Modifying Lease Terms: What Can Be Changed?

Lease terms are the contractual obligations that you and your landlord agreed to follow when you signed your paperwork. Usually, those terms remain the same for the duration of the lease. However, these terms can be changed if you or your landlord choose. It's a complicated process that includes many rules and regulations, and it won't be complete until you and your landlord both sign off on the changes.

Understanding Lease Terms

The lease is a mutually binding contract between you and the landlord. If either you or your landlord don't follow it's terms, the lease is canceled. While leases can be oral agreements, they are not legally enforceable unless they are written and properly signed.

While leases are usually customized on property-by-property basis, most of them include some version of the following:

  • Length and time frame of the lease--this includes the overall time period and the exact dates of when the lease takes effect and when it expires.
  • Rental procedures--this includes when the rent is due, how much you owe each month, how you can pay rent to your landlord and what kind of penalties you will face if you don't pay on times.
  • Damages and repairs--this explains how promptly the landlord has to respond to complaints, what kind of damage they are responsible for fixing and how much the landlord can deduct out of your deposit to pay for repairs.
  • List of prohibited behaviors--list of things that you are not allowed to do on your property because they are disruptive to the welfare of other tenants. This can include everything from playing loud music at night to painting walls.
  • Subletting Policies--covers whether or not you are allowed to sublet your apartment to somebody else and, if so, for how long and under what circumstances.
  • Renewal terms--if the landlord allows you to renew the lease, this should explain the terms of the renewal.

Modifying Lease Terms - the Tenant

If you want to modify the terms of the lease, your first step should be to look over a copy of the lease and figure out which provisions are unacceptable. Before you approach your landlord, you should know that you landlord isn't likely to accept them as is, so you will most likely have to come up with a compromise. Your best course of action is to try to come up with a modification that will have benefits for you both you and your landlord. Once you reached a compromise, get the modifications in writing. Both you and your landlord must sign and date the modifications in order for them to take effect.

Modifying Lease Terms - the Landlord

If your landlord wants to modify the terms of the lease, they must first get you to agree to any changes. Furthermore, the landlord is legally required to make sure that that the modification at be supported by consideration. This means that the terms must give you a benefit you are not already entitled to under your original lease.

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