The 4 Essential Elements of a Residential Lease Agreement

A clear, well-written residential lease or rental agreement is often the key to a successful landlord-tenant relationship. A good agreement outlines the rights and duties of both parties which, in turn, provides them with a measure of security and stability. It also helps to avoid sticky misunderstandings and bitter legal disputes.

On the other hand, a poorly written agreement (for example, one that leaves out important details or allows for flexible interpretation of its terms) may actually jeopardize the interests of either the landlord or the tenant. In this blog, we outline the 4 essential elements of a well-written residential lease agreement.

Terms of Tenancy and Personal Details of the Tenants

A lease agreement should clearly specify the beginning and the end of the tenancy. According to Florida law, early lease termination is possible only under specific circumstances. Therefore, your agreement should state the start and finish dates of the lease term (which typically lasts one year).

During this time, the landlord cannot force the tenant to move out (provided there is no breach of the agreement, such as nonpayment) or raise the rent (unless the agreement specifically provides for such change). On the other hand, the tenant is obligated to pay the full rent for the period specified whether or not they continue to occupy the property for the whole term.

An agreement should also mention personal information for all tenants and the limits on the number of occupants. This will protect the rights of the landlord in two ways. First, the landlord may try to evict the tenant if they allow more people to move in without the landlord’s permission. Second, having the names of all the tenants in writing will allow the landlord to seek payment of rent from any one of the other tenants if any one of them is unable to do so.

Security Deposit

The demands for money for the potential damage caused by the tenant are likely to end in bitter, unproductive arguments unless clear terms regarding a security deposit are included in the agreement. The clause relating to such deposits should clearly state its amount (in Florida, this amount is not specified by the law but landlords usually charge the equivalent of one to two month’s rent), its purpose and use, as well as the time and means of returning it to the tenant.

Terms of Landlord’s Access

The landlord should respect the tenant’s right to privacy. That’s why Florida laws require the landlord to give the tenant reasonable notice before entering the property and stipulate that they must do so only at a reasonable time—typically between 7:30 am and 8:00 pm (except in the event of emergencies). Both the landlord and the tenant may wish to further specify the details of how the landlord will exercise its right to enter the property as well as any potential restrictions on this right.

Other Restrictions

The landlord may have other wishes with regard to the use of the property by the tenant. The landlord may specify whether or not the tenant is allowed to have pets or the extent of changes and modifications to the property, including additions, paint colors, and landscaping. The agreement should contain other specific clauses restricting certain kinds of behavior that could disturb other residents and neighbors. It should also explicitly prohibit any illegal activity.

In the Case of a Dispute, Contact the Landlord’s Advocate

Even with the best lease agreement in place, legal disputes between the landlord and the tenant may still arise. If you are facing a legal issue relating to a tenant’s violation of the lease agreement, or a similar one that concerns the landlord-tenant relationship, you should contact a dedicated Florida eviction attorney.

Attorney Brian Chase has extensive experience in dealing with landlord/tenant disputes and handles eviction cases across all jurisdictions and counties in Florida. Contact Atlas Law without delay and see what the best course of action would be in your case.

 

Landlords: Understand What Your Legal Responsibilities are in Florida

Being a landlord in Florida is not a light undertaking. Besides the responsibilities usually assigned to a landlord, state law adds some additional ones, some of which are more obvious than others. To make matters more confusing, the responsibilities vary depending upon the type of rental involved. Here’s a short guide to help you figure it all out.

For all types of housing, be it single-family home, duplex, or apartment, there are certain rules that all landlords must follow:

  • Maintain the property. This means in accordance with the current building, housing, and health codes. In the event there are no applicable codes, at a bare minimum, the plumbing must be kept in reasonably good working condition. The structural components of the dwelling including the roof, floors, windows, foundations, exterior walls, steps, and porches must be maintained in good repair and be capable of withstanding the usual loads and forces.
  • Put the agreement in writing. Oral rental agreements are allowed, but they can be a recipe for litigation later on as two parties in dispute will inevitably have two different versions of the terms. The essential elements of an agreement include:
    • The price
    • The dates of occupancy and when the lease terminates
    • Deposits and how they will be collected and returned
    • How the lease may be terminated early
    • Prohibited conduct
  • Put notices regarding the lease in writing. This applies even if the parties have an oral rental agreement. Also another compelling reason to put the original agreement in writing.
  • Follow the rules on deposit and rents. Upon the tenant moving out, you as a landlord have the right to keep the deposit to cover the costs of damage to the unit. However, to legally take advantage of this option, the landlord must have given written notice to the tenant of the amount of the deposit that will be retained and why, within 30 days of the date the tenant moves out. The landlord must send the letter via certified mail to the last known address of the tenant. If this notice is not sent within the 30 days as required, the landlord forfeits any rights to the deposit. Similarly, if the landlord decides not to keep the deposit to cover damages, the landlord must return the deposit to the tenant within 15 days.
  • Know your entry rights. As landlord, you can enter the property at any time for the preservation or protection of the property. At all other times, however, the landlord must give reasonable notice to the tenant. This means 12 hours prior to the proposed entry—and the time proposed should be reasonable—during the hours from 7:30am to 8pm. The landlord can also enter the property upon consent of the tenant or if the tenant has been gone for at least one and a half rental periods unless the tenant is fully paid and has notified the landlord of their intended absence.

Apartments require additional responsibilities on the part of the landlord. Specifically, the landlord must provide for extermination of vermin, insects, and termites. The landlord must maintain the locks and keys, keep common areas safe and clean, provide garbage disposal receptacles, provide working plumbing (including running and hot water), and heat in winter.

One of the first things to know as a landlord is that the maze of regulations is not something you need to attack alone. Contact Brian Chase today, an attorney to landlords throughout the entire state of Florida. Atlas Law can advise you on your rights and responsibilities. Spare yourself from headaches and call our firm today.