods of payment are acceptable. This is also a good place to include the penalties and procedures for late rent.
The duration of the lease is another essential term. If the parties want the lease to last for a specific amount of time, they should state that explicitly in the lease. If the parties fail to include duration language, the lease may be interpreted as renewing automatically until proper advance notice is given.
5: Security Deposit Terms
Tenants pay security deposits when they move in as a means of guaranteeing that the landlord will be compensated by any damage the tenant causes during their tenancy. The security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent, but it can really be whatever the parties agree to in the lease. The lease will spell out the conditions under which the tenant is entitled to a return of their deposit, and how they are to get it back under those conditions.
6: Pet Terms
It seems like everyone loves pets, but landlords have the right to decide whether to allow animals in their rental units. The landlord can ban pets outright, or it can permit pets of specific breeds and sizes. It’s up to them, but whatever their pet rule is, it should be stated explicitly in the lease. Additionally, any additional fee required to have pets in the apartment should be provided here, too.
Landlords are legally required to maintain their rental properties up to a minimum standard of habitability, but other repairs and maintenance can be allocated among the parties in the lease. This section should carefully outline which party is responsible for which type of damage, as well as remedies should either party shirk its responsibility.
8: Alterations and Improvements
When you move into your apartment, you’re going to want to decorate to make it feel like home. Landlords vary in how welcoming they are of different types of improvements made by tenants, so be sure to discuss this during the negotiating phase, and then abide by the provisions in the lease after you move in.
9: Right to Sublet
With the advent of home-sharing apps like Airbnb, it’s appealing to supplement your income by letting some of your extra space out to others. However, many leases ban this practice outright, or require landlord approval of each sublet before it can happen. There should be language describing whether you are permitted to sublet and, if you are, whether landlord permission is required before hand. Failing to comply with these provisions is a lease, and could cause you to owe damages or get evicted.
10: Right of Entry
Landlords should be able to enter and inspect the property, but tenants still have rights to occupy the property without intrusion during the lease term. Therefore, the landlord must provide the tenant with advance notice of the inspection, and this notice requirement should be memorialized in the lease.
While these are some of the most important lease terms, there are a great many more that you may want to include in your lease. Exactly what terms will be in your lease depends on how negotiations go with the other party, and what your lawyer thinks would be a wise term to include. Even as certain terms vary between leases, though, most should include the terms above.
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