Being a landlord without a signed written lease agreement is like a soldier entering into the battlefield without his ammunition. It is difficult to protect your interests as landlord/owner against a problem tenant if there is not a written and signed lease agreement intact. When writing a lease agreement here are some tips that can protect your legal rights and your property.
- Know your law Be aware of the laws concerning the management of property and the rights of the landlord and the tenant. When you have familiarised yourself with these laws you can write up a lease agreement knowing exactly what you can and cannot put in the agreement.
- Make it clear and easy to understand A lease agreement that is poorly written and confusing to read can easily be misinterpreted by the tenant and would not hold ground in the court. Use easy-to-understand language and terminology and clarify anything that could be misunderstood.
- Confirmation of the state of the property Before the tenant moves in it is the landlord/owner’s responsibility to ensure the property is clean, in a liveable state and that nothing is damaged or broken. The living condition (as it was when the tenant moves in) should be stipulated in the lease agreement.
- Pet Policy Specify in the lease agreement if pets are allowed on the property, and if so, what type of animals.
- The deposit If you require your tenants to pay a security deposit for any damages that occur during the agreed rental period, be sure to specifically mention when and under what circumstances the deposit will be returned.
- Clearly state the amounts for rent and deposit Include the monthly rental and deposit amount. Indicate by what date of the month the rent is due and what penalty the tenant can expect for any payments occurring after the indicated date. This will help avoid any misunderstandings and in the case of continued late payments, provide you a legal foot to stand on.
- Maintenance and repairs As the lessor it is usually your responsibility to maintain and repair the property. However, there are certain maintenance responsibilities that you can designate to the lessee as his/her responsibility. If breakages are due to the lessee’s wrongful acts or neglect, s/he should be held responsible for the repairs.
- Activity restrictions If there is a code of conduct, be sure to stipulate it in the property rental agreement or attach the Conduct Rules. For example, if no music is allowed after a certain time at night or visitors aren’t allowed to enter the property without informing the security beforehand. This way the tenant is fully aware of what s/he is allowed to do and what not, protecting your interest should a tenant disobey the rules of conduct.
- Consequences of breach In the case of the tenant breaching the rules of conduct, continuing to default on rent payments, or otherwise breach the rental contract, the agreement should clearly state that the landlord or owner has the right to terminate the rental contract and evict the tenant.
We also have a wide variety of template Lease Agreements and Property-related documents which you can use when renting out your property to a tenant.
Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.