The importance of a lease agreement cannot be stressed enough and is there to protect both the renter and the landlord. In fact, leases are one of three contracts that California’s Statute of Frauds requires in writing. Approaching a lease agreement as a first-time tenant can be intimidating. It is best to know some of the common terms of these contracts, and what they mean to you.
- Tenant List
If you plan on living with another person and they are not your dependent, you must include them on the lease agreement. This makes both of you legally culpable for upholding the contents of the lease.
In any lease, the cost of rent per month should be clearly noted and explained. The conditions in which the landlord can raise the rent, the conditions that would allow a tenant not to pay rent, and all additional pricing information should be fully detailed on the lease.
The duration the lease will last, the protocol for subletting, and consequences for early termination on either the tenant’s or landlord’s end must all be delineated.
- Right To Entry
A landlord has the right to enter your apartment if they’ve given you notice or in the case of an emergency. The laws vary based on location, so it is best to specify conditions both parties can agree upon.
Who pays for the utilities? If the landlord advertises the property as having gas and electric included, make sure this is reflected in the contract.
Who takes care of what? Generally, any property damage or negligence that you caused will come out of your security deposit. On the other hand, any mechanical failures of the property are generally on your landlord to fix. Make sure a fair division of responsibility is reflected in the lease.
- Security Deposit
Many landlords simply pocket your security deposit and you’ll never see it again. To avoid this, take pictures before you move in and after you move out. In the lease, read the section about your security deposit to see what it covers, and what your landlord is allowed to use it for.
Lease agreements exist to protect the personal property rights of both the tenant and the landlord. In order to ensure you are signing a fair document, read it carefully. If you are still unsure, run it by a real estate attorney for further clarification. When in doubt, always consult a lawyer about property law cases you don’t fully understand.