- A binding contract between tenant and landlord
- A list of obligations of both parties including the move in/move out dates, the monthly rent amount, a list of any other fees payable by the tenant and a description of the landlord’s obligations such as making repairs to the premises and allowing you to live in the premises undisturbed.
- Should be a written document, signed by both the landlord and the tenant. Oral agreements tend to result in misunderstandings and disagreements about their terms.
- Be sure to read all of the terms of the lease before signing
Here are the four types:
Fixed term: Ends on a specified date unless renewed by the parties before the termination date
Self-extending: Renews itself until either party decides to cancel it
Month to Month Tendency (Tenancy at Will): Rental agreement for a one-month period that automatically renews until terminated by one party
- Subleasing: Lease by a tenant of a part or all of a leased premises to another person but original tenant retaining some right or interest under the original lease
Conditions or Things that NEED to Be Addressed
- Rent: how much for rent, when it is due, and if it can be increased within the duration of the lease. Consider discussing if each individual roommate is responsible for their share, versus the whole amount being due with penalty to everyone.
- The landlord’s obligation to have the home be in compliance with the governmental health and safety codes.
- Maintenance and repairs: should explicit state that the tenant is responsible for damage done by guests and themselves, but reasonable wear and tear is to be expected.
Details That Should Be on There
What Should NOT Be There
If there is language in the lease that you don’t want to agree to, talk to the landlord to see if they will agree to remove the language. Once all of the terms of the lease have all been agreed upon and the lease has been signed by both parties, you should keep a signed copy, and consider scanning it to your computer.
A security deposit is a sum of money (usually equal to one month’s rent) paid by a tenant at the beginning of the lease term. It is separate from rent and is meant to protect the landlord in the event there is unpaid rent or damage to the premises at the end of the lease term. The lease will set forth the conditions under which the security deposit is returned to the tenant at the end of the lease term. Document any damage to the premises before you move in by photographing the premises. If there are significant repairs that need to be made or appliances that don’t work, make a list of all of them and have the landlord sign the list so there is no dispute when you move out.
Tips for the Security Deposit
- If the home has been treated for bed bugs, or if the property has lead based hazards, the landlord must tell you. They also must provide you with a list of existing damage, if any.
- Take pictures when you move in or out to avoid any issues.
- The money must be returned to the tenant in a reasonable time, about 30-45 days after you move out.
- If they do make a deduction, there must be a sworn list made by the landlord explaining them. They need to provide evidence and include documentation of the cost of cleaning or repairing damage.
Here’s how to create and maintain a healthy relationship with a landlord, and what to do in the event you need help. This is stuff you need to discuss with a potential or current landlord, as well as things to know for yourself.
- You have the right to know energy costs for the living unit before you rent (ask for billings on your unit from the past 12 months)
- Make sure utilities and appliances are in working order and that landlord agrees to fix building systems that are not working properly
- Know how to control your utilities and who to call in the event of a problem. This includes the breakers, the boiler, the water meter, and anything else that maintains your home.
Safety and Legal Information
- Check to make sure the property has the appropriate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and that they are either hard-wired into the electric system of the home or have fresh batteries.
- Owners of buildings built before 1978 must tell you of any known lead-based hazards and show you relevant records before you rent (Important for small children)
- Try to check out the neighborhood at different times of the day. There may be safety and/or noise issues that become apparent at different times of the day.
- Check if the windows and entrances all lock and are working. None should be broken.
- You cannot be evicted without a full legal process. If you have been illegally evicted or locked out by your landlord, call the police.
- If you are unsure about your rights as a tenant, consult a lawyer
- Generally it’s a bad idea to put money down to “hold the apartment”. There’s a high chance you won’t get it back.
- Know where Small Claims Court is located and where to file complaint online
- Know where Landlord/Tenant Court is located
- If you are having problems with your landlord, communicate in writing, either via email or postal service. If the problems worsen, you should consider contacting a lawyer.
- Consider getting renter’s insurance. You and your possessions are not covered by the landlord’s insurance. Renter’s insurance typically cover damage caused by fire, theft, vandalism, utility malfunctions (plumbing and electricity), weather related damage and other hazards.
- Never resort to violence or physical confrontation with your landlord or fellow tenants.
- Once your landlord receives your security deposit, s/he must provide you with a list of any existing damages or certified violations of the Sanitary Housing Code. It is best to hold the list for the entire 15 day period before signing because some potential damages like a leaky roof are not readily noticeable.
Good luck! We hope this helped you to make safe and informed choices when living in your rental.
Credit to Phil Solages, Attorney at Law at Solages & Solages
Nothing contained in this document should be construed as legal advice.
It is recommended that you consult with an attorney before you enter into any binding agreement such as a lease.
Signing a lease agreement can be a difficult and intimidating process if you are not familiar with the pitfalls.
FALL 2015 WORKSHOP: TBD
Spring 2014: Leases, Landlords, and You Workshop
Fall 2014: Leases, Landlords, and You Workshop