In order to avoid confusion and disputes, there are things that both landlords and tenants should know about rental agreements. The main thing to know is that the agreement should not be done verbally since it is this type of agreement that leads to the most disputes between tenants and landlords. If there is nothing written down, things are left to memory and interpretation, and that is simply not the way to avoid disputes.
The fact is that no agreement, no matter how well it is written, is going to prevent landlord/tenant disputes. There are always issues that tend to come up between the parties, and it will be a lot simpler to settle any issue if there is a written, signed agreement to which both parties can turn for guidance.
Therefore, a written rental agreement is the main document that will dictate the legal relationship between the landlord and the tenant. If the document is clear and concise, and if it spells out everything that is involved in the tenant/landlord relationship, it will cut down on the disputes.
A good agreement should be written by a person who is well-versed in landlord/tenant law, someone who has ample experience in this type of law. Landlords should not attempt to craft a rental agreement the first time around in order to avoid costly mistakes. Once you have some experience in these matters, then you can try to do them on your. In case you decide to do it on your own, the agreement should include at least:
The time-period during which the tenant will occupy the rental unit, and whether the tenant will have a right of renewal, and the landlord a right of refusal to renew. In addition, include the amount of rent that is to be paid, when the rent is to be paid, and the consequences of paying late. If you are going to provide a grace period, then there should be a clause stipulating the length of the grace period.
An important aspect of the agreement is detailing how the rent is to be paid and where it should be paid. If a landlord only accepts personal checks delivered to his/her office, then the agreement should say so, and it should state the consequences of paying with a check that is returned by the bank for whatever reason.
Any agreement should include the number of people who may live and the unit, and whether there will be pets allowed. There should also be a clause included about who will be responsible for maintenance of the rental unit and payment of utilities, as well as when the landlord may have access.
There should also be a clause about who will be responsible for attorney's fees if a dispute should arise that ends up in court. In case that a dispute ends up in court, there are usually state landlord/tenant courts that will handle any and all disputes between the parties. This is where having a written, signed agreement will be crucial in providing the court with evidence as to which side is right in the dispute.
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