Residential Lease: More Than an Annoying Formality

November 1, 2017

Picture this: you’ve been scouring Craigslist for weeks trying to find the perfect house or apartment to rent.  You finally discover one that hits all of your criteria. You contact the landlord, tour the property, fill out the application, and you think you’re ready to go to enjoy your new digs.  But the next step in the process is truly critical and too often overlooked by eager tenants…. negotiating the lease.

Leases are binding legal contracts. Because it is a legally enforceable document, if you breach a provision of the lease your landlord may be able to legally evict you and seek damages.

Reviewing your lease before signing it may seem like a hassle you may as well skip – please be advised, however, that there is a lot that can be learned from the document. The rights and obligations set forth in this document control every aspect of the relationship between you and your landlord: from the seemingly trivial things like the name of the bank where your landlord will hold your security deposit, to the ever important amount of rent and when its due. There will be the terms about which utilities you are responsible for, who takes care of snow removal, if pets are permitted, and many others that may become important at some later date.  Additionally, if the lease is wholly lopsided in favor of the landlord, sloppily drafted, unclear, illegible, or otherwise problematic this might be reason enough not to go ahead with the property.  A landlord who hasn’t taken the time to draft or have drafted a comprehensive and fair lease, may not be someone you want to have a legal relationship with. Paying attention and negotiating before you sign the lease will allow you some control over the terms you will be bound by.

Certainly no one signs a lease intending to break the agreement.  But the simple fact is that life happens in ways that you cannot necessarily anticipate. You may need to move unexpectedly or the relationship with your landlord may sour to the point of being unbearable.  At those times specifically, it will be crucial that you already understand what you can and cannot do

Ultimately, it is important that you read and fully understand your lease PRIOR to signing so that know your rights for the duration of your tenancy.  If you have any questions or concerns about the lease you’ve been presented, seek legal guidance. It is far better to know what you must do to comply with a lease beforehand, rather than to realize when it is too late that you have locked yourself into an awful agreement. If, however, you realize too late that you have signed a bad lease, and you need to get out, seek out an attorney knowledgeable in landlord tenant law and they may be able to guide you to your desired outcome.

If you have any questions about residential leases, please contact one of our experienced Real Estate attorneys in Bucks County or Montgomery Countyat 610-275-0700 or via email at

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.


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