Rent it Right
Law-heavy leases are also favored by online lease providers, who have figured out that when landlords pay by the page every time they want to create and download a lease, the publisher makes more money when the document is long.
That said, there are some key legal rules that ought to be in a lease, explained in plain English. The circumstances under which a landlord may enter, for example, are important to explain to the tenant, in order to avoid misunderstandings later.
You'd be wise to include a clause in your lease that educates the tenant as to the reasons you may enter, when notice is required and how much, and whether there are entry days and times that are presumed reasonable.
To fill-in where leases leave off, a few states require landlords to inform tenants of secondary sources that explain their rights and responsibilities.
For example, Arizona landlords must inform tenants in writing that the residential landlord and tenant act is available on the Arizona Secretary of state's website (see Arizona Revised Statutes 33-1322.)
In Delaware, a summary of the Landlord-Tenant Code, as prepared by the Consumer Protection Unit of the attorney general's office or its successor agency, must be given to the new tenant at the beginning of the rental term.
Delaware's law packs a punch: If the landlord fails to provide the summary, the tenant may plead ignorance of the law as a defense (see 25 Delaware Code Annotated 5118).
District of Columbia landlords must give tenants copies of the relevant regulations (14 D.C. Mun. Regs. § 300); New Jersey has a similar requirement (New Jersey Statutes Annotated 46:8-50).
Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of "Every Landlord's Legal Guide" and "Every Tenant's Legal Guide." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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