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Apartment Rental and Home Rental Leases

A lease is an agreement that outlines the responsibilities and obligations of the owner and the tenants of a house or an apartment. It is a legally binding agreement that courts will generally hold up in legal proceedings. Therefore, it is important for you to know the exact terms of the lease agreement before you sign it. The lease should state every agreement that you believe exists between you and your landlord. It should also not include anything that you will object to later. Don't assume a lease clause is illegal just because it seems unfair. Also, don't settle for oral assurances that a particular lease clause will or will not be enforced. The following topics will help you get acquainted with the aspects of reviewing a lease agreement.

Written vs. Verbal Leases

Some landlords do not provide a written lease. The agreement to rent the property is verbal. Even though there is no written agreement, the lease can be enforceable in court as an oral contract. While the terms may be difficult to substantiate, they can be held up in a legal action. If you are currently in a verbal agreement or for some reason must accept one, make sure you understand all the terms completely and keep accurate records and receipts. It is also a good idea to write down the terms of the verbal lease as you understand them so you don't forget later. It is always better for both parties to have an agreement in writing.

Understanding a lease

Always read a lease before you sign it. This document contains everything you need to know about the terms of the house or apartment you are about to rent. If you don't understand something, or a clause does not seem fair, it is important to discuss it with the landlord to understand its purpose. The lease is intended to support both the owner and the tenant. If certain terms seem extraordinary, it is likely the landlord may have had difficulties in this area with previous tenants. But this is the time to negotiate changes to terms that seem unfair or unclear. Once you sign the lease, you can be held to fulfill your obligations.

Things to look for in a Lease

Most landlords obtain their original written lease from a book or a sample form from library or even a lawyer. Over the years, the lease may be modified to suit the landlord's needs. While the landlord's intentions were good, it often leads to illegal or self-serving terms and clauses. Look for clauses that allow the landlord to change the terms of the lease after it is signed, requirements of the tenants to do routine repairs, or restrictions that would prevent you from living normally or comfortably in the home. Anything that cannot be clearly understood or agreeable, should be changed or removed.

Things you should know about a Lease

Any term or clause in a lease affects all parties who sign. If you have several roommates and agree to rent a property, you are collectively responsible for paying the entire rent amount. If one of the roommates leaves or cannot pay, the entire group is still responsible for paying the full rent amount. Likewise, if there is damage to the property, everyone on the lease is equally responsible no matter who did it. Make sure you can rely on the other people you are renting with. Always get a copy of the signed lease to keep for your records. Refer back to it often when you have questions about your rental prior to calling you landlord. Also, some cities and towns require a copy before parking permits are distributed. You can add an addendum to the lease that is an extra page with added clauses or agreements not stated in the original lease. This could come in handy for example, if the landlord agrees to paint the entire house or apartment before you move in, but it is not stated in the lease. Make sure you title the page of any addendum and include a statement on the original lease that the addendum is part of the lease.

Important Elements of a Lease

Rent   To the landlord, this is usually the most important aspect of the agreement. Most owners use this money to pay for the mortgage and other expenses. Don't expect the landlord to deduct amounts from the rent because you may not be happy about something. Always pay your rent on time to avoid any hassles and potential late fees. If you think the rent is too much, don't rent the house or apartment! Also, if you cannot pay the rent on time, let the landlord know this and when he/she can expect the payment.
Security Deposit Expect to pay a security deposit to cover the landlord's cost of damages and repairs when you leave. A security deposit can be up to 1 1/2 time the monthly rent and should be held in your name at a bank account set up by the landlord. Do not expect to use the security deposit for rent or to move into the property without paying the security deposit first.

Tenant Responsibility in a Lease

When reviewing the lease, make note of all tenant responsibilities such as lawn maintenance, shoveling snow, garbage removal, cleaning or notification of repairs. You should not ignore these items while reviewing the lease, because your landlord will expect you to have them done. Sometimes tenants put off these responsibilities, but you must realize this can result in fines from the city or the landlord for neglect. Make sure you consider all of your responsibilities before you sign the lease.

Landlord Responsibility in a Lease

All of the landlord's responsibilities will be stated in the lease. Don't expect any implied items to be completed unless they are in the lease. The landlord will typically make repairs and provide some services such as fix leaking faucets or replace a broken stove. Don't expect to see a detailed list of things unless you ask for them.

Making Changes to a Lease

Many landlords will object to any changes to a lease however, there may be items that are important for you to clarify or alter. If can convince them to make a change, make sure you cross out the old language and write the new term next to it. Then the tenants and the landlord should initial every change. Make sure you make changes to both your copy and the landlords copy and that initials are on both copies.

Lease Term and Dates

Make careful note of the term of the lease and any important dates such as when the rent is due, or garbage pick up days. Often a landlord will give themselves a day or two to clean and repair the property before new tenants move in. This may conflict with your plans if you have a different schedule for a previous or new dwelling. You will also want to avoid fines and penalties from being late with rent or not obeying city ordinances.

Final Words

Once you have signed a lease, make sure you follow all of the agreements. Treat the property like it was your own. Pay your rent on time and fulfill all of your responsibilities. This will help you to make the time you spend at your new home much more enjoyable.


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