What is a Lease?

A lease is basically a contract to rent property, governs the landlord-tenant relationship.

Must a Lease Be Written and Signed to be Effective?

A lease does not need to be written to be enforceable. An oral agreement obligates the landlord and tenant for only one month. However, a written lease is advantageous because it serves as a clear and concise reminder of your rights and obligations. An oral lease, however, can be also advantageous for the renter because written leases usually contain standard terms that favor the landlord.

What are the Tenant’s Main Obligations in Renting the Property?

Pay the full rent on time, do not damage the property, do not allow someone else to live with you at the property or sublease the property without the landlord’s permission, abide by any other terms in the lease (refrain from illegal activity, procure renters’ insurance, properly dispose of waste, and many others).

What are the Landlord’s Main Obligations in Renting Out the Property?

A landlord must ensure the property is habitable (refrain from turning off the tenant’s water, electricity, or gas), make and pay for repairs due to ordinary wear and tear, not unlawfully discriminate, provide written notice when the property gets a new landlord, and not enter the property except as the lease specifically provides.

How is a Lease Terminated?

The lease terminates naturally at the end of the lease term, assuming the parties do not agree to renew the lease (some leases renew automatically). The landlord can terminate the lease unilaterally when the tenant does not pay rent, causes significant damage to the property, conducts illegal activity at the property, or violates other lease terms. For oral leases, either side can terminate by giving one month’s written notice.

What is a Security Deposit?

A security deposit is money the landlord collects at the outset of the lease that is held to pay for losses the landlord may incur as a result of your tenancy. A landlord cannot charge more than two months’ rent as a security deposit.

What Happens to the Security Deposit at the End of the Lease?

At the end of the lease, the landlord has 30 days to return the security deposit or furnish an itemized list of damages for which it is being withheld.The landlord must alert you of the time and date when the landlord plans to inspect the premises after you move out because you have a right to be present for the final inspection. Remember to give the landlord your forwarding address. Otherwise, the landlord can’t send you the deposit!

What Do I Do if the Landlord Fails to Return the Security Deposit?

If the landlord fails to return you security deposit or furnish the itemized list within 30 days, you may be able to sue and recover up to twice the amount wrongfully withheld.

Who Makes Repairs to the Property?

The landlord’s general duty is to make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition if: 1.) The tenant specifies the condition in a notice in reasonable time; 2.) The tenant is not delinquent in the payment of rent; 3.) The condition materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant; and 4.)The condition is not caused by the tenant or a member of the tenant’s family or a guest of the tenant.

When Can the Tenant Make Repairs to the Property?

The tenant can make repairs, and deduct the cost from rent, on his or her own under limited circumstances. To do so, the tenant must: 1.) have lived there for at least six months; 2.) have paid all rent owed; 3.) not be in violation of the lease; 4.) have notified the landlord of the problem and allowed at least 14 days for the landlord to respond; and 5.) received verification from city inspectors that the problem violates city code.

What is the Eviction Process?

A landlord may not evict a tenant without a court order. The tenant will receive a notice that an eviction lawsuit has been filed and will have the opportunity to be heard in court before any eviction. A landlord can initiate eviction proceedings if the tenant does not pay all the rent due on time, causes significant damage to the property, conducts illegal activity at the property, or violates other material lease terms.

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