November 27, 2018
Beware of the Danger in Templated Lease Agreements
You’re more than likely familiar with some version of the expression. “Being penny wise can often amount to coming out dollar foolish.” This old adage absolutely applies to thinking that templated lease agreements provide complete protection for either tenants or landlords. In fact, they may do quite the opposite.
A quick internet search – and you magically find a form that appears to meet your needs. After all, it contains all the essential information. As far as you are concerned, it’s enough to specify the lease terms, including the length of the agreement and the amount of rent due each and every month.
First, not all lease agreements are created equally. For example, Pennsylvania laws are different than other jurisdictions. This could mean that your lease agreement excludes important details – or includes provisions that are not relevant to local laws.
There’s something else to consider as well. A residential lease is far different than one drafted for commercial properties. Unfortunately, it may take a lease dispute for you to recognize that you really haven’t saved much by attempting to use a boilerplate lease agreement.
Commercial Lease Agreements
It’s an exciting time. As a new business, you may find great delight in entering into a contract to rent an office, warehouse or retail space. Perhaps your budget is limited, and you figure you can save some money and review the prospective lease agreement on your own. You are somewhat comforted by the fact that your landlord is up front and shares that he or she used a standard form.
Before anything else, you should know that retaining an experienced real estate attorney will help in negotiating the terms of the lease. Meanwhile, you should also be aware that entering into a commercial lease agreement can be a bit complicated. For example, here are just a couple of issues that need to be addressed:
- What does your actual rent include? Are maintenance, repairs, and utilities included?
- What are your responsibilities as a tenant? For instance, are you obligated to shovel snow?
- Is the space you are leasing clearly identified?
- Who pays for modifications to adapt the space to your use? Are there restrictions?
Again, these are just some basic considerations. Truth be told, commercial lease agreements offer less protection than residential ones. Both landlords and tenants are best served in determining whether a prospective lease agreement meets their needs.
Residential Lease Agreements
In the meantime, that’s not to say that residential landlords and tenants are generally safe utilizing templated lease agreements. Although failure to pay rent is among the top reasons cited for eviction in landlord/tenant court, there are other concerns.
For starters, the requirements for eviction notice should be part of every residential lease agreement. Many of the templated lease agreements fail to leave this information out – as they are not state-specific.
For landlords, it is critical to address issues like late fees. Does your lease agreement actually spell out what happens when tenants fail to pay rent on time? You may want to think about whether late fees are covered. For tenants, there might be concerns about the return of security deposits. How does this process work?
The bottom line is that lease agreements are legal contracts. At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we take these matters quite seriously. Give us a call to set up a consultation before you consider entering into a lease agreement.