For anyone who is reviewing a lease agreement prior to move-in, it helps to be able to identify some warning signs of a bad landlord tenant relationship that is waiting to happen. Sometimes, the clauses of a lease can be bad omens, where tenant rights hinge on a good reading and negotiation of “landlord laws” that may ultimately be unreasonable. Here are some signs that your lease agreement may be slanted toward landlord protection.
1. Unreasonable Lease Terms or Poor Renewal Terms
A standard residential lease is for a period of one year. More than two years raises the question of whether a renter wants to commit to such a long-term binding agreement. Another possible problem is renewal clauses that don’t offer sufficient flexibility for the tenant.
2. Clauses on Access
A landlord is often afforded limited access to a tenant’s housing unit under the law. However, it is standard for the landlord to give notice before entering the residence. Beware of clauses that give the landlord carte blanche in terms of accessing your home.
3. Lack of Security Deposit Information
These days, security deposits are often held by the landlord to fix not only extreme damage, but also the normal wear on an apartment or house. Without additional information on your lease agreement, you may be vulnerable to losing your security deposit entirely. Negotiate a good concrete process for identifying damage conditions when you move in to compare them against the condition of the housing unit when you move out.
4. Excessive Extra Costs
If you’re a pet owner, make sure that the clauses in your lease agreement are not excessively restrictive regarding keeping your pet with you in the unit. Look over pet deposits and negotiate an equitable amount for including your pet in a rental deal.
5. Noise Clauses
Some clauses in a lease agreement may be insufficiently precise when it comes to defining domestic peace and quiet in the housing community. Go over these items with your landlord to determine what they actually mean and how they would be enforced.
6. Excessive Late Fees or Expedited Eviction
You’ll also want to take a look at clauses in a lease agreement that govern late payments to be sure that your rent won’t be excessively jacked up by a slow check, and that your landlord agrees to abide by local ordinance regarding an eviction process.
7. Mandatory Insurance and Extra Charges
In some cases, the landlord will try to shift the financial burden of some costs onto the tenant through sleight of hand in the lease. In a typical lease, renter’s insurance is not treated at all, as it is commonly something the tenant chooses to obtain to cover his or her personal possessions. If your lease includes mandatory insurance costs, or “tax” items, look closely to make sure you’re not just paying things that the landlord is generally responsible for.
8. Lack of Provisions for Living Conditions
A good lease agreement should provide for speedy fixes to critical components like the running water or sewer systems. Read over this kind of language and ask about the landlord’s policy on fixing what goes bad in a housing unit.
The above are some key parts of a lease that can tell you if something about a rental deal is not quite right.