Avoiding Legal Risk with Your Lease

Are you giving enough thought to your leases and the other legal documents used in your property rental business? If not, you could be putting your business at risk.

  • Friday, May 16, 2014

  General   Tips   Legal   

Are you giving enough thought to your leases and the other legal documents used in your property rental business? If not, you could be putting your business at risk. It is not uncommon for landlords to simply surf the Internet and download the leases and other documents they need. While this is certainly a convenient way to approach the matter, it is always important to have an attorney who is well versed in local landlord-tenant law review it before you actually use it in your business.

Without having an attorney review your lease or other documents, you could be at risk for two potentially serious problems. First, you may not actually understand the terms of the lease that you use. Second, you could end up using a lease that does not apply to your state.

Regardless of how well you think you have worded your lease, without a comprehensive legal review, your tenant could actually hold you responsible for a variety of issues, ranging from refunding deposits to allowing all sorts of activity. Unfortunately, many landlords never realize their mistake until a tenant actually holds them to the lease.

To avoid such problems, it is important to ensure that you understand all of the terms of your lease. Another common mistake that many property owners make is in trying to use legal language in their lease that they do not understand. The best course of action is to use simple English.

Also, do not attempt to add in uses or conditions for deposits. Otherwise, you may find yourself responsible for refunding the deposit if it is not used for those uses specifically stated in the lease. In addition, make sure that you do not make the mistake of agreeing to maintain or fix too much in your lease agreement. Remember that ultimately, your lease agreement is a legal contract. Whatever you agree to in writing in your lease, your can be held legally responsible for doing. Along those same lines, you should not ask the tenant to do too much as part of the lease agreement, either. As the landlord, you are responsible for ensure the premises remains habitable. Despite that responsibility, some property owners will make the mistake of trying to include provisions in the lease that transfer the burden of maintenance to the tenant.

It is also important to ensure that you research local regulations regarding whether you are allowed to ask for both the first and last months' rent at the time that the time signs the lease. This practice is no longer legally allowed in many states. In many areas, landlords may instead ask for a security deposit and the first month's rent. Be certain to check your state's laws prior to determining what you can charge your tenants when signing a lease.

The bottom line is this: your lease agreement is a legally binding contract. Make sure you take the time to develop a lease that is applicable to your local area and which you thoroughly understand to ensure you do not take on any undue legal risk.

Disclaimer: The blog entry should not be construed as legal advice. These are guidelines that will help you as a landlord, property manager, or tenant screening provider. Local laws and regulations may differ in your area. Be sure to consult with an attorney before rejecting an applicant and ensure you are following fair housing laws. Published by your friends at VerticalRent.

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