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Importance of Signing a Lease or Rental Agreement

The lease or rental agreement is the document that defines the tenancy. The lease should contain several important terms:

  • Period of the tenancy
  • Rent and deposits the tenant must pay
  • People who can live on the rental property
  • Party who pays for utilities
  • Allowed pets
  • Right to sublet or assign the lease
  • Landlord access to the rental property
  • Party who pays attorneys’ fees from a lawsuit

Leases and rental agreements should be in writing. Oral agreements may seem easy and informal, but they can create serious trouble. If the tenant and landlord dispute the terms of the agreement, the result is probably going to be a lawsuit over who said what to whom, when, and in what context. Memories fade, and courts can have difficulty deciding which party should prevail.

Breaking a Lease

In most circumstances, a tenant may not break a lease without the landlord agreeing to rescind the lease or significantly violating the terms of the lease. For example, the landlord may fail to make necessary repairs or fail to comply with an important law concerning health or safety. In such cases, the tenant may have cause to break the lease.

A tenant who breaks a lease without proper reason can be responsible for the rent due for the remainder of the lease term. The landlord should try to find a new tenant, regardless of the tenant’s cause for leaving, instead of charging the tenant for the total remaining rent due under the lease.

A landlord can legally break a lease when a tenant violates the lease terms or the law. If the tenant regularly pays the rent late, keeps a dog in violation of a no-pets clause in the lease, substantially damages the property, or participates in illegal activities on or near the premises, such as selling drugs.

A landlord must first give the tenant notice that the tenancy has been terminated. Depending on what the tenant has done wrong, the termination notice may state that the tenancy is over and warn the tenant that he or she must vacate the premises or face an eviction lawsuit. Alternatively, the notice might offer the tenant a short period to cure his or her violation. Maybe the landlord can be satisfied if the tenant pays the rent or finds a new home for the pet. If the tenant resolves the issue or leaves as directed, further legal action is not required. If a tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord may file a lawsuit to evict the tenant.

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We represent clients in the following areas (and around all of Minnesota):