There are many reasons people become landlords. Being a landlord is a great opportunity to make income while positively affecting the lives of others. Of course, being a landlord also creates many rights and obligations between you and your tenant. While you may not be required to have a written lease agreement with your tenant, here are some reasons you should.
1. You Have To by Law
Sometimes Georgia law requires you have a written lease. This most commonly happens when you agree to rent your property to a tenant for more than one year. While you could simply “shake on it” and hope for the best, failure to get a multi-year lease in writing will cause problems down the road if you want to enforce the lease in court.
2. It Contains Other Required Items
Having a written residential lease kills many birds with the same stone. For example, Georgia requires the landlord or other party to provide written notice of (1) the owner of record of the property or agent thereof, and (2) the person authorized to manage the premises. If your rental property is prone to flooding, you must disclose that in writing as well. Incorporating these and other required items into a standard lease saves you the hassle of remembering to send or print all other mandatory notices separately.
3. It Protects You From Certain Tenant Claims
Georgia law prohibits you from trying to contract around certain basic landlord and tenant rights and duties. Putting these rights and duties in your lease agreement protects both you from claims you tried to waive these rights. For example, your tenant likes language relating to your duty to repair the premises, but you like provisions about eviction and security deposits. Because you cannot waive any of those provisions by law anyway, include them in the lease.
4. It Clarifies and Cements Tenant Rent Terms
Generally, if someone is living on your property with your permission the law implies they should be paying rent, but does not strictly require it. Rent is the biggest landlord concern, so you should put it in a written lease agreement. Additionally, your lease can remind tenants that under Georgia law if your rental property is destroyed by no fault of your own, then the tenant remains obligated to pay rent until the lease expires.
5. It Protects Your Right to the Security Deposit
Security deposits give you peace of mind, but there are a few things you must do to make sure you are using them properly. You can only retain the security deposit for damages to the property not resulting from normal wear and tear. As such, your lease agreement should include your list of known property defects prior to the tenant’s occupancy. The tenant should sign defect list after making an inspection. If you keep any of the security deposit, you must specify the exact reasons based on your former damage list and post occupancy inspection.
6. It Spells Out Your Right to Evict the Tenant
Landlords have the right to evict tenants for failure to pay rent or for staying past the term of their lease. For failure to pay rent, you can specify a penalty or other condition the tenant must meet before you will begin eviction proceedings. For a tenant “holding over”, or staying past their lease date, you can specify a penalty or declare a new month-to-month lease has started. Planning for either contingency is a big reason to formalize your lease in writing.
7. It Lays Out Your Rules for Occupancy
Your lease is a contract. As such, you are free to spell out the terms and conditions of occupancy so long as they don’t contradict the law or public policy. Under most circumstances your tenant will have the right to do whatever they want in your rental property. Having a written lease tells your tenant exactly what you will or will not allow in the property. Examples of possibly permitted activity including smoking, drinking, partying, keeping pets, and other undesirable activities. Just be sure things you really care about are enforceable under the lease.
Your rental property is a big investment. Protect yourself with the peace of mind a formal, written lease agreement provides.
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