Renters: Beware of these lease clauses
4. Tenant will pay $ __ maintenance/guest/cleaning fees
Many fees are legal, so you have to watch what you sign.
Here's a common example: The lease states that the tenant will pay a $50 maintenance fee for lawn mowing. Then someone shows up to mow every two weeks. You've just added $100 a month to your rent.
Hardell Ward, a lawyer with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, had a case where the landlady charged $25 a month to change the filter in the air conditioner. The landlady kept changing the filter even when the tenant wasn't using the unit.
"The judge said, 'It's in the lease; you owe the money,'" Ward says.
"Any clause that has to do with any fee for maintenance, you want to see how much it is and how often they say they're going to charge this," Ward says.
Also, beware of clauses that require fees for having guests, which may be illegal; for unreasonably high late-rent fees, also illegal; for repair fees; and for vague administrative fees. (For more on fees, see "8 questionable rental fees to avoid.")
5. Tenant waives his right to _____
Grab a yellow marker and start highlighting any words such as "waive" or "waiver." Contact a tenants union if need be, and make sure you understand exactly what the clauses mean.
Some leases may ask you to waive your rights under the state's security-deposit law, or to waive your right to receive legal notice for eviction proceedings, or to waive your right to fight an issue in court.
These clauses may be illegal anyway. It's difficult — usually impossible — for a tenant to waive rights guaranteed by law. But be sure. There may be a rare exception, such as Louisiana, which favors contracts.
"In Louisiana, it's the old French custom, laissez faire, let contracts stand," Ward says. "As long as you're not violating some kind of housing discrimination laws — or if it's a criminal provision — you can basically write any clause you want in your lease and have it enforced."
6. Lease will automatically renew
Sign an automatic renewal clause and here's what happens: A month or two after your one-year term expires, you're automatically on the hook for another year, even though you never renegotiated.
Tenants forget they'd signed this. Then they try to move and — oops.
"As a tenant, you probably want to avoid those," McClure says. "If it's not in the lease for auto renewal, the law presumes you're on month-to-month."
7. Landlord will not be held liable for any damages
Logic holds that if the landlord has failed to maintain the rotting front porch, and a visitor falls through, that it's his fault, right? Well the law follows that logic, too. In other words, even if you sign this clause, it's unlikely a court will enforce it.
"If landlords were allowed to waive their own obligations, they could, in a sense, let buildings fall down on people and they'd never be liable," Kellman says. "Virtually all jurisdictions would hold the landlord to a standard of care against being negligent, regardless of what the contract says."
But, again, confirm that's the case in your own jurisdiction, or strike the clause.
8. Landlord (or management) may change the terms or rules at any time
Wait, so you agree to pay X amount for 12 months, but the landlord gets to change the rules whenever he wants?
Nope. Take a big wide turn around this one, experts say. Essentially, the landlord is asking you to agree to rules that you haven't even seen, to sign on to the unknown. That's OK for minor issues, such as pool hours, but not for major issues such as parking fees.
"I don't like anything that makes reference to something that's not in the written document," McClure says.
9. Rent is due in advance of the first of the month
No, there's nothing wrong with this clause. Just be aware of it. Write a big fat "Rent due on the 30th" in your own records.
Because rent is associated with the first of the month, even tenants who have read their lease can easily forget that their rent is due before the first, tenant advocates say. When tenants dutifully submit payment on the 1st, they may be charged a late fee.
10. Any vague language
Does the lease say you're responsible for yard care or other maintenance? That's fine, but how often? To what standard? What did it cost the previous tenant?
Get every detail, in writing, Kellman says. "Otherwise it could end up costing you a lot of money."
If it says "be quiet," are there quiet hours? If it says landlord can store belongings in the garage, decide how many shelves he gets, how frequently he can come by and how much advance notice he must provide.
"Clarify things that are subject to varied interpretation is good broad advice," Kellman says.
ok. The lease that my realtor provided, and my tenant signed, says "tenant would like an option to lease for a second year at the same conditions". The lease agreement says "tenant would like", not "owner will or shall..".
I'd like to raise the rent in the 2nd year. Does the lease allow me to do that?
kind of abusive terms for sure.
If people are getting stuck with those terms, the article title should read.....Read your Lease agreement you knuckleheads :)
I have a fairly long lease ( I had one tenant joke that I was writing my Real Estate Thesis). It really was something I got out of a Landlording book that I've adapted over the years. I always send the lease to them before signing day, and tell them that we'll go over it when they come to sign. On signing day, I go over it line by line to make sure we're in agreement. I always tell them that I have no problem altering the lease if they find something o****ectionable (my best example is a tenant who plays trumpet and wanted to change the "unreasonable noise" clause...no problems, by the way. I actually live next door and kind of enjoy it in the summer when the windows are open.)
I really don't want me or the tenant to have any surprises that could have been easily anticipated, so I find it's best to just sit down and talk about it. I think when people run into problems (on either side) is when they were expecting one thing, and the other side wasn't. One time, I used a lease and forgot to put language in it that the tenant was responsible for maintaining the lawn. So, my bad, I had to cut the grass.
For tenants: it should also be a big red flag for you if the landlord doesn't want to take the time to sit down and discuss the lease, or address your concerns. It's the beginning of a relationship, and people should be putting on their best faces. If you're not comfortable enough with them to ask them about the lease, imagine how you'll feel calling them in the middle of the night a few months later because something has sprung a leak.