8 Red Flags to Look for in Lease Agreements
By Space Coast Daily // April 1, 2021
Covid-19 has given us all a hard time, especially those who do not own the property they live in. Despite the moratorium on evictions being stretched again, many people in Florida choose to move to a better place for one reason or another.
Searching for a new place to stay, even without the pandemic, is a stressful and time-consuming endeavor. Don’t let this get to you and compel you to sign a lease agreement that you haven’t read with criticism in mind.
The majority of disputes come from one party not knowing the details of the lease, and you don’t want to be that party. Especially considering the fact you won’t be able to get out of it for the next 12 months.
Look for these 8 things in your new lease and if you find them, look for another rental.
The landlord’s name is not on supporting documents
Before looking at your lease agreement, do a quick check to see whether the person you’re signing a contract with is actually the owner of the rental property. It’s as simple as asking for a utility bill in their name or any other document that proves they have the title.
It may be awkward, but if the person you’re talking to refuses to let you see those documents and tries to urge you to sign a contract as fast as possible and leave a security deposit, it may be a sign you’re getting scammed.
Lacks provisions required by Florida law
If a lease you’re reading does not have the provisions that are required by the Florida Landlord and Tenant laws, it’s a pretty big red sign. For instance, if the landlord does not maintain and service the apartment, you have the right to withhold rent until they do so. If they don’t, you’re free to terminate the lease and keep your money. You can check out more things that are standard for a Florida lease agreement at FormsPal.
Additional terms that you don’t agree with
It’s common for landlords who want to maintain a property at your expense to include some non-standard positions in your lease. If they include much smaller grace periods and much larger levies for late payments, it’s probably best to not sign this lease. The same goes for provisions that would make you responsible for gardening, landscaping, or maintenance.
If you trust the landlord’s word that the lease is standard and sign it, you’ll be contractually obligated to pay for all of that out of your own pocket. In some cases, it’s possible to negotiate and sign a better lease, but you’d have to trust your gut on this one. If the landlord looks as if they’re going to give you a hard time for standing up for yourself, it’s better to find another rental.
Taking unit as is
It’s a common story for a landlord to promise to fix something by the time a tenant moves in and never do it. If your lease contains a clause stating you agree to take the unit as is, they’re technically right to do so.
If you really want to rent out this property, include language that would make clear the landlord will do whatever fix you need done and add penalties for not doing so.
If your lease contains a clause that states the landlord can enter the premises for an inspection at any time, you’re dealing with a control freak and one that does not know the law. Florida’s law clearly states that you should receive at least a 12-hour notice when visiting, and only do so by your consent. The only purpose for paying a visit is repairs, not inspection.
In this case, you may try to negotiate and remind the landlord that the law forbids them from abusing the right of access and harassing the tenant, but only do so if you feel they’re willing to change their mind.
Does your lease agreement say you need to pay insurance on the home you’re renting? You may be paying for something only your landlord has to pay. The tenant does not have to chip in for the home insurance. There are other ways of making you accountable for any damage to the property, security deposit being the primary one.
The only insurance required of the tenant by Florida law is water bedding insurance. If you’re not the type to sleep on a water bed, you don’t have to pay insurance.
Vague security deposit provisions
Most tenants would think that if there’s nothing written on how the security deposit is managed, they’re going to get it back in full. In practice, however, if there are no definite terms that would describe how the security deposit is returned and which payments may be deducted, it’s a big red flag. As a result, the landlord may make unreasonable deductions when your lease ends.
Agreement be changed
The biggest red flag you can stumble upon is a clause that states this agreement can be changed after signing by the landlord. If the agreement is to be changed, it’s only by the consent of both parties, otherwise, it should be set in stone.
The final advice
The best advice you can get on this matter is to read the agreement. Read it carefully, a couple of times, and possibly share with a person you trust to get their take on the matter. It’s best if that person isn’t going to be living with you so they’re not too happy to sign the lease and move in as fast as possible.