What Your Lease Says About Your Landlord

I frequently am asked to review both commercial and residential leases.  I thought it would be helpful to advise my readers about what the terms of a lease prepared by a landlord really reveals about the landlord and how that information may impact your decision to move forward with the lease. I will give you some real life examples from some of my clients.  A lease I reviewed recently was a temporary month-to-month commercial lease that my client needed while their permanent space was being built out. However, the terms of this month-to-month lease were quite onerous.

Although the monthly rental term period was 30 days, the lease required the tenant to give 45 days notice to terminate AND the tenant was required to give two and half months rent as a security deposit.  Needless to say my client and I determined quickly that this was not the kind of landlord they wanted or needed to work with and we identified other available temporary space.

If your proposed lease contains excessive security deposit requirements or notice of termination provisions that are excessive that should be a red flag that this landlord is not reasonable and may be trying to obtain a windfall from the lease. If the landlord will not agree to modify these type of provisions then I would recommend you find other space and another landlord.  The landlord/tenant relationship is just that-a relationship. You don't want to start that type of relationship with a one-sided, unfair lease.

Another example is the lease with the confusing, fine print. I reviewed a lease for a client recently that contained a complex attorney's fee provision entitling only the landlord to attorney's fees in any litigation concerning the lease.  In addition, the landlord was entitled to receive compensation for their time expended in pursuing litigation against the tenant-EVEN IF THE LANDLORD DID NOT PREVAIL IN THE LITIGATION! This type of one-sided lease is a clear message to the tenant about potential problems and conflict to be expected from that landlord.  Run-don't walk from this lease and this landlord if they will not remove such a provision from the lease.

One other example from my parade of horribles on leases is the infamous security deposit scam.  In this situation, the landlord's lease terms provide that the tenant has to request the security deposit back within a certain period in a certain way or the landlord is entitled to keep the security deposit.  While these types of provisions are generally violative of  applicable laws governing leases it means that you have to sue the landlord to get your security deposit back if they insist on following the terms of the lease and keep your security deposit.  The landlord knows that and is willing to take the risk that the tenant cannot afford to litigate and therefore will simply forfeit their security deposit.

So before you sign on the dotted line, have an attorney review your lease and advise you as to whether the lease is "balanced" in its terms as well as compliant with the applicable laws governing leases in your jurisdiction.  Do not get stuck in an unfair, overreaching lease where you, as tenant, have no rights.

Please feel free to contact the Lerman Law Firm if you need assistance with review of a lease or a dispute with a lease.