Featured News 2013 Ten Items that Need to Be in Your Lease or Rental Agreement

Ten Items that Need to Be in Your Lease or Rental Agreement

Landlords and tenants have an increasingly complex set of regulations by which to live, and these laws are always changing. They already vary from state to state. Fortunately, there are simple steps that you can take at the outset to avoid serious legal difficulties in the future. In order to spare you undue stress, either as a landlord or a tenant, here are ten things that should be a part of your lease or rental agreement.

First off, the agreement has to include the tenants' names. As basic as this may sound, you have to be sure that every single adult in the residence should have their name as a tenant on the agreement. This holds each person to the terms of the agreement, as well as for a portion of the rent. Then it can clarify matters to stipulate how many tenants are allowed to reside in the apartment or house. This means that only the people who have been screened by the landlord are allowed to live in that rental unit. If this part of the agreement is violated, such as a tenant having a family member move in without the landlord's okay, this can be a reason for eviction.

Then the terms of tenancy have to be very clear. This includes spelling out if the agreement is a rental agreement or for a fixed-term lease. The rental agreement will usually be a month-to-month arrangement that will automatically renew unless either the landlord or the tenant terminates the lease. Leases are usually set up on an annual basis. You will have to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of either agreement.

Also very important to specify is the rent. This includes more than saying how much is due and on what day of the month. There will need to be statements that also explain how to pay the rent, whether rent can only come in personal checks, whether there will be late fees, whether there is a grace period, and what penalties there are for a bounced rent check. Other financial issues that have to be addressed are the deposit and any fees. In fact, the deposit can be a more contentious issue than the rent, so the agreement has to be clear. The agreement needs to state how much the security deposit is (and it has to be within the state's legal limit). Then the agreement must also specify how the deposit can be used, such as for repairs, and how the deposit cannot be used, such as for back rent. Then there are have to be terms about returning the deposit, and any reasons for deducting from the deposit. You will also have to include terms about fees that cannot be returned. In some states, agreements have to say where the deposit will be stored and if there is any interest from it that will eventually go to the tenant. Wherever you live, this would be a recommended addition to an agreement.

Something else that you should put into the agreement are terms regarding repairs and upkeep. This can be a way to avoid innumerable conflicts. The agreement can spell out what the tenant has to do for repairs, when damage has to be reported, and limits on repairs and modifications that tenants can make to a place, etc. Another thing to think about the rights of the landlord to access the rental, as tenants also have rights to privacy. If the landlord will need to go to the property for repairs, or for any other matter, then the agreement should specify how much of a heads up the landlord will give tenants before visiting the property.

Pets are another area of concern. The agreement has to be explicit about whether or not they are allowed. If pets are allowed on the premises, then any limitations on size and number must also be specified, as must any expected responsibilities by the tenant, such as keeping a yard clean of any waste. An additional measure to avoid later difficulties would be to implement prohibitions against illegal acts, specifically stating in the lease the restrictions against disorderly behavior or even criminal acts, such as selling drugs.

For clarity's sake, it would be best to include any parking regulations and regulations about home businesses as well. If there need to be any other regulations, per state law, then these absolutely have to be in there also. This includes your area's health and safety codes, antidiscrimination law, etc. If you need help understanding what your state requires you to put on a lease or rental agreement, then contact a real estate attorney today.

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