The importance of a lease
There is nothing that can provide more benefit to the landlord/tenant relationship than a written lease. In the residential setting, a plain language lease helps greatly in outlining the rights and responsibilities of either party. The law requires that leases be in clear language (which is different than rules regarding commercial leases). Many people use pre-printed forms or forms found on the internet, but it is important, especially for the landlord, to have those forms reviewed by an attorney make sure that the following issues are addressed thoroughly:
- Verify who is actually signing the lease since this will be the party responsible for complying with the rules which include most importantly, the obligation to pay.
- Clearly set forth what constitutes a default under a lease and the time frames associated with the default. Do not include greater time frames to cure a default than are provided by the New York State laws (discussed later).
- Make sure that you as a landlord has the right to enter a premises for emergency repairs or attention to the premises. Otherwise, you should make sure that you are allowed reasonable access at reasonable times and upon reasonable notice to the tenant.
- If the premises are built prior to 1978, make sure you have a lead paint notice that accompanies the lease.
- Make sure that you address the issue regarding the abandonment of property left after the termination of the lease.
- If you require the tenant to maintain insurance, set that out.
- Keep in mind you cannot restrict occupancy to a tenant or tenant’s family.
- Make sure you have an attorney fee provision and late fee provision. Treat both as “additional rent” so that, if the lease is breached, you can recover these fees in court.
- For rules that may change from time-to-time, have a separate notice that contains written rules that can address any subject such as parking, trash removal, noise, etc.
- Obtain a guarantee, especially if you are renting to out-of-town students or young adults who do not have a prudent track record.
- Make it clear that any tenant improvements require a landlord’s prior written consent.
- If you want to provide a tenant with a right to renewal lease, make sure you condition that renewal on a tenant’s compliance with all the lease terms.
- Keep in mind that if the tenant benefits from any subsidies, that there are typically additional notifications that need to be provided in the event of default or termination of the lease.