A Checklist For Reviewing Rental Leases – Part III

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on February 19, 2007 under Landlord Paperwork and Forms, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

It is of vital importance for both landlords / tenants making a checklist of things to be thoroughly reviewed before signing or having a lease signed. A contract, one should understand all the clauses contained in the lease, including how they will impact one. Since, a lease is a contract, it is possible to negotiate changes to it, and if it is a pre-printed lease form, all the more reason for reviewing it very carefully, as there may be clauses that probably weigh heavily in favour of a landlord. Always, best to have a lawyer review it, before putting your signature on leases and contracts. He / she will be able to point out illegal provisions, or explain how others work, whether they are favourable or unfavourable to landlord / tenant, including suggesting changes and additional terms. Ensure the following:

  1. Before sub-letting or assigning your tenancy to someone else, do check if your lease allows you to do so. Generally, it won’t, however, in case it does, the clause will state that prior approval of your sub-tenants must be obtained from the landlord. For added measure, you can ask the landlord to add ‘approval shall not be unreasonably withheld’ to the clause.
  2. Check the lease to see who is responsible for paying the utilities i.e. you or the landlord.
  3. Clarify what are the landlord’s responsibilities, such as, repairs and routine maintenance e.g. shovelling the sidewalk in winter, etc. etc.
  4. No doubt, there will a clause in the lease saying the landlord can put a ‘lien’ on your personal property, in case the rent is not paid or you damage the premises. To explain what a ‘lien’ means, it is a right to claim someone else’s property if any stated condition, such as non-payment, occurs. A lien clause gives the landlord the right to take your property away, without having to prove to anybody that you failed to pay rent, or that he / she has suffered a monetary loss. In other words, this clause ensures the landlord does not have to go through formal eviction proceedings. While, most courts may decide that an automatic lien provision cannot be enforced, it would be far better to play it safe and have that clause removed from your lease.
  5. After the landlord has agreed to rent to you, insist on a walk-through of the premises with him / her, so that you can see the condition of the rental unit and, whether any repairs need to be carried out. Make your own checklist and get the landlord to sign and initial it with the date, as well as, signing and dating it yourself. Attach it to your lease and provide a copy to the landlord. This document may prove invaluable, if the landlord later, withholds money from your security deposit.

The best tip anyone can give a tenant / landlord is to get everything in writing, and not relying on spoken promises, such as, non-enforcement of some lease clause or the other, such as, a NO PETS provision. All concessions must be obtained in writing and must have the landlord’s signature on them. Write them in the margin or cross the clause out on the lease form, getting the landlord to initial and date the changes.

That apart, landlords should make themselves cognisant with all rules and regulations before drafting a lease, and must take all necessary precautions, such as, screening tenants and conducting background checks on prospective tenants, including ensuring all promises in the rental lease are adhered to, as their insurance for a litigation free landlord / tenant relationship. A simple click of the mouse and any landlord or property manager can visit www.e-renter.com for tenant screening and background check services. www.e-renter.com, the best tenant screening agency in America!

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