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.
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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.