Don’t Sign A Lease Without An Attorney

Any lease agreement is a contract which all participants must agree to and abide by. Typically, a lease will spell out items such as rent, length of the lease, rent increases, responsibility for utilities and other pertinent details specific to the situation. A detailed lease agreement can help avoid landlord/tenant disputes. If rights and responsibilities are clearly defined, both parties have a clear understanding of their role.

The experienced real estate attorneys at Bellwoar Kelly, LLP, can provide useful and important guidance whichever side of the lease you are on. For example, they will know where and how to find important information on potential renters or landlords, make sure rental agreements and procedures follow local laws, and can also help negotiate favorable lease terms.

Do Your Homework Before Signing A Lease

Commercial and residential leases share similarities, but there are important differences. For landlords, having a good tenant who pays their rent on time, takes care of the building and respects the terms of the lease makes life much easier. And for lessees, dealing with a responsible landlord means less frustration with building issues.

It is imperative that landlords and lessees know who they are entering into an agreement with. Bad tenants cost landlords money, so they will want to learn as much as possible about potential renters by running a background and credit check. For example, what is the lessee’s financial situation? Do they pay their bills on time? Is there a record of any lawsuits against former landlords?

Tenants will want to research similar information on their potential landlord. Talk to the owners of other businesses or individuals who rent from the landlord to get a feel for how responsive they are to tenant issues. Does the landlord complete repairs and building upkeep in a timely manner? Are there any past or pending lawsuits against the landlord from other tenants?

Considerations For Commercial Landlords

There are some lease details that are specific to commercial landlords. In addition to conducting a background check, ask the potential renter for business tax returns and balance sheets, even a business plan. You want to make sure the business is on solid ground before making a rental commitment. Your potential renter may ask for special considerations like designated parking for customers and employees or negotiate updates or changes to the space before they move in. For commercial leases, there is no one-size-fits-all rental document. An attorney can draw up a lease agreement that addresses any unique or special terms.

What Commercial Renters Need To Know

It is usually harder to break a commercial lease than a residential one, so business owners want to make sure the lease agreement serves their business needs. Research your landlord, including their financial situation. Look into zoning laws to make sure the terms of the lease match zoning laws in your area and for your business. Make sure the lease agreement spells out who is responsible for what. For example, who pays for utilities? Are you responsible for paying rent if your business fails? Even details such as what type of signage is allowed should be spelled out in your contract. An attorney can make sure that all important issues are addressed in a rental agreement.

Why Residential Landlords Need A Real Estate Attorney

Residential leases tend to be simpler than commercial leases, however, they are legal documents. and should not be signed without a thorough review. An attorney can point out any potential problems or highlight areas that are missing from the lease agreement. All landlords can benefit from having an attorney review not only their lease documents but also their procedure for vetting potential renters so they don’t violate any legal guidelines. Attorneys can be especially helpful to first-time landlords who may be unfamiliar with local rules and regulations.

Questions Residential Renters Should Ask Before Signing A Lease

Before signing a rental agreement, potential renters should review the lease document to make sure it matches the terms discussed with the landlord:

  • What is the length of the lease? Are you renting for a predetermined amount of time or are you renting month-to-month? If so, what kind of notice do you need to give the landlord for terminating the lease? How much notice does your landlord need to give you?
  • If you are a pet owner, make sure your landlord allows animals and if there are rules about size or the number of pets, do they fit your situation? Does the landlord charge an upfront pet damage fee? Are there other pet expenses, like a monthly premium for having a pet?
  • If there is any chance that you might need to move before the lease is up, can you sublet your rental?
  • Look out for costs that you’ll be paying on top of rent like a fee for off-street parking. Do you or the landlord pay for utilities? What is the policy on late fees if rent is not paid on time?

We Are Ready To Answer Your Lease Questions

Both landlords and renters can benefit from having an attorney review their lease agreements. It is much easier to negotiate terms before you sign a contract. Our experienced real estate attorneys can help make sure your lease is appropriate for your situation and can also help negotiate terms of the lease. Contact Bellwoar Kelly, LLP at 610-314-7066 or email us.