Rental Lease Agreements--
If You Don't Include the Details, It May Cost You
Working as a dedicated property manager since 2002, I have come across many different lease agreements between landlords and tenants. Naturally some have been better than others. Many landlords have gone online to search for a 'standard lease agreement' thinking this is all they need. For most part they are right. Every 'standard lease agreement' will have a start and end date, the monthly rental rate and a penalty fee if rent is late, and the requirement to leave the property clean and free of any trash.
But as the saying goes, 'The devil is in the details.' It is what is not said that can come back to hurt you. As the president of a property management company, I have a fiduciary responsibility to protect our landlords against any event or circumstance that will end up costing our owners. We have created a lease that is fair to both landlord and tenant but is not ambiguous on the items that might otherwise cost the landlord in the end.
For example, consider what a lease may say about the end of term when the tenants move out. A basic lease will state that when the tenants vacate a property they will leave it in 'broom clean condition'. This may sound reasonable, but it actually leaves too much unsaid and is actually quite ambiguous. What about the appliances, kitchens and baths? They need to be clean too. What about carpeting? A lease that requires the tenants to have the carpets professionally cleaned and to provide a paid receipt at the end of the lease can save the landlord a lot of money. Tenants should not be permitted to leave a property with a chirping smoke alarm, burnt-out lightbulbs and dirty air filters, unless the lease specifies that the owner is responsible to purchase these items. New smoke alarm batteries, lightbulbs and air filters may not be terribly expensive, but the time and energy to get the batteries, the lightbulbs and the air filters and then install them is costly for anyone having lots of other things to do.
In the case of detached properties, a statement requiring the tenants to have all gutters and fireplaces cleaned out should not be omitted.
As for pets, it is not enough to just include an extra pet security deposit. Our leases include an entire addendum on pets whenever a pet will be present.
Every lease should warrant the property as free of any pest infestation (ants, cockroaches, other bugs, etc.) After 30 days, if any pests are discovered, it becomes the tenants' responsibility to resolve the issue, as it is presumed that they are the ones who caused them to appear. This is fair and reasonable when it is spelled out in the signed lease, making clear who is responsible.
Landlords take caution. Not all rental leases are equal. The lease we use is the 'standard lease' of our association of realtors, which we then modify with our own proprietary 5-page addendum. In this way we seek to provide owners with legal protections and assurances against every circumstance we have experienced or could possibly predict.