Guest Contributor: Ellen Porat, Advocate and Notary
Despite popular belief, and although many leases are similar, there is no such thing as a standard off-the-shelf rental agreement. Even though real-estate agents may supply you with such an off the shelf form, I would advise against using it. Each rental agreement should set forth the terms and conditions specific to the relationship between the landlord and the tenant and that are relevant to the particular leased premises.
A rental agreement should contain the name, identity number and address of the landlord and it should clearly state that the landlord has title to the premises. Unfortunately, there have been cases where people have impersonated the owner and have collected rent on property they did not own. Consequently, if you are a prospective tenant it is advisable to verify the landlord’s ownership rights to the premises.
The rental agreement should state the duration of the lease (usually one year). A tenant may not legally break the agreement unless the landlord fundamentally breaches its terms. A tenant who breaks the lease without good cause will be responsible for the remainder of the rent for the duration of the lease.
If the parties have agreed to an extension of the lease, otherwise known as an option, the agreement should determine the amount of rent to be paid during the option period and the tenant’s exclusive right to activate the option by giving notice. An option that does not contain these provisions is not a genuine option.
The rental agreement should contain a description of the premises, the appliances and furniture included in the agreement. The agreement should also state the condition of the premises. The tenant is obligated to return the premises in good condition, or in the condition in which it was received, for that reason it is important to note the condition of the premises, the appliances and furniture. If there is any damage or defects in the apartment or appliances, these should be noted in the agreement.
The agreement should stipulate that the tenant should only be liable for damage caused by the tenant but not for repairs resulting from reasonable wear and tear.
It is advisable to request a security from the tenant. The landlord should keep the security for the term of the agreement and for at least 2 months following the term of the agreement. This ensures that all bills for utilities owed by the tenant will be paid, including the bills which are due to arrive after the end of the term of the agreement. A common security is in the form of a cash deposit for the first and last 2 months of rent. This is unadvisable since it does not leave the landlord with a security deposit at the end of the term of the agreement. Another option is an unconditional bank guarantee for the sum of 3 months rent. In addition, the tenant should provide the landlord with a promissory note signed by guarantors, for any additional damage caused to the premises. When renting an apartment, it is accepted practice for the landlord to ask for post dated checks for the year, in addition to the bank guarantee or security deposit in the amount equaling 3 months rent.
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, it is advisable to have your lease checked by an attorney and not to rely on luck, otherwise you may wind up in a situation you may regret.
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