Know this before you sign your lease

These are the top legal tips for tenants who are considering signing a lease agreement.

As a prospective tenant, it is important to be informed before you sign your lease agreement.

Identifying a fair and well-constructed lease agreement will benefit you in the long run. Gunston Strandvik Mlambo Attorneys provides some legal tips you need to know before you sign your lease.

Reading a lease

Being able to read a lease is a skill everyone should have. You need to be able to understand the legal language you are reading in your contract. If you can do that, then you can understand what you are agreeing to. It means you will avoid signing anything while being ignorant of the consequences.

Lease agreements are sometimes based on pre-made templates that are available online or from stationers. A common problem with templates is that they often fail to take into account the specific circumstances that affect a particular lease.

This can lead to confusion – or disaster – if specific provisions, such as lease extensions and dates for moving in and out of the premises, are omitted.

Make sure your contract contains the necessary specifics, such as the address of the property, name of the landlord, important contact information, deposit and rental amounts, as well as expected utilities.

Check for a clause specifying ‘no additions or modifications outside of the lease’. It is wise to have a clause in the lease that does not allow for any deviations or changes to be made to that lease unless they are made in writing and agreed to by all parties. This type of clause protects all parties involved because it prevents random changes from being made verbally, which then binds the parties to the agreement.

The law

It’s important to be aware that no lease may oblige you to contract out of the basic rights assigned to you by law through national legislation.

If any clause in a contract does contravene this principle, you should bring it to the landlord’s attention because that clause will be illegal.

For this reason, knowing your rights under the law is important. The Rental Housing Act and the Consumer Protection Act are two pieces of legislation that are important here.

Cooling off period

In terms of the Consumer Protection Act, if you sign a lease agreement, you have the right to cancel that agreement within five days of signing the lease – without penalties – if the agreement was a result of direct marketing. That is if marketing strategies such as email campaigns or telephone calls were employed to induce you to sign the agreement. This five days period is known as the ‘cooling off period’.

If you are ever uncertain about the meaning of anything in the lease you are considering, or whether a clause in a lease agreement is illegal, it’s best to get legal advice. Ask a legal professional to clarify any clauses or terms you don’t understand rather than signing the lease and trying to sort out possible problems at a later stage.

Writer : Sarah-Jane Meyer

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