17 (mostly) surprising ways you're violating your lease
Although you may be tempted to skip over the dense legal jargon in your rental lease, it’s a smart idea to review it clause-by-clause before you sign on the dotted line. What you don’t know could land you in a heap of trouble.
Remember that document you signed when you moved into your rental house or apartment? There was a lot more to it than how much you pay each month and how long you'll live there.
Your lease agreement is a legally binding document that contains a lot of do's and don'ts about where you live. And yet a lot of renters don't actually read their leases.
"It's not just that they're lazy," says attorney Janet Portman, author of "Every Tenant's Legal Guide." "A lot of leases, which are written by lawyers, are so full of legal jargon and incomprehensible jargon, so people just give up because they wouldn't understand them anyway."
Whether you understand what it says or not, you're responsible for abiding by the guidelines of that lease agreement. So take another look at it, checking to see whether any of these 17 mostly benign behaviors violate your specific lease:
1. You let your cousin Joe crash on your couch for a few weeks while he finds a new apartment.Most standard leases have a place for the landlord to set a guest policy, but tenants either don't read the lease or read it and forget it by the time Joe needs somewhere to stay. That's fine if he's there only a few days; your lease will specify how long a guest can stay before he is considered a tenant. Portman says a lot of renters don't realize they're in violation by letting guests overstay their welcome.
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"(Renters) consider it their home," Portman says. “They're just amazed that the landlord would consider that a violation of the guest policy."
Why does a landlord care about guests? There are several reasons, according to Portman:
- More people cause more wear and tear; if more permanent residents are living in the unit, landlords want to increase the rent.
- It's harder for landlords to get unauthorized occupants to pay for rent or repairs.
- Unapproved residents can create legal hassles in the event of an eviction.
2. You hang up family photos to make the place feel more like home.
Your lease likely specifies whether you are allowed to make improvements or alterations to the rental unit. Some leases prohibit any changes, including a change as small as creating nail holes to hang pictures on the wall. Double-check your lease before making any changes, and be sure to get permission before making a major improvement such as installing a dishwasher or hanging track lighting. You also should make sure you understand whether a major improvement or alteration stays with the place or goes with you.
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"If you bolt something to the landlord's property, it becomes the landlord's property unless you've agreed otherwise beforehand," Portman says.
3. You set up shop in your spare bedroom as a freelance graphic artist.
Millions of Americans run home-based businesses. If you're one of them, you should make sure your lease doesn't specify that the rental is for residential purposes only. Of course, it may also depend on what kind of a business you're running. If your business consists of you, your computer and a telephone, you probably have nothing to worry about. But if clients or deliveries will be coming on a regular basis, you'll want to discuss the issue with your landlord.
4. You store a few weeks' worth of trash in your kitchen, with the plan to "take it all out at once."
Your lease or rental agreement likely says that you are responsible for keeping your rental unit clean, safe and in good condition. Yes, that includes taking out the trash regularly.
Jeffrey Taylor, author of "The Landlord's Survival Guide," and founder of MrLandlord.com, says tenants often are surprised that inaction can be considered a lease violation. Your lease may state that you are responsible for changing the air-conditioner or furnace filter every three months, for example.
"Not only are residents violating the lease by not changing the filters, their non-action could cost them several hundred dollars or more," he says.
Many state laws regulate the kinds of repairs and maintenance that a landlord can hand off to tenants. That's something you can double-check when you sign your lease.
If you're renting a home or property that has a yard, your duties may include yard maintenance. Mowing the lawn and raking the leaves are fairly common responsibilities. But if your landlord hands off all the landscaping duties to you and your thumb is less than green, he might have a hard time holding you responsible for any greenery you "overpruned." The landlord could try to withhold part of your security deposit, however, or charge you if you kill his valuable rosebushes, so make sure you understand your landscaping responsibilities (and think they're fair and reasonable) before you sign that lease.
5. You ignore the cracked and crumbling steps in front of your building.
This is another instance where inaction could be a violation. Your lease may say that you agree to alert the landlord immediately to the existence of dangerous conditions.
"The next time you notice something wrong in your home, do not simply ignore it because you think it's no big deal," Taylor says. "Not saying anything to the landlord may come back to haunt you."
Let's say you intend to let the landlord know about those crumbling steps, but you keep forgetting. Months go by and the problem gets worse, until one day you slip on a stair, fall and seriously injure your back. Because you didn't tell the landlord about the problem and your lease specified that doing so was your responsibility, your ability to recover money from the landlord goes down.
If there were a court case, any settlement might be reduced according to the judge or jury's estimate of how much you contributed to the problem, Portman says. They might reduce the award by 25%, say, if they think you were partly responsible to that degree.
If someone else is injured on those stairs, such as the UPS guy, you could be held liable because you owe a "duty of care" to those people who come on your premises for business purposes, Portman says.
6. You show your support for the local city council candidate by proudly displaying a campaign sign in your front window and another on the lawn.
It's not uncommon for a lease agreement to prohibit the display of signs in windows or elsewhere on the premises, particularly in larger, multiunit buildings. There must be a blanket rule in place, not just a restriction on certain types of signs.
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"That means every household must refrain from putting signs on the lawn or hanging them in the window," Portman says.
7. You decide to go retro and buy yourself a waterbed.
One fairly common restriction in rental units that some tenants aren't aware of is a ban on liquid-filled furniture such as waterbeds. Landlords impose this ban for two reasons: The potential for immense damage and the hassle of trying to dispose of a waterbed if a renter leaves it behind. Some leases may allow for a tenant to have a waterbed, but will require an additional security deposit.
8. You get a new car and park it in the parking lot where you used to park the old one.
You may be required to register your vehicle with your landlord or property-management company when you sign your lease. This is common in multiunit buildings. If a vehicle that is not registered is parked on the premises, that's a lease violation. Don't overlook letting your landlord know when you get a new car.
Other common car-related lease violations include parking in an unauthorized manner and letting your car leak oil all over the apartment complex parking lot without cleaning it up.
You can fill the text fields, add a variety of checkmarks, digitally sign the form and even add pictures. After your pdf form is completed, it can be printed, emailed, faxed or saved on your computer. You can even send fillable pdf forms to your customers, employees, vendors and partners.
i WAS GIVEN A PUPPY FOR MY B-DAY AND MY LEASE OF 12 YEARS SAYS NO PETS. iS THERE SOMETHING i CAN DO? Help! luv the pup!!
Imagine that a tenants' belongings become the landlords? What planet is this lawyer from? The real problem with tenancies is a) landlords demanding post-dated cheques b) roof leaks that are never fixed
c) property managements that malfunction your washing machine while your out d) govenments that dont enforce any tenants right in court etc. etc. etc I know I've been swindled since the mid-nineties out of just about everything.
My last apartment didn't have a working oven for the first two months of me being there. Then the last month of my lease the water heater in the laundry room next to my basement unit started leaking. My carpet was soaking wet for two weeks. Each day we'd call and have a carpet cleaner come out to suck the water up, sometimes two times a day. Then when I moved most of our stuff out I left for the week to get settled to the new place. I came back to get the rest to a damp, mildewy, hot stinking apartment, floors with almost an inch of water, and my remaining stuff stinking and wet. How about we start writing articles about how landlords screw tenants left and right? Why are landlords always seen as these saviours of society and tenants are just scum. We're just lease ignoring, poor people who don't give a crap about anything but ourselves. We just pay their $1000 leases.
I had a tenant completely remove his A/C filter. Then, when the unit stopped working, the A/C guy had to remove the refrigerant, cut the unit coils out, take it to a car wash to clean it up, then put it back in and recharge it. A four-hour jobs that cost about $600, just because the guy couldn't be bothered to replace a $2 filter. Our leases expressly state that if the heat or A/C breaks down because of a dirty filter or lack of a filter, then the tenant is responsible for the repair bill. Changing the filter is easy on these units, too. You just open up a little door, slide out the old filter and slide in a new filter. Whole process takes maybe 15 seconds. A five-year-old could do it. I urge all tenants out there to save yourselves a lot of headaches and replace your filters once a month. Your unit will run better and you will be more comfortable without spending as much money in electric bills.
The house that rented across the street from me actually had renters decide to change an outside door for sliding glass doors. They made a bigger hole in the wall and then never finished the work. They actually left the house that way when they left along with the appliances. Renters at times can actually cause lots of damge to these homes they rent. That is why there are so many clauses in these rental agreements.
I guess the operative word 'probably' could just mean maybe. This is what I heard (approximately) on the TV news (back in about 2002)
...an argument about the meaning of a phrase in many leases:
"not to carry on any business, profession, or trade of any kind."
I KNOW that this is the most common way it is phrased in STANDARD FORMS. I work in RE.
It is usually not enforced without a good reason (as in, private non-harmful activity), but one company chose to use this legalism against a writer, implying that having a product available on a web site violated this verse, and threatened to sue for eviction and payment of the rest of the year's rent. The name seems familiar, but I'm not really sure why. I remember a comment on the show something like: this was a foolish thing to do even if it succeeds in court, because people would find out what happened here, and nobody would want to rent an apartment from that company*. (at least anyone who is a novelist, songwriter, poet, etc.)
She (the writer) ended up removing her book from the website, finish out the term of her lease without the freedom to have her work available, because she did not want to risk eviction and ruined credit, if she might lose the case. (heard this on the show)
At least I hope this kind of zero tolerance policy is extremely rare. If it were common practice, I would have found a story like that on Google by now (literally spent all-night sessions rephrasing this dispute over 100 different ways!). I believe this is a form of predatory lending, and infringement on the freedom of speech and press.
The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right. ~William Safire
i've rented for years until after i met my husband and even then we stayed in my rented apt till the landlord wanted the apt back for his son. the landlord even gave us 2 months free rent till we found a place. then the neighmare began.
the new place had a landlady that stated she didn't want a tenent that was going to move in 2 years. then the code enforement officer was there when we were inspecting the apt for the last time before signing the lease. he stated that the last tenent was supposed to be there for at least 5 years, and the landlady wasn't even supposed to have built an apt over the garage because she didn't get a variance signed, then get a permit, but he had let it go. to make a long story short, i was getting phone hang ups during the day for the first year, then got the Call Block without a # ID. then the landlady started showing up in our driveway yelling my name, and yelling what ever it was she wanted to tell me, even if the rent was a day late, but within the 5 day grace period. that summer when i worked the Farmers Markets on the weekends, we went back home to find our apt door wide open unlocked when i know i closed and locked it. we changed the locks and the landlady showed up almost daily in the driveway for one reason or another. then we got an eviction notice, reason was she wanted to move her son out of her house and into our apt because she was tired of himusing drugs in her house.
we pais the security, and 1 1/2 months rent, the most a landlord can charge in NJ, and another months rent in case we wanted out of the lease early. the extra month rent was supposed to be given back to us if she wanted us out, or applied to the last month rent, which is what we wanted. when she made the lease, she convienently left it out, saying she forgot. well, she didn't want to give us that back, or the security. i got out the Tenents-Landlord Rights book and copied the page of the most she could charge us for rents and securites when we moved in, and the fact that we could get treble monies back should she take us to court.
we got to use the last month rent, 1/2 the security back. she got her backyard at the apt cleaned of debris (bathroom sink, paneling, logs, and a 38 foot boat) when we had moved in. she also got the attic floored and insulated.
we are 10 years out, and she has not rented the apt since. looks like the code enforcement officer got his way.
Although they may have been written by lawyers, leases very often contain statements or requirements which are in violation of tenant/landlord laws. The mere signing of such a lease does not then constitute a binding contract (if it suggests that the tenant is signing away rights irrevocably guaranteed by law). If a prospective tenant is too lazy or not sufficiently educated to read and understand a lease, he or she should hire an attorney to review the lease.
to rent/to own? tough question until you get to retirement age. if you rent you had better have plenty of retirement money to pay out. if you own, and the house is paid for,
you have upkeep that is not as high as rent, plus you have equity (you can't sell that rental). plus, as you age on retirement, there are a lot of agencies that will help the elderly with repairs they cannot afford. you also can sell your home for thousands of dollars tax free & reinvest in a smaller home, or condo, that cost less. but whatever, your planning should start now, old age does not wait for anyone, it is there.