Rental Contracts and Provisions

Rental agreements may include provisions relating to the number of occupants, pets, whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for paying the utilities, whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for making repairs, and any other provisions the landlord may deem important. Unfortunately, many landlords may also include illegal clauses in a lease.

There are common provisions that appear in most leases and rental agreements. These include:

  • Description or Address Leased Premises
  • Name and Address of Landlord
  • Name of Tenant
  • Term of Lease
  • Amount of Security Deposit
  • Rental Amount
  • Rent Due Date
  • Grace Period
  • Late Fee/Bounced Check Fees

Agreement and Term Violations

Many landlords include illegal provisions in leases as a means to intimidate their tenants. The fact that a lease or rental agreement contains an illegal clause doesn't necessarily invalidate the agreement. Most courts simply ignore or refuse to enforce illegal lease provisions.

Most states have consumer protection laws and truth in renting laws. Any lease provisions which violate a state's consumer protection laws or truth in renting laws are void.

Common illegal provisions include:

  • Hold harmless or exculpatory clauses which relieve a landlord of liability for his careless or negligent acts;
  • Liquidated damage clauses which require a tenant to pay a set amount of money if she violates the lease;
  • Clauses which prohibit a tenant from raising defenses in a legal proceeding;
  • Clauses which require a tenant who wins a lawsuit to pay the landlord's attorney's fees;
  • Clauses giving the landlord the right to exercise self-help remedies, such as taking the tenant's personal property, if the tenant fails to pay her rent;
  • Clauses waiving a tenant's right to live in a safe, habitable environment;
  • Clauses that waive the landlord's duty to repair.

The laws vary from state to state and the above lease clauses may not be illegal in your state. Therefore, you should speak with a qualified landlord-tenant attorney to determine whether your lease contains any illegal provisions.

Legal Help

Signing a rental agreement which contains illegal provisions doesn't mean that you are bound by those illegal terms. You will have a problem if the landlord attempts to enforce an illegal lease clause against you. If this happens, you should contact a knowledgeable and experienced landlord-tenant attorney.

A landlord-tenant attorney will review the lease and identify all illegal clauses. Your attorney will probably write a letter to your landlord notifying him that he cannot enforce the illegal lease provisions against you and warning him that he may face legal action if he continues trying to enforce the illegal clauses against you.

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