You Signed A Lease; It’s A Contract.

Every manager and leasing person has experienced the frustration when a new resident challenges a policy or clause in their lease.

I didn’t know:

-The non-smoking policy would apply to my guests.

-I had to have management approval to have a pet.

-There would be a penalty if I moved outt before my lease is over.

Everyone in property management is well aware a lease is a legal binding contract.  Unfortunately, many residents want to overlook this minor detail.

The Importance of the Lease

LeaseThe lack of respect for the lease as a legal document may start with the management team at the property.  The new resident rushes into the office to pick up their keys. The moving truck is right behind them, along with an entourage of families and friends to help move furniture.  “They don’t have time to sit down and review everything.  Afterall, they’ve signed leases before.  They’ve been working with our staff for weeks, surely if it’s important, we’ve probably already explained it to them, right? “. Sign here, initial, initial, sign and witness.  “Send me my copy by email, or I’ll pick it up later,” close out the lease signing appointment.

Even if the leasing staff was able to point out a few key items in the lease, how much of the resident’s attention was focused on the explanation?  The new resident is thinking about where to place the furniture.  They are concerned if  the dining room table make the turn in the hallway.  And, of course, how will they make arrangements to feed the folks that are helping?


Lease Appointment

Scheduling a lease appointment a day or two before the move in creates the opportunity to review the lease and all the supporting documents, without distractions. The resident will be able to focus on the explanation of the lease.

The intent for a move in to be a positive experience may discourage the leasing team from spending too much time explaining policies or rules that may not apply to the resident’s current situation and could be viewed as negative.

-They didn’t have a pet so we didn’t talk about pet rules.

-I’m not going to talk about moving out on the day they move in.

-They didn’t ask about…..

Legal Document

Allowing an individual to sign a lease without a general understanding of the most important aspects of the rules will create problems and frustrations matching the term of the lease.   It is an individuals responsibility to “know” the content of a contract before signing but most leases are multiple pages of the smallest font size. Giving a new resident a copy of the document they’ve signed, with the offer, “Call if you have any questions,” does not provide any type of orientation for the new resident. Since the leasing staff is not qualified to offer legal advice, some questions or concerns may need to be directed to an attorney. However, holding a resident accountable for the content when no effort is made by the management to point out the items most likely to affect occupancy is poor customer service.

Encouraging an early appointment to review all of the document is helpful.   Insisting on a half hour to hour appointment will eliminate many points of confusion. Referring to the lease as a contract, and described the term as binding, will assist in reinforcing the legal status of this document.

Lori Hammond
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4 thoughts on “You Signed A Lease; It’s A Contract.

  1. I’ve been in this industry 20 years now and have always seen the value in reviewing the contract at move in. With the shift to online and paperless systems, how do you recommend we ensure our residents know the contract?

    • Allow them to sign it electronically but invite them to the office to review the lease with you in detail to make sure everything is completed and that all of their questions are answered. Find a comfy couch, pour them a cup of coffee, continue getting to know them and make sure everything seems clear to them. It’s redundant for property managers, but sometimes it’s the first time for residents. We all know what it’s like to be confused first-time renter’s, we just have to remember that. 🙂

  2. The first thing I do is explain that The Lease is a “Legal Binding Contract.” At that time I ask them if they understand what that means. This cuts out a lot of misunderstanding. Works for me.