Home Agreements

What should I look out for in my Residential Lease?

Apr 4, 2023

Miniseries: What should you look out for in your contract
Offer Letter | CIIAA | Residential Lease | Equity Agreement | Contractor Agreement

Tired of employment contracts? Fear not, our mini-series this week is on residential leases! Despite literally governing the “roof over our heads”, we’ve learned from users how much everyone hates to read them. We can empathize deeply with the “I’ll just deal with it when it becomes a problem” approach, but hope the below tips on how a combination of state, county, and city laws may help you stay ahead of the biggest problems.

  1. Landlord entry into your home

    Most states have laws governing landlord entry which should be echoed in your lease. These laws require a minimum of 24 - 72 hours notice during reasonable hours before entering your home. While exceptions can include emergencies such as a fire or flood, the law protects tenants and typically require the notice to include the time and purpose of the entry.

  2. Maintenance responsibility

    General facilities such as heating, electrical, and plumbing are typically the responsibility of the landlord, but each state has nuanced differences that tenants should be aware of. In New York, this responsibility may depend on the number of units owned by the landlord; in Arizona, the tenant may be responsible if it’s mutually agreed upon in writing.

  3. Automated rent increases

    There are two components of rent increases: notice period and percentage increase. State and city laws are specific in requiring a 30 - 90 day notice corresponding with the size of the increase between 5 - 10%. Rent control laws also come into play protecting the upper limit of rent increases that tenants can receive.

  4. Security deposit

    There are also two components of security deposits: size and return period. Most states provide a legal upper limit for both, a deposit equivalent to 1 - 3 months of rent for and 14 - 21 days to return the deposit with itemized deductions.

  5. Payment penalty fees

    When paying rent, you may encounter issues such as bounced checks and/or late fees. While the landlord is entitled to penalty fees for the trouble caused, state laws set upper limits such as $25 for bounced checks and 5% of rent for late payments.

  6. Additional paperwork

    As if the 25 page rental agreement wasn’t enough, leases are also prone to numerous addendums and additional paperwork. Some states require a time-sensitive move-in inspection report if the tenant requires the landlord to perform any fixes, and units may be subject to additional rules such as HOAs that have separate forms when it comes to pets, parking, and subletting.

  7. Missing clauses

    We mentioned this in our What should I look out for in my Offer Letter blog post, but given how many topics are personally applicable in leases, make sure everything you care about is included in leases as well. By no means a full list, some clauses we’ve found missing or only available in addendums upon request: Pets, Lost and Replacement Keys, Parking, Early Termination, Lead Disclosures, Renter’s Insurance, and more.

When my landlord asked to stop by to update something while I was out of town, I was caught off guard but felt weird about saying no. I liked the direct links to my specific state laws and now know that I’m legally able to have two days notice!

- Condominium Tenant, Arizona

For advocacy and beyond!
The Ask Ginkgo Team

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