The lease is your agreement between you and your landlord concerning the rental property. Your lease and Indiana law determine your rights when you are renting from a private landlord.
Typically, leases are for no longer than one year. Some leases are for a full year while others are on a month-to-month or weekly basis. Some landlords offer leases for periods shorter than a year, but longer than a month or week at a time. If you need a lease for nine months and the landlord appears to only offer a year lease, ask the landlord whether the landlord would be willing to allow you to rent the property for only nine months and if the landlord is willing, make sure the lease says it’s only for nine months.
A lease can be either written or verbal. Whether you feel comfortable with a written lease or an oral lease is your decision to make. Both types of leases have good and bad points.
A written lease makes it easier to prove that your landlord promised to do something he has not done and to prove how much rent you agreed to pay the landlord. A written lease can also force you to pay the rent for the entire lease period even if you move out early. Some written leases say that if you try to move out before the lease ends, you may have to pay a fee to break the lease. You need to read your lease very carefully before you sign it.
An Oral Lease
An oral lease is based on what you and the landlord agree verbally. An oral lease does provide you with some flexibility. For instance, if you have a month-to-month lease, you can move more easily than if you have a year’s lease. You would only need to give the landlord notice equal to the rental period. That means that if you and the landlord agree the lease is for one month at a time, you must provide one month’s notice that you are going to move out. However, an oral lease makes it difficult to prove any agreement you and your landlord may have, which would, for example, allow the landlord to claim that your rent was for more than what you paid.
Read Your Lease Carefully
If you will be signing a written lease, get a copy of the lease agreement a few days before you are to sign it so that you can read it over carefully.
Make sure that your lease agreement includes everything you and your landlord have agreed to. For example, if you and your landlord agreed that you will receive $100 off your first month’s rent, make sure your lease states that you will receive $100 off your first month’s rent.
Before you sign the lease agreement, make sure you understand what your duties are under the lease. Most leases include duties, rules, and regulations other than just paying your rent and can end up causing you problems down the road if you do something the lease says you cannot do.
Look out for lease terms that would make you responsible for things you don’t want to do. For example, a lease could say you are responsible for all maintenance and repairs, or that your landlord can come in to your home at any time and without notifying you first.
Some additional things to look out for:
- Acceleration clause: this means that you must immediately pay the rent and fees that would be due through the end of the lease.
- Breach of the lease agreement, and what happens if the landlord thinks you breached the lease agreement. A lease may say that you will pay certain fees if you breach the lease—such as administrative fees, attorney fees, and court costs if the landlord has to take you to court to evict you.
- Late rent: Is there a late fee if you do not pay your rent on time?
- What utilities are you required you to pay?
- What additional rules and regulations your landlord has included in the lease?
If you disagree with any of the lease terms, ask the landlord to change or remove the term. If your landlord agrees, draw several “X”s or lines through the sentence or words and have your landlord initial and date it.
Take your time and read the lease. If you have questions about the agreement, get your questions answered before you sign the lease agreement. If you can, take the lease to a lawyer and have the lawyer look it over and answer any questions you may have.
Want more on all you need to know about renting? This is adapted from “A Renter’s Handbook”. Get your copy here.
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