A landlord-tenant relationship is, at its basic level, a business relationship. As such, it is important that a landlord pay close attention to the details of their lease. The lease establishes the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant and can be the difference between a smooth relationship and chaos. Here are three tips to help improve your residential lease:
1. Properly Define the Term “Rent”
Most landlords know if a tenant does not pay rent on time, then the landlord must give the tenant notice of how much the tenant owes and three days to make payment or vacate the property before filing an eviction. What most landlords do not know is a three-day notice generally cannot include amounts a tenant owes for things such as late fees or utilities. In fact, including any amount that is not considered rent in a three-day notice could be grounds for dismissal of an eviction action. So how does a landlord ensure he/she receives everything he/she is owed and make sure his/her three-day notice is compliant? Simply add language to the lease that specifies that all financial obligations under the lease are included in the term “rent”.
2. Consider the Possibility of Selling Your Home in the Future
People sell their homes for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a new job forces them to relocate, or maybe someone is faced with an unexpected offer. Having a tenant in the property may complicate the process of selling a home. In Florida, selling a home does not automatically allow a landlord or the purchaser of the property to terminate a lease. In fact, the new owner purchasing the property purchases the home under the same terms of the existing lease. This may not be an issue if the purchaser is buying the home as a rental property but obviously would be a major problem if the purchaser plans to reside in the property. To account for this, a landlord can add a clause that allows the landlord to terminate the lease by giving the tenant notice of a completed sale or transfer of property.
3. Be Specific When Defining Your Obligations as a Landlord
As an attorney who has represented both landlords and tenants, I have seen both “good” and “bad” leases. I commonly see leases that define a tenant’s obligations, for example regarding maintenance of the property, but the leases often fall short of defining what the landlord will or will not do. Do not assume your responsibilities are clear and/or leave room for interpretation. Be as specific as possible when stating what you will or will not be responsible for as a landlord. The more ambiguity in a lease, the more likely the break down in the landlord-tenant relationship and the more likely for litigation over rights and responsibilities under the lease.
The tips above are just a few of the ways you can improve your residential lease. Before entering into a landlord-tenant relationship, consider having your lease reviewed or drafted by an attorney to ensure your interests are protected. The attorneys are Mosaic Law Firm are happy to help you with your landlord-tenant needs.
(Note: the language above is used for information and example purposes and should not be taken as legal advice and should not be used verbatim in your lease. Contact an attorney to ensure your lease is properly drafted and compliant with the laws of your state.)