The Importance of a Well Written Lease
Today marks the first day of July and as the Greeks would say, Kalo Mina, which means Happy Month! As we are in the midst of Summer, this is the time when people look to move into a new home, whether it is for school, work, or just wanting to explore a new city. With more people moving to new places, the question you should be asking yourself is, do I have a well written lease? As a landlord who bought their first rental property or if you are an experienced landlord with many properties who has been a landlord for years, it is always important to have a well written lease that is catered to your needs and to the specific property. The two main types of property that a landlord would rent to a tenant are residential and commercial. A few examples of residential property are houses, townhomes, apartments, or condos whereas a commercial property could be plazas, warehouses, office buildings, vacant land, or apartment buildings.
In Florida, the lease is what governs the tenancy, so long as it does not conflict with Florida Law. For residential leases, if a prohibited provision is included in the lease, that provision will be void and unenforceable pursuant to Florida Statute §83.47. In a residential lease a landlord will want to spell out each parties’ duties under a written lease so there is no confusion. Additionally, the duties under a lease for a house may be different than an apartment due to the physical differences. For example, Larry the Landlord (“LL”) rents a house to Terry the Tenant (“TT”). In the lease there is a provision stating that TT is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep for the below-ground pool. TT is therefore responsible for the maintenance and upkeep for the below-ground pool. Additionally, if LL leased an apartment to TT instead of a home, that provision would not make sense to include in an apartment lease due to there being other tenants that will be using the pool.
By including each party’s duties under a written lease, it will also help in the event of an eviction. For example, LL leased his house to TT for one year and one of the provisions in the lease states that TT is to remove all of their garbage in a clean and sanitary manner. About four months into the tenancy TT accumulates so much garbage that it started to attract racoons, rats, and other rodents causing problems for the surrounding houses. Since TT breached the lease by failing to remove his garbage in a clean and sanitary manner, that could be grounds for an eviction and it could make the eviction go a lot smoother for LL. If the lease was oral or if the duties are not written in a lease, a judge may give the tenant the benefit of the doubt and the eviction may fail.
Commercial leases on the other hand have more freedom in dictating each party’s duties and responsibilities. Unlike a residential lease, commercial leases do not have limitations on provisions that can be included in the lease. This is why commercial leases generally put the burden on the tenant to maintain and upkeep the premises in addition to covering all the expenses for the property. When drafting a lease for your property, it is important to ensure the lease is catered to the specific property and has the proper provisions for the specific tenancy. A lease for a commercial office building will contain different provisions than a vacant piece of land. Additionally, the lease for a commercial property that has living units on the property will be different than the lease between the individual living in one of the units on the commercial property and the landlord or tenant. For example, LL leases a commercial building to TT so TT can run his business. The commercial property is zoned for mixed commercial and residential use and it also has two apartments that can be rented out. The lease between LL and TT will be for a commercial property while the lease for the two apartments will be a residential lease.
When it comes to drafting a lease, one place a landlord will go for help will be the internet. Although some landlords may think this is a smart and cost-effective way to draft a lease, it is unfortunately not the case. The purpose of a lease is to spell out the duties and obligations of the parties and to protect each party by stating what they must do under the lease. Many of the forms on the internet have generalized legal jargon that are not state specific, which means that the form lease can contain provisions that are applicable to other states that contradict Florida Law, and they are written in a way that a reasonable person cannot understand what the lease says. Additionally, the lease forms found on the internet are usually not catered to a specific property type. For example, a lease found online may state it is a “Commercial Lease” however it may have the barebone basic provisions that are found in a commercial lease for an office space, which would not be suitable for someone renting commercial property that is not office space.
It is always the best option to go to a professional to have them draft a lease for the landlord to ensure that the lease complies with Florida Law and that both parties can understand what is written in the lease. In the end, when it comes to renting properties in Florida, the lease is the most important aspect of the tenancy and it is always best to have a written lease instead of an oral lease and to hire a professional to draft a lease for an upcoming tenancy to prevent problems that may arise down the road.