One of the most important documents in a tenant-landlord relationship is a lease. Once signed, this document binds tenants and landlords together for a determined period of time. A good lease will contain important information, such as the amount of rent, fees for late rent, and specifics about the property. It might, for example, contain an agreement that the tenant is responsible for all landscaping or that no pets are allowed.
However, there are some situations where a landlord or tenant may wish to amend the lease after the documents have already been signed and the lease has gone into effect. In this case, how can a landlord and tenant handle lease amendments? Read on to learn how to change a lease and the pitfalls landlords can fall into with lease amendments.
When Both Parties Are In Agreement
After a lease has been signed, it is possible to alter the lease. In order to do so, both parties need to be in agreement about the amendment. For example, if a long-term tenant comes to you and asks if they can adopt a dog and add the dog to the lease, you might determine that you will agree to the pet, as long as they pay an additional pet deposit. Once you both come to an agreement, you need to create an amendment that you both sign.
It is important that changes to a lease are made in writing and are signed and dated by both parties. Never rely on a verbal change to a lease.
If both the tenant and landlord agree to a change, it is simply a matter of writing up the paperwork and having both parties sign.
When Both Parties Are Not In Agreement
Sometimes only one party wants to amend the lease. What happens when, for example, a landlord decides they would like to change their policy on late rent. Can the landlord amend the lease and inform the tenant of the changed policy?
The best way to think about a policy change is to think of it in reverse. What if a tenant decided they wanted to change the lease to allow for a fire pit in the backyard? They obviously do not have the right to change the lease on their own terms. In a similar way, a landlord is bound by the lease and without the tenant agreeing and signing an amendment, the landlord cannot change the lease at will.
When The Lease Includes A Contradiction To Local Regulations
What happens when a landlord and tenant agree to terms of a lease, but the lease actually contains a contradiction to local regulations? For example, at the time of move-in, the tenant agrees to sign a lease that states the landlord is not responsible for providing screens for the windows. However, later the tenant finds out that the city regulations require landlords provide screens on windows. In this case, the local law will supersede the lease, even though both parties were in agreement at the time of signing.
As a landlord, you cannot use a lease to protect yourself from local laws. If the tenant were to take the landlord to court over the screens, the lease would not hold up and the local regulations would be enforced.
In some situations, the judge may even rule that the entire lease no longer applies due to the section that was in violation of the local regulation. Because of the complexity of leases and local laws, it is wise to have a local attorney read over your lease and any amendments you and a tenant agree upon.