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Tenants: Learn these signs of a problematic contract

Landlord-tenant agreements should always be in writing. That said, just because there is a contract does not mean that the contract is wrinkle-free.

Landlords sometimes are inexperienced. Sometimes they do not realize when a contract runs afoul of what is permissible. Other times, they outright are trying to exploit tenants, even if doing so may be legal. If you are renting a house or apartment, here are a few red flags to look out for in your contract.

Oral agreements not included

Say that you and your prospective landlord negotiated the rent and agreed the landlord would pay for water, sewer and electric. However, the rental agreement does not say so. Put all oral agreements into writing to be safe.

Contradiction of HOA regulations

If a tenant lives in a property governed by a homeowners’ association, the rental agreement should not run afoul of HOA regulations. In fact, it is a good idea for tenants to have a copy of HOA regulations to compare with the contract. This could become an issue with, say, pets. Perhaps the HOA limits each condo to two pets under 30 pounds, but the rental agreement leaves out the weight requirement. A tenant who was unaware of HOA regulations could potentially get into trouble.

No guidelines for how to pay and no grace periods

Clear, easy-to-enforce agreements spell out when rent is due. For example, if you, as a tenant, mail a rent check on the due date, is it considered on time as long as it is postmarked on the due date? Contracts should also clarify grace periods and any fees for paying late.

When you a sign a contract that skips over these terms or is vague on them, you could be setting yourself up for hefty fines if you miss a payment or are late on one. An attorney can help you determine if this or tohers issues in your contract are legal.

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