Reading Your Lease

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The following document ONLY applies to jurisdictions in Kentucky that have enacted the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act. These jurisdictions are: Barbourville, Bellevue, Bromley, Covington, Dayton, Florence, Lexington-Fayette County, Georgetown, Louisville-Jefferson County, Ludlow, Melbourne, Newport, Oldham County, Pulaski County, Shelbyville, Silver Grove, Southgate, Taylor Mill and Woodlawn.

If you do NOT live in one of these jurisdictions, please do not rely on this document for legal advice.

Further, this information only applies to residential leases. It does not apply to: commercial units, properties under contract for sale, hotels or motels, or people who are employed by the landlord.

If you live in a jurisdiction other than the ones listed above, see the non-URLTA version of this document.

Remember, the lease is an agreement that legally binds both the landlord and tenant to the terms of the lease. Before signing a lease, READ it and make sure you UNDERSTAND everything. Leases are often written in confusing language, so if there is ANYTHING you do not understand, ask someone trustworthy to explain it to you). Make sure that your lease protects your interests, not just the landlord's. Try to delete or modify clauses that you don't want.

IMPORTANT! - A landlord can include anything s/he wants to include on the lease, as long as it does not violate the "Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act" Therefore, you must READ YOUR LEASE CAREFULLY to avoid any unexpected additions that the landlord might make to a lease! For example, if the lease states that the landlord can withhold any personal property of the tenant if the rent is not paid on time, then the landlord is legally allowed to walk into your apartment and take your personal possessions until you pay rent. Watch for these types of statements!

Points to Check in Your Lease

  • Dates of Tenancy - Be sure that your lease states the beginning and ending dates of your tenancy. You are obligated to fulfill all of the conditions on your lease ONLY during the time between these dates. Make sure the dates listed are correct, and that you will be able to live in the apartment for the ENTIRE duration of this time.

  • Subleasing - Does the lease say anything about subleasing? Many leases will set the terms for a sublease or prohibit subleasing all together. If you would like the option of subleasing your apartment, look for these types of constraints. If you do not agree with the terms set for a sublease, get the lease changed!

  • Paying Rent - Make sure that the amount of rent and its due date are BOTH clearly specified on the lease. Usually there is a grace period or late fee for late rent. Be sure to ask about how your landlord handles late rent. Then, make sure it is specified in the lease. (You CAN get evicted for not paying rent on time!) Rent is usually due at the FIRST OF EVERY MONTH, unless specified differently in the lease. Know when your rent is due!

  • Security Deposit - The specific amount required for the Security Deposit should be clearly stated, as well as the conditions for returning it to the tenant. A landlord can keep your security deposit if you've left the apartment damaged, but only with a Damage List. The landlord can also keep your deposit if you ignore his/her tries to return it to you. The law does not set a time period for the landlord to return the deposit to the tenant. Instead, this term is often set in the lease (90 days is a standard number). It is a good idea to specify when the security deposit is to be returned to the tenant in your lease.

  • Utilities - Be sure that the lease states which utilities you will be paying for and which ones your landlord will be paying for.

  • Rules of Behavior - Leases frequently include "rules of behavior," such as "no pets" or "quiet after 10:00 p.m." Be cautious, rules change and you should be protected. If there is a clause reading "Tenant agrees to comply with all printed regulations now made or subsequently furnished," try to delete "subsequently furnished" from the lease. Have a copy of the rules attached to the lease, INITIALED and DATED. Be sure to check any terms dealing with guests, such as charges or time restrictions, so that you will be aware in advance. A landlord can only place these rules in the lease if his/her purpose is to promote convenience, safety, or welfare of the tenants in the premises, or preserve the property from abusive use. If you do not plan to adhere to these rules, get them taken out of the lease or find a new place to live.

  • Repairs and Remodeling - Usually the landlord will make all repairs to your apartment. However, if you would like to make some of your own repairs, or perform maintenance tasks, alterations and remodeling, you can add this into the lease. Landlords prefer to do as little work as possible and still keep the tenant happy, so most likely you will not be met with resistance. The specific types of repairs or remodeling that you want to make should be stated. You should NEVER MAKE A REPAIR OR REMODEL WITHOUT TELLING THE LANDLORD (this includes painting the walls). If you make an alteration without notifying the landlord, s/he could sue you for any further damages that might occur if something goes wrong, or if s/he did not want the alteration made. Remember that this is NOT your property.

  • Obligations for Cleaning - Landlords are not required to provide you with a clean place when you move in. If the place you are planning to rent is dirty, try to obtain a written guarantee, in your lease, that it will be clean when you move in. Most leases contain language that requires you to keep the apartment and outside area in clean condition. The tenant and landlord have specified duties under the law for keeping the property clean.

  • Yardwork - Usually a landlord will make himself/herself responsible for yardwork (mowing the grass and trimming hedges). However, the tenant also has specific duties under the law for keeping the property clean. Additions can be made in your lease. Look for this type of information and make sure you agree with it.

Reviewed August 2009