Landlord / Tenant

The Lease

(PA. 219 of 1931,348 of 1972,454 of 1978)

Leases contain a variety of legal terms and there are a few you should be familiar with in understanding a leasing situation. A landlord is a person or business firm in control of property who allows others to occupy and use it. A landlord may be the owner, an agent or employee of the owner, or a management company. A TENANT is a person who occupies and uses property owned by someone else. A tenant's right to occupy and use land or buildings is called a leasehold or LEASE. The term "lease" is also used to mean the rental agreement that creates the leasehold. A rental agreement is a contract between landlord and tenant. Generally, such a contract governs the tenant's use and occupancy of rental property and provides for the payment of rent. Rental agreements may be written or oral as long as there is some type of agreement between the landlord and the tenant.

The different types of tenancy that a landlord and tenant can enter into for the rental of the residential property include the following:

Fixed-Term Tenancy

A fixed-term tenancy agreement will specify a starting date and a termination date. The conditions, rules, and the rent are fixed during the term of the lease agreement and the lease usually cannot be cut short or extended except by mutual consent or breach of the contract (i.e., tenant or landlord fails to keep promises and/or discharge obligations). The lease is often a written document but may be oral unless it exceeds a year in duration.

Periodic Tenancy

A periodic tenancy begins on a specific date and is renewed on a regular basis, usually by the month. Rents and rules can change more frequently than in a fixed-term tenancy. It is less likely the lease will be written. Since it is renewable on a monthly basis there is no requirement that it be written.

Advantages of a Written Lease Agreement

Whether there is a fixed-term tenancy or a periodic tenancy, it's best to have a written record of your rental agreement. A written record is a permanent record that can be referred to if misunderstandings arise. In the absence of a written document signed by both parties, it is advisable to keep a personal written record of mutual agreements. This is for your own benefit; it is not admissible in a court of law.

How to Avoid Potential Lease Problems

Before you, as a tenant, enter into a lease:

  • don't agree to a lease you know you cannot live with (this applies to landlords as well)
  • if you are in doubt about its terms, have an attorney look at it and advise you
  • know what you can afford
  • know what you want for housing
  • make a list of your concerns (who pays for utilities, parking, can there be pets, etc.)
  • make sure the property suits your needs
  • understand the lease agreement before you agree to it and/or sign it