A written agreement is the safest way to rent a property. Surprisingly, however, that isn’t always the case. Some landlords take the informal route, scrapping the written agreement in exchange for a written/oral agreement.
What is the difference between a lease and a rental agreement?
A lease agreement is a contract signed by the landlord and the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy. The lease gives the tenant rights to live inside a rental property for a predetermined period — usually six to twelve months. They clearly define the terms and conditions of the agreement, as well as the expectations and obligations of both parties. For instance, it may include rules regarding subletting, pruning, and so on.
On the other hand, a rental agreement is a contract for a tenancy that lasts no longer than thirty days. It is essentially the same as a lease agreement, but its main difference is the length of the contract. This is why rental agreements are commonly known as “month-to-month” contracts.
Is it possible NOT to have a written lease or rental agreement?
The short answer is yes — through verbal agreements.
Verbal agreements are legally binding in some states including Florida and California. As long as it can be proven that there was an oral agreement between the landlord and the tenant, then the agreement may be deemed valid.
For the verbal agreement to be valid, there must be proof that there was an offer and an acceptance of that offer. However, there are circumstances where a verbal agreement would be deemed invalid, such as:
- The mental incapacity of one party
- The age of one party is under eighteen
- The offer made is illegal or impossible to deliver
What are the harms of not having a written agreement?
The absence of a written agreement may result in several problems. While the lack of a written agreement will not eliminate the responsibility or accountability of either party, it does make matters more complicated, especially when it comes to lease terminations, rent collections, and evictions.
This is because proving the validity of a verbal agreement is extremely difficult since it will be one person’s word against another’s. If there are disputes, it can be difficult to point who exactly is at fault.
What rights does the landlord have under a verbal agreement?
Under Florida Statute, the duration of a verbal lease agreement is based on the number of rent payments that have been made. For instance, if the rent is paid monthly, then it is understood that the tenancy follows a month-to-month arrangement. Even if there is no written contract, the tenant is still required to pay their rent on time.
About lease terminations and evictions, the landlord is still required to provide the tenant with a written notice within a reasonable period before the lease ends.
Why is a lease agreement important?
Whether you’re into year-long or short-term rentals, what remains true is that you should always prepare a lease or rental agreement. Failure to lay down the rules of the tenancy in explicit detail can result in trouble. Here are some reasons why you need to prepare a written lease or rental agreement:
#1 It prevents disputes
Without a written lease or rental agreement, landlords and tenants will be pointing fingers at one another. Disputes are bound to occur, whether it’s over rental payments, repairs, or every other disagreement imaginable! Without a written agreement, disputes can escalate into long-drawn-out lawsuits.
#2 It enforces the landlord’s obligations
Under the Implied Warranty of Habitability, the rental property must meet the minimum standards of health and safety. Essentially, it compels landlords to ensure that their properties are suitable for human occupation. This means complying with the housing code and responding quickly to repairs that may pose as health and safety hazards.
Even without a lease or rental agreement, landlords are obligated to provide their tenants with a habitable unit. However, restating these responsibilities in the lease reinforces that obligation so that the landlord can’t make any excuses.
#3 It is required by law
State laws require that rental arrangements that last longer than one year should be put into writing. Since twelve months is the typical duration of residential leases, it’s likely that you will have to draft a lease for your Florida rental property. In that case, you may want to hire a property management company with an in-house team of attorneys who can prepare a loophole-free contract for you.
What should be included in the lease or rental agreement?
It may be tempting to use a pre-made lease agreement, but it’s important to remember that leases do not have to be the same. Requests from your tenant, such as painting the unit a certain color before they move in, must be included in the contract. Here are some of the important clauses that should be found in your lease or rental agreement:
#1 The rental term
How long is the lease agreement valid for? Be sure to include the exact dates for when the lease will begin and end. Many leases follow the day-month-year format, for instance, “The lease begins on January 1, 2020 and ends of December 31, 2020.” Without a proper rental agreement, it would quite difficult to handle the situation if your tenant wants to end the lease early.
#2 Tenant’s responsibilities
Tenants can’t expect their landlord to take care of everything. This is why the lease should include the tenant’s responsibilities. This can include obligations such as mowing the lawn, throwing out the trash, and maintaining cleanliness. The lease or rental agreement should also state that the tenant must not damage the property, and always follow state and local building and housing codes.
#3 Signatures of the landlord and tenants
A lease or rental agreement that is unsigned is worthless. By signing the contract, both parties agree that they understand the terms and conditions of the agreement. The landlord, along with their property manager, must sign the lease after the tenant. Make sure that every tenant over the age of eighteen signs the lease.
#4 Renters Insurance
It is a policy to protect tenants from personal property losses and liability claims. It applies to individuals who rent a home or unit. Although renters insurance is not required by law. But as a landlord, you should require it in the lease agreement. Here are some reasons to require renters insurance by the landlord.
Why complicate things?
Not having a written lease or rental agreement can complicate things. To make sure that every party knows his/her responsibilities, be sure to prepare a lease or rental agreement. With Luxury Property Care, you can benefit from our team of in-house attorneys, who will draft a loophole-free contract that suits your requirements and investment goals.