How to Write an Enforceable Lease Agreement
It is the best and the safest practice that when entering into any business transaction, all the parties involved should sign a contract in order to explicitly state all the terms agreed upon. In terms of real estate, a Lease/Tenancy agreement will protect both the Lessor/Landlord so as to avoid unnecessary argument over the duties and rights of each of the parties. This write up has put together the essential ingredients that must be in the lease agreement.
A Lease Agreement, whether it is for Residential or commercial purposes, is an agreement used by the lessor to rent out his/her houses or buildings to someone who will live there. The parties to this agreement are the lessor (who is also called the Lessor) and the lessee (who is also called the Lessee).
The lessor is the person who is letting his/her property to another person called the lessee. The rent is the amount of money the lessee pays for the use of the property.
Although lease and tenancy are used interchangeably, a lease agreement is used when a property is let for more than 3 years, while a tenancy agreement is used when a property is let for a period of three years or less.
Before you get to the stage of drafting enforceable Lease Agreement you must first of all familiarize yourself with your state’s Tenancy Law. Tenancy Laws differ from one state to the other in Nigeria. Get to Know about your State’s Tenancy Law by consulting a lawyer. For Lagos State, the applicable Law is the TENANCY LAW OF LAGOS STATE 2011
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Important Terms in a Lease Agreement
A good lease agreement should have as much information as necessary to let the lessee know what to expect from the lessor and also protect the lessor from a bad Lessee. These are some of the Terms that must be included in a lease agreement to make it enforceable.
- Title the lease.At the top of the paper, write “ Lease Agreement” or another appropriate title to make it clear that this is a legal contract.
- Identification of all parties to the lease agreement.Clearly list the lessor’s name and address and the Lesse’s name and address, making it clear who is the lessor and who is the lessee. Include additional contact information such as telephone numbers and email addresses etc.
- Description of the property that is covered by the Lease agreement.Write out the complete address and apartment number of the property. Describe the property’s condition at the time of the rental agreement.
- The length of the lease agreement.A valid Lease must have a commencement and expiry dates as well as the specific length of time in days, weeks or months or years that the agreement lasts.
- Review of rent clause and issue concerning option to renew must be included in the agreement.
- Payment Information.For a Lease agreement, payment information should include the rent amount and stipulations regarding how it should be paid whether the rent is payable in advance or in arrears. You have to state whether a late payment attracts penalties or not.
- Assign responsibilities.State who is in charge of paying utilities (gas, water, and electricity), taking care of trash and recycling, maintaining the outdoor areas on the property, and any other responsibilities specific to the rental property. Outline who is responsible for making repairs, keeping appliances in working order, and so on. State that the Lessee is responsible for informing the Lessor about problems with the rental property, including safety concerns, lost keys, and so on.
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- The Lease agreement must also include more detailed information to show obligations, terms and conditions which the lessee must comply with. This should typically state that the Lessee is responsible for adhering to all applicable laws, that the Lessee agrees to only utilize the property in manners for which it is intended, and that the Lessee is responsible for any tickets or fines received for failing to do so.
- State that the rental is to be used for residential/commercial purposes only.
- Write out what the Lessee should do if something on the property gets damaged.
- Specify whether the Lessee is allowed to make changes to the rental. For example, if the Lessee wants to paint the walls, install a cable modem, and so on, you should state in the lease whether these changes are allowed.
- Decide whether pets are allowed and specify the rules regarding them in the lease. You might require an additional, nonrefundable pet deposit for each animal based on animal weight. You might state that pets will be allowed indoors or must stay outdoors. You might specify actions that you will take if the pets are not treated humanely. Carefully consider all aspects of allowing pets on your property.
- Determine whether the Lessee is allowed to sublet the unit, and outline the process for doing so.
- Specify the consequences for defaulting on payments or violating the terms of the lease agreement.This should detail the action which will be taken by the Lessor in the event that the Lessee fails to make the agreed upon payments or is found to be violating other assigned responsibilities. Detail the remedies available to you as the Lessor, including eviction, repossession and/or court action.
- Both the Lessor and Lessee must sign the agreement in order for the contract to be enforceable.
In conclusion, it is better to consult with an attorney/a real estate lawyer before entering into a lease with a Lessee, to ensure that your lease agreement is legally binding and complies with the law that is applicable to the property within that particular jurisdiction. Though the lawyer may charge a fee for reviewing the contract, it will save you any money you might have lost by signing a poorly written agreement
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