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November 30, 2012


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Good post. We had to sue a former landlord a number of years ago because they would not give us our deposit back. They actually were not our original landlord so there was some haggling over the terms of the contract between them and our original landlord. Thankfully the judge ruled in our favor as the new landlord received our deposit from the original and thus they had to pay us back.

Some gray areas between landlord-tenant issues are when trying to claim a home fit to live or not and determining if the cause was the fault of tenant or not. I believe the definition of fit to live surrounds mostly roofing and kitchen problems only. A case I had was when the pipe under the kitchen sink burst. How many days to compensate, if any, when fit to live was under question. I ended up compensating for each full day at a calculated daily rate.

Good advice. I particularly like to add lots of 'rules' to the lease. Its best to think of anything/everything you can. For example, do you allow water beds? What about 100 gallon fish tanks? Is it OK for your tenants to have house guests? yes/no? Where can they park their car? How many cars? What about loud music after 10pm? Would you like your tenant to paint all the walls pink and black? Think about the worst behavior of tenants imaginable and have some rules to prevent that kind of thing. Don't expect tenants to act like this but do put stuff in the lease to make it clear its not acceptable.

If you don't set the rules you can't get mad that they break em.

I haven't seen a 'state approved' lease. My state doesn't offer that kind of thing. Is this typical in other states?

Luis, landlords are generally required to ensure 'habitability' which is a basic livable condition. State laws may or may not define habitability to some degree. Theres some pretty obvious points : heat, running water, functional doors with locks, no safety hazards, etc. But yeah there can certainly be gray areas as laws rarely cover every feasible situation and don't often go into fine detail.


Not every state may produce a standard lease by a state department such as the attorney general's office. If not then I would recommend my second option which is to find a multi-housing association or a landlord association. Most states should have such an association and they typically have lease documents among other documents that are created for their members. I still wouldn't use this whole-sale but I would generally advise using these as a starting point as they are likely put together by people with both knowledge of the statutes as well as likely having gone to court because of the large number of people using them. Thus they would likely get updated to reflect what will actually stand up in your state.

I do agree with your comment about putting in lots of rules too. I probably could use even more than I have. That was my point about expectations though. The lease is the right place to lay down all your expectations or rules. Simply stating them in the lease and pointing them out to the tenants should prevent most of the instances of them doing things you do not want. Knowing they signed a legally binding document prohibiting them from doing it will stop most people. If not and it gets bad enough then at least you have an option for recourse.

Apex, I'd also recommend that you review your state and local laws each year, and make addendums to current leases and changes to new leases as necessary.

Two years ago, I had to evict a tenant because she let her adult children hang out and invite their friends over - one of whom sold drugs in the home and was arrested in a drug bust.

I was notified by the city code enforcement division re: the drug bust and they recommended that I evict everyone immediately because if a second drug bust happened, the city could padlock my house for a year, and if a third happened, I could lose possession of the house.

What I didn't know was that the state now allowed landlords to evict tenants within 24 hours based on a drug violation, but my lease had the old language in it which said I could evict on a 7-day notice to quit.

So, I had to wait 7 days to file the paperwork with the court. It wasn't a biggie, but I could have gotten them out sooner if I had updated my lease when the law changed.

I highly recommend that landlords join the local home owners association. Our local one has all the approved leases available, along with any possible form you would need. Landlords can also get credit and background checks done through them. And ours even gives us access to an attorney to call up and ask any question and get the answers we need.

Re: adding rules to leases, I kept mine pretty standard to what the state required, then created a separate addendum to the lease which listed my rules and regs. I had the tenant sign this addendum, and it was also noted in the lease that there was an addendum of rules that was to be considered part of the agreement.


Good advice to keep current on local laws.

Why have a 7 day notice in your lease? I put no time limits on it so that I can use whatever the statutes allow, which means I can pretty much file immediately if I desire.

Since you have an addendum to your lease and then state in your lease that there is an addendum to your lease that is part of the lease then you have technically put it in your lease you just have a longer lease that is the combination of two documents that both comprise the lease. I prefer to keep everything in one document. I suppose its just personal preference. We are both basically doing the same thing, just taking different paths to do it.

@Apex, I had the 7 day notice to quit (for illegal drug activity)in my old lease because that was what the state law allowed at the time.

The new state law allows you to evict for illegal drug activity with a 24-hour notice, but only on two conditions: 1) a formal police report has been filed, and 2) the lease explicitly allows for the termination with a 24-hour notice.

So, because my lease hadn't been updated with the new 24-hour language, I had to wait the 7 days.

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