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What's a "lease"?

Leasing An Apartment

Karina Arabolaza (Director of Education and Outreach, Housing Rights Center, Los Angeles) gives expert video advice on: What are some of the most common "illegal" clauses in leases? and more...

What's a "lease"?

A lease is a rental agreement between a landlord and a tenant. The basic structure of the lease is that the landlord agrees to provide housing while the tenant agrees to pay the rent on a monthly basis.

What is the purpose of a lease?

The purpose of a lease is to establish the contractual relationship between the landlord and the tenant. A lease establishes who is responsible for what in a property. For example, the most basic terms are that the landlord is responsible for providing the housing and the tenant is responsible to pay for the rent.

Why do I need a lease?

A lease is good for both tenant and landlord because a lease protects both parties in the event of a dispute over some repair problem or if someone is claiming that the other party didn't pay their rent or they're just arguing about who needs to do what. The rental agreement or lease establishes who will be responsible.

Does a lease have to be in writing?

A lease agreement does not have to be in writing. It could be a verbal agreement between the landlord and the tenant. However, having a lease in writing helps both parties in the event of any future possible disputes, given that the written lease agreement will establish the provisions for the rental.

Are all leases "standard"?

There's no such thing as a standard lease. There are some items that will be included in all leases, such as the number of occupants, how much rent is going to be paid, which unit will be occupied, who's responsible to do repairs, things like that. But there's no such thing as a standard lease.

Can a lease be negotiated?

A lease can be negotiated, and a tenant should negotiate it before signing the lease, because the moment a tenant does sign the lease or rental agreement, they have agreed to all the terms and conditions that the landlord has presented to them.

Do I need a lawyer to review my lease?

Tenants don't necessarily need a lawyer to review their lease. However, if there is a part of their lease agreement or rental agreement that they do not understand, they should seek the advice or assistance of a lawyer. It doesn't necessarily have to be a lawyer: the tenant could also seek the advice of a legal aid organization, a housing advocate, a friend or a family member. But the tenant shouldn't sign the lease agreement if they don't understand something.

What are some of the key terms and conditions on a lease?

One of the key terms and conditions of the lease or rental agreement is how much rent is going to be paid. The lease agreement can include how many occupants will be allowed to live at the dwelling. Other terms and conditions of a lease are the regulations on the property. For example, no destruction of property, no creating nuisance and disturbing other tenants and no putting other tenants in jeopardy or causing a fire, etc.

What are some of the most common "illegal" clauses in leases?

Normally there are no illegal clauses in leases or rental agreements. However, if there happens to be an illegal clause, they cannot be enforceable because they are illegal.