Quick Start Guide to Residential Lease Agreements

by Chris on July 30, 2018

If you are a savvy landlord, you asked your attorney to review your lease agreement before you handed it off to your tenants. However, it seldom happens that the attorney is present when it comes time to sign that agreement. No matter how ironclad the language of the lease is, simple mistakes in executing it can render it unenforceable.

Avoid some of the most common leasing mistakes by following these steps:

1. Pay attention to whether mandatory disclosures like lead-paint warnings, no-smoking rules, marijuana restrictions and the like must be provided at leasing, or prior to leasing. Local statutes differ on this point. Ask your lawyer to advise you. Barring that, provide a copy of the full lease agreement and the disclosures prior to asking the tenant to sign. Encourage the tenant to consult with an attorney before signing the lease.

2. Omitted pages make it nearly impossible to enforce those provisions against the tenant. Numbering with “Page ____ of ____” lowers the likelihood of dropped pages or attachments. Include page numbers on disclosures and addenda and know the total number of pages in your lease agreement.

3. Tenant names are listed at the top of the lease. These names should come directly from each tenant’s photo ID.

4. Include the date that the agreement is signed by the tenants. This usually appears in the first paragraph or below on the signature lines. That date is different than the term of the tenancy, and may be important to know if the case goes to court.

5. Go over the lease with the tenant in person and point out the material provisions:

The Notice to Tenant that explains the landlord reports rent payments;
The rent amount and who pays utilities;
Remind tenants that the security deposit is refundable, and that the landlord wants the tenant to get the deposit back because that means the rent is paid to date and the unit is returned in good condition; and
Review policies on short-term sublets, pets, and other tenant responsibilities like how to make repair requests.

Tenants can’t abide by the terms of the lease agreement unless they have read it and understand it.

6. The tenants identified in the first paragraph sign the lease. Print the names next to the signature lines and insist that tenants sign exactly as the name appears on their photo ID. Include enough signature lines for multiple tenants and don’t turn over the keys until everyone has signed. Keep the original signed lease and make copies for the tenants.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jenn August 7, 2018 at 6:06 am

We gave our 60 days notice to vacate, well within the 60 days, but 22 days short of our end date. The property we are moving to can only hold the apartment for 30 days so we’ll be leaving a few days shy of our lease. We received a nasty voicemail asking why we were leaving early and that we would receive a lease break letter and pay ridiculous fines. I went to the office the following morning to ask about the message and the leasing agent was combative. She knew who I was and claimed I’d owe an excess of $7,000 for 22 days. I told her we didn’t have a problem paying the rent for the additional days, but if she charged us additional fees I would share my experiences in my closing review. She kicked her chair back leaned over the desk shaking her finger in my face and called me a bitch. I sat there stunned, asked her several times to stop yelling, but she called me a nasty bitch, called my kids nasty and told me to leave the office and go clean my nasty apartment and kids. I must mention we pay $1800 a month to rent at this “luxury” community and this is the ghetto behavior of the staff. She followed me out of the office shouting vulgar names at me so I called the police. My husband went to the office with his phone recording and asked for corporate offices contact information. The same woman got in my husbands face and continued calling me names. She refused to take his information and threatened to take him to court. The regional manager offered and apology, but has not tried to resolve the incident even though she admitted to watching the disturbing video surveillance from their lobby. She sent me a letter basically stating they would let us leave on the date we provided in our notice if we never share that video on social media. Do we have any rights regarding this situation or after the verbal bashing do we have to scurry away with our tails tucked between our legs?

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