Landlord Tenant Lease – Is Yours Legal?
Posted by Bill Gray on September 10, 2009
[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DWhether your lease is actually legal is a loaded question. What is legal? Legal is whatever will hold up in a court of law on any given day, in front of any given judge. Is there such a thing as an iron-clad lease? I don’t think so. Widely-used lease texts and formats may be utilized by many landlords and property managers for years, only to be determined by a judge down the road that these have been used in error.
I sometimes hear from landlords, “If it is in my lease and my tenant signed it, then it must be legal.” Sadly, this is far from the truth. Just because your tenant agreed to whatever terms you put in your lease, does not make it a legal contract (lease) that will withstand judicial scrutiny. Any contract is open to dispute; just take a look at the backlog of civil suits. Disagreements over contracts happen every day, all over the country.
“Okay, Bill, now that you have suggested I may be using a lease that will not hold up to judicial scrutiny, what do you suggest I do?” The best anyone can do in composing any type of legal contract is to write one that has the best “chance” of holding up in court: it is all about minimizing risk.
My advice to you is to hire the best landlord-tenant attorney in your area and have him/her review your lease periodically. Laws and case law change often. State
and local apartment or landlord associations are also a great resource when looking for current information about the best lease you can use. Good associations stay current on changes in the law and case law decisions. Joining a good association is a good business practice, not only to stay current on the law, but for a lot of other great resources and contacts.
The worst cases I have seen are landlords who write their own leases or piece together a lease from other sources. This is a huge mistake and can result in costing you thousands of dollars. My perspective is always from the point of view of minimizing tenant debt and how to collect it. This is just one area where a poorly written lease can cost you money. A “bad” lease can cost you money in many other ways. Fair housing lawsuits are just one example.
If you want to minimize your risk and increase your profit, hire a good landlord-tenant attorney to initially write and periodically review your lease. It is well worth the cost.