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The Lease Agreement: Pay Now or Pay Later

Aug 17, 2007
Question: What's the most important document between a landlord and tenant?

Answer: A lease.

This critical document, gives the tenant the right to occupy a property or unit. Basically, you are granting a tenant(s) the right to live in your property for a specified amount of time, and your primary protection comes from this one document.

As a landlord, it is much too easy to just trust a tenant with your property and assume that everything will be fine. I think this happens a lot more than it should. In reality, although you may have met your tenants and they appear very nice, this may not necessarily always hold true. If things get ugly, you will have to look to your lease to help protect you. And, at some point you may very well need to evict a tenant using a lawyer or doing it yourself. Your primary goal in eviction court is to gain possession of the property back from the tenant.

If you begin eviction proceedings with an attorney, they will first and foremost ask you for a copy of your lease agreement. It's always good practice to use an attorney for an eviction, but attorney's can usually only enforce what is written in the Lease. Even the best lawyers will almost always find it difficult to defend a poorly written or created lease. This lease or rental agreement is critical to your success in the courtroom with or without a lawyer.

To date, I have not found anyone who "likes" paperwork, including me. However, not creating a lease may definitely cause you loss of both time and money, and possible tremendous headaches! If you dare to lease a property without a written lease, you are basically leaving the various laws and courts decide the terms of the lease, also know as an oral lease. It's pretty obvious defending an oral lease is court is risky at best.

There are standard items or terms that a lease should always spell out such as listing the occupants, start and finish dates, whether or not it will renew, and various other critical items. The fact is the more information and detailed your lease contains the better protection it will provide. Here are some things often overlooked in the lease...

Who's responsible for checking smoke detectors, mowing the lawn or shoveling the snow
Explain to Tenant the importance of renter's insurance
Detailed payment system for rents and late fees

By outlining each of these items in detail, should you or tenant end up in court, the lease will be a legal document and proof as to who is the responsible party.

In addition, if the property was built before 1978, you are required to supply the tenant with a copy of a pamphlet on lead-based paint and a disclosure stating whether the landlord is aware of the presence of lead-based paint. Both you and your tenant must sign this document, which will protect both parties if the legal need arises.

Investing in a good lease can really payoff. Always stay away from oral leases and the so called "free" lease you might find on the internet. Invest some time and money in a great lease and it will really payoff in the end.
About the Author
Create a complete and detailed Lease or Rental Agreement online with our exclusive state assist feature. We offer a complete library of
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