The idea of a standard one-size-fits-all rental lease is appealing in theory, but it rarely works out that way in practice.
Simply stated, standard leases are too generic to do the job. Another flaw in some standard tenancy agreements is an underlying misconception that a lease is about protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords and must educate tenants on the law.
But there is no way to condense volumes of rental regulations and human rights protections into an easy-to read-tenancy agreement that tenants will actually read. If tenants don’t read it, they are not likely to follow it.
What’s worse, is what is left out in the process.
Of course, the lease provisions must fit the parameters of rental regulations. But the lease is not about teaching a tenant everything there is to know about the law. The purpose of the lease is to deter bad acts that will result in eviction. Focusing on the tenants’ legal rights in the event of a dispute does not address the day-to-day responsibilities between tenant and landlord — all the things that might give rise to that dispute.
The standard lease contemplates enforcement in a legal tribunal. But a tenancy agreement is primarily a deterrent — a list of consequences linked to specific conduct.
It may be prudent to supplement a standard lease with additional provisions that create consequences for the most common reasons tenants are evicted:
Failure to pay rent;
Failure to pay rent on time;
Unauthorized guests, including subletting; and
Rule-breaking, including disturbances.
Talk to an attorney familiar with local rental regulations and ask for assistance in supplementing your standard lease agreement. Suggested provisions to discuss include:
Signing up to Report Rent Payments, and incorporating into the tenancy agreement the Notice to Tenant that explains to the tenant the consequences of paying rent late or damaging the property;
A guest policy that prohibits new occupants without the landlord’s consent and the ability to run a tenant background check. The guest policy also should address short-term vacation sublets that can increase the risk of property damage and disturbances;
A no-smoking ban which reduces landlord liability, property damage, and costs of recovering the unit; and,
House rules that control noise levels and interactions between tenants.
For the lease to be a deterrent to eviction, the tenant must understand the specific behaviour to avoid — and the consequences for violating those lease terms.
For more ideas on strengthening your tenancy agreement, see our post How to Avoid Last Minute Lease Mistakes.
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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.