Common pitfalls in lease agreements

If you are a landlord, having a clear and comprehensive lease makes life easier for both you and your tenants. However, many pitfalls tend to recur. Here is a look at some of the most common.


Leaving the pet issue vague

Suppose you are a landlord, and the lease says nothing about pets. Your tenant then brings in pets you do not want on the premises. Do you have any standing? Possibly not. Even if you said before the lease signing, "Oh yeah, no pets, by the way," it may not be enforceable. If you allow pets, it is a good idea to specify restrictions such as weight, number and species. Other issues that tend to be left vague or nonexistent include whether subletting and additional tenants are allowed.


Fees and grace periods

Tenants' checks bounce sometimes. Likewise, some tenants may pay late. If your tenant pays late, it can be unwise to, on the spot, decide to send a bill for $300 for the late charge. Plan ahead and use the lease to spell out fees for late payments, returned checks and other issues, and to set up grace periods. You can also use this section of the lease to identify what forms of payments you want, such as, for example, a check.


Reasonable notice

Landlords or their representatives (such as repair people) may be needed in the unit. A lease should spell out how much notice a tenant will get and what kinds of emergency cases may warrant decreased notice.



The lease should clearly state the terms under which the landlord can evict the tenant. Similarly, a failure on the landlord's part to provide a safe and secure residence should give the tenant the right to elect for what is called a "constructive eviction."

Not listing examples of landlord obligations

If the dishwasher is on its last legs, is the landlord obligated to replace it? How quickly? Not explaining landlord obligations in the lease can lead to confusion and resentment down the road. Yard upkeep and snow removal (which can prevent injuries) are two other areas to think about. Another issue to consider: If a tenant does take care of a problem himself or herself due to the landlord's lack of response, can the landlord be billed for expenses incurred?

If you have questions about the legality of a lease is legal, do not take a guess and hope nothing bad happens. An attorney can examine the lease to help you avoid legal troubles down the road.

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