Things To Look for When Reviewing a Lease
A lease is a binding legal contract, so all parties must understand its terms. You should review the contract before signing a lease agreement to know your obligations and responsibilities. Consider a lease review part of your due diligence.
This article covers things to look for when you are reviewing a lease. This checklist considers terms used in residential leases and is not a substitute for legal advice. An experienced real estate lawyer can review your lease and provide sound advice.
Lease Review Checklist
Here is a checklist of things you should look for in a lease before you sign it:
Type of Lease
The type of lease or term of the lease should be clear. Most residential leases are either fixed-term leases or month-to-month leases. A fixed-term lease has a specific start and end date. A month-to-month lease continues until either the landlord or the tenant gives notice.
The lease should refer to the renter/tenant as the "lessee" and the landlord as the "lessor." The lease should include the names of all adults living at the rental property. It should also identify the landlord, property owner, or property management company leasing the unit.
The lease should describe the rental property. This description should include the physical address and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
Although there may be room for negotiation, many landlords are upfront about rent. Lease negotiations are more common with commercial real estate transactions. A residential lease should include the tenant's rent amount per rental period. For example, if the lease is a month-to-month lease, the rental period is one month.
Residential leases should also include information on acceptable methods of payment, where to pay the rent, and late fees, if any.
Most rentals require a security deposit. A security deposit is a refundable sum a new tenant pays to guarantee their obligations under the lease agreement. For instance, if a tenant doesn't clean their apartment before moving out, the landlord can deduct cleaning costs from the security deposit.
State law regulates security deposits, so make sure the lease complies with state law.
Termination of Lease
How much advance notice must the tenant give before moving out? Will the lease automatically renew if the tenant doesn't give notice? Are there any penalties for early termination?
The lease should specify whether it is a residential or commercial lease and list the names of the parties occupying the rental property.
Residential leases should include a pet policy. A pet policy outlines whether the landlord allows pets on the property. The policy should also state the number of pets allowed and any size or breed restrictions.
Sublease and Assignment
Can you sublease the rental property or assign your tenancy to a third party? If you cannot fulfill the terms of the lease, subletting is an option if the landlord agrees. If your lease is silent on this issue, ask the landlord before signing the lease. Often landlords will allow subletting as long as they approve the sublessee first.
Maintenance and Repairs
What are the landlord's responsibilities for making repairs and performing routine maintenance? For example, who shovels the sidewalk in the winter? Who will fix your dishwasher if it breaks?
Right of Entry
Clarify the times and conditions when your landlord may enter the rental property without permission. Typically, landlords can enter the property without permission if there is an emergency, to make a repair, or to show the apartment to a prospective tenant. Most landlords will give at least 24 hours' notice before entering.
Commercial Lease Agreements
Commercial real estate and commercial lease agreements differ from residential properties and leases. Many business owners need commercial space or office space to run their businesses. Local zoning laws dictate where real estate investors can build commercial property.
Lease negotiations are common with commercial leases because of the different types available to businesses. Most businesses use a net lease or a gross lease. The company pays base rent and operating costs, like electricity, in a net lease. In a gross lease, the property owner pays the operating costs.
Real estate laws are complex for individuals and small business owners. An experienced local real estate attorney can review your lease and protect your interests.
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