A Landlord’s Perspective
Almost all residential rental agreements are different, and each one should be gone through in detail before being presented to a renter. Rental agreements should not be made from an agreement template or boilerplate and should be tailored to fit the tenant at hand.
We have gathered some information on a few typical clauses found in residential rental agreements that we believe are important to the contract. This is not an exhaustive list of provisions that we recommend in a residential rental agreement.
Liability- Joint and Several
As a landlord, you want your tenants to pay the rent and to be able to collect rent from all of your tenants on or before the due date. You do not want to find yourself in a position where one tenant has paid their portion of the rent while the other tenants have not, and then have to track down the remaining unpaid tenants.
A Joint and Several Liability Clause basically states that every tenant is jointly AND individually responsible for the entire monthly rent amount and any damages to the unit.
This clause will help protect the landlord in a situation where a tenant is claiming that they have paid “their portion” of the rent, and they do not have to pay for the rest of the tenants’ rent.
If you explain this clause to the tenant, it may help influence which people they allow to move into the unit because they will want to live with roommates that they are certain will pay their share of the rent amount.
Use of Premises
In the terms and conditions of a residential rental agreement, you are allowed to restrict the number of people living in the rented unit. This clause will help prevent your rental unit from becoming the local party house, or from a family allowing other family members to move into the residence.
If your agreement to rent is based on a family of four (4), add this clause to state that the premises should be used and occupied by no more than four (4) people.
Every family is going to have a guest come to visit at some point, so you should add wording that allows a guest to remain in the house for a certain amount of time, such as a week, two weeks, or 30 days.
Your clause should state that if the guest remains after that time period, they need to be added as a renter under the agreement, and you can increase the rent amount to reflect the additional person in the unit.
Prevailing Party Attorney’s Fees
Reimbursement of Attorney’s fees is only available when they are included in a contract, or when they are provided for in a state statute. Residential rental agreements are covered by chapter 83 Florida Statutes, Part II. Florida Statute § 83.48 provides for attorney’s fees
For rental agreements in Florida, this statute may cover you regardless of whether it is listed in the contract.
However, it is still wise to list this in the contract for two reasons, (1) the tenant will be put on notice of the ability for the landlord to seek attorney’s fees (and vice versa); (2) there are certain situations such as a lease-option agreement that may turn what you consider to be a residential lease into a contract for sale.
The addition of the attorney’s fees clause in the contract may allow you to collect attorney’s fees in a situation where your “lease” is not governed by Chapter 83 Florida Statutes.
This clause states that if one portion of the lease is ruled invalid in court, the rest of the lease is still legally binding. In some cases, the court will void a clause because it contradicts a state law or federal law.
Without this clause, a judge might rule an entire lease void because of one unenforceable provision of the lease, even if the rest of the lease could have otherwise been saved.
Access to Premises
During the lease, situations may arise where the landlord needs access to the unit. Florida Statute §83.53 covers a landlord’s access to the premises. Landlords and tenants must adhere to but not limited to the criteria below:
- The tenant must be given notice of at least 12 hours prior to the entry
- Reasonable time for repairs is between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
- A tenant is not permitted to unreasonably withhold consent from the Landlord to enter the property to inspect the property, make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements.
- The landlord may also enter the dwelling following:
- The explicit written consent of the tenant.
- In case of an emergency.
- If the tenant is absent from the premises for a period of time.
- The tenant cannot prevent a landlord from showing the property purchasers, contractors, or potential tenants if the landlord complies with the notice requirement.
Although this statute provides the landlord with the ability to access the premises, it is wise to list this in the rental agreement because it puts the tenant on notice of this right. When the tenant refuses to allow access, you do not have to cite a statute that the tenant has never read.
This will give you the ability to cite directly to the standard lease and may be enough to convince the tenant to allow you on the premises.
Use of Premises
This clause dictates how the premises are to be used during the rental period. This clause is very broad and should be used to cover all areas of the property, such as swimming pools, decks, garages, sheds, backyards, etc.
This section of the lease may need to be tailored to fit the tenant(s) each time there is a switch. Children in the residence may require certain rules that an elderly person would not.
If the landlord does not wish to have any animals in the rental, this is the section that should state, “NO PETS ALLOWED.” Additionally, Commercial activity, such as a home business, can have many adverse effects on the rental agreement.
In this clause, the landlord should identify whether they will allow any commercial activity to be conducted on the premises.
Sublease(s) and Assignment(s)
Subleasing and/or Assigning a lease is allowed unless it is expressly outlawed in the rental agreement. If it is not outlawed in the lease, then there is a very real possibility that this issue will arise (it may even arise if it is outlawed in the lease).
Some landlords are fine with this because it creates the possibility of easily replacing a tenant, and some landlords even charge a fee for this. However, an assignment or a sublease can also create huge issues if the replacement tenant is not desirable.
This section of the lease should be used to clearly identify the rights (or lack thereof) to subleasing or assigning the agreement.
If you have a rental or are considering renting your property, you should have a residential rental agreement that adequately protects your interests. Do not download a boilerplate form from the internet and assume you are covered especially as the law does change.