Your lease agreement is your contract with a tenant. It’s the document that can help you get a bad tenant evicted, but it’s also the thing that can force you to pay up in a lawsuit. Your responsibility as a landlord doesn’t require a lease agreement, although it’s highly recommended. But if you do have a lease, you have responsibilities as a property owner and a landlord to make sure it’s legal and accurate.
In our ongoing series on different responsibilities you face as a landlord, let’s look at lease agreements, and what you need to know about them.
Whatever lease agreement you use should be the same for every single tenant. Some of the details will change, such as move-in date and rent and security deposit, but every renter gets the same lease. If you don’t, it’s easy to be accused of discrimination if one tenant finds out they’re living under a different lease than another tenant.
Get an Attorney
While some landlords run to an office supply store and use a blank lease, it’s better to have a lease agreement drawn up by an attorney who understands landlord/tenant law in Florida. They can also make sure that any special language you want included in your lease is allowable under the law.
Follow Your Own Lease
You’re using a lease so you can hold your tenant accountable for their behavior in your rental property. The same is true for your renter. You can be taken to court and sued if you don’t follow your own lease agreement. This means not showing up unannounced, making demands on the tenant the lease doesn’t allow, or doing anything else that violates your agreement.
Keep It Legal
While you should have an attorney look over your lease, even if you don’t, you’re still obligated to keep everything in the lease legal. This means you can’t disallow service animals because you have a no pet policy. You can’t exclude children which would be discriminatory. Eviction can’t be labeled as “immediate” because there’s a full legal process you must go through.
Include Specific Information
Your lease agreement should include a lot of information, but here are some specifics that are part of your legal obligation to your renters:
- How much the security deposit is
- Where the security deposit will be deposited
- How the deposit will be used and/or refunded upon move-out
- Who the owner of the property is
- Who the tenant should contact for problems or to pay the rent
- Who has the power to collect rent, make repairs, address complaints, and issues notices
- The move-in date that the unit is available for rent
- The eviction process
- What you allow in your property
- What you do not allow in your property
- What the tenants’ rights are under the lease agreement
- How notifications will be issued to tenants
- How tenants can contact you
If you miss any crucial detail in your lease agreement, it can and will be used against you in court, especially if you do something wrong or violate your own lease.
How do you avoid problems with your lease agreement? Work with a property management company that has an airtight, legal lease agreement already in place that can be customized for your specific needs. Here at ERA American Real Estate, we take the stress and guesswork out of staying on the right side of landlord/tenant law while taking care of your property and your tenants. Contact us today!