• Keith Wood

Why You Shouldn’t Use a Generic Lease Agreement



Being a landlord involves a lot of moving parts: marketing your rental, finding a tenant, taking care of the property, and receiving the rent on time. It can seem pragmatic to pick up a generic lease from an office supply store or download one from the internet. They couldn’t sell it if the agreement wasn’t legal, right?


Not necessarily - depending on where you got it - but just because it’s technically legal doesn’t mean a generic lease agreement is right for you. If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to get a customized lease agreement, here’s what you won’t get with a generic lease.


It’s Not Unique to You


Generic lease agreements have to be a one-size-fits-all document. Not only will the language not be specific to your property or type of properties, but it may include provisions that don’t apply. Even worse, it make discuss things that you don’t want to apply to your rentals. But once it’s in black and white, a savvy tenant will realize they can negotiate.


Example: A generic lease agreement may list all the possible amenities and utilities that could be available in a rental property, whether or not it’s an option for your specific property. One of which might be lawn maintenance or free cable, but you have no plans to offer that to a tenant. But it’s listed as an option on your lease agreement - and a tenant may want it.


It Doesn’t Address Local Ordinances


Not only are landlord/tenant laws state specific, there are also ordinances and provisions that are county and city specific. Unless you’re an attorney yourself, you won’t know what these are and they won’t be included in your generic lease agreement.


Example: In Destin and other areas, there are rules regarding short-term rentals including AirBnB rentals. Your generic lease agreement won’t mention this at all.


You Might Not Understand It


Having a lease agreement drawn up by a professional means you have someone to explain what each clause means. When your tenant has questions, you’ll be able to answer them. Generic lease agreements use appropriate language (usually) but unless you’re a lawyer, you won’t know exactly what it says and may give your tenants bad information.


Example: The tenant contacts you because they’re unsure what the contract means by “In the event Landlord cannot deliver possession of the Premises to Tenant upon the commencement of the Lease term” and they call you. But you’re not quite sure what it means either.


Your Specific Needs Aren’t Addressed


You decided that you’re willing to allow tenants to have or do certain things in your property -- have a pet, paint the walls, plant flowers. You’ve spent time thinking about the whys and hows of how it will work. But in a generic lease, it’s all or nothing. There’s no room to specify exactly what a tenant can or can’t do.


Example: A tenant wants a pet, and you’re willing to allow it. Your requirements include a pet deposit, the types and sizes allowed , and a ban on specific breeds of dogs. But the generic lease says either pets are okay or they’re not with no room for easy alterations.


It Might Not Hold Up in Court


Your lease agreement is supposed to protect both you and the tenant. It’s purpose is to lay out what the rules and responsibilities are for both parties. When a tenant violates the lease, it’s is supposed to be enforceable by the court during eviction. But if your generic lease doesn’t have the right provisions or language, you might not be able to evict.


Example: A generic lease only mentions evictions for non-payment or specific types of illegal activity. But your tenant doesn’t take care of the property and has actually caused extensive damage, and you want them gone. Since your generic lease doesn’t include that as a provision, you have to keep fixing problems as long as they pay the rent.


A custom lease agreement is an investment in your future as a landlord. Once you have it written once, you can use it over and over again. When you need to draw up a new agreement, you can change small provisions or update them as laws and your own preferences change. Best of all, you’ll know exactly what’s in your lease and be able to explain it to a tenant to avoid confusion later on.


Not sure you can afford to hire a real estate attorney to draw up your lease agreement? Work with property management professionals who can help you create a lease that’s fair to both you and your tenants and includes everything that matters most. You’ll also have a lease that can stand up in court if you ever need to evict a tenant.


At ERA American Real Estate, we can help you craft a lease agreement that fits your specific property and needs. The attorneys we work with make sure it can stand up in court, and we make sure you can understand what it means for you and your tenants. Call us today and let’s make sure your lease agreement is done right.

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