Before I talk to you about the importance of lease agreements, let me tell you the story that inspired this post:
A couple of years ago, in Kampala, my cousin and I were leaving home around the same time and decided to wait for each other so we could leave together. As we left home, my cousin asked me to join her on a small detour to an apartment complex in the neighborhood, where she needed to run an errand for a friend who would be moving there soon. Not in too much of a rush, I conceded and accompanied my cousin.
Once we got to the apartment complex, my cousin sought out the property’s caretaker to give him her friend’s security deposit and first month’s rent—this was the errand she needed to run. Hmmm…for a moment, I wondered why my cousin’s friend wouldn’t want to complete such an important step in the renting process herself but chose not to dwell on it and figured that it wasn’t such a big deal as long as the caretaker gave my cousin a proper receipt. It’s what happened next that completely shocked me!
My Cousin Signs Her Friend’s Lease
After handing over the security deposit, the caretaker gave my cousin a lease. I imagined this was so she could pass this on to her friend. Much to my surprise, my cousin leaned in to sign on the dotted line. She was actually signing her friend’s lease, and both she and the caretaker seemed to think this was all right!
This particular cousin is only 2-3 years younger than me, so like for all other adults, I try my best to support her in making her own decisions. Still, could I really stand by while I watched my cousin make a decision that had every fiber of my being screaming “Stop!”? I tried my best, simply asking my cousin (once) if she was sure that she wanted to sign the lease on behalf of her friend. She seemed unfazed, so I let it go…or at least I tried to. A little later, after we’d left the complex, I casually brought up the subject again. I pointed out to my cousin that a lease was a binding legal agreement and that now, legally, she was the official tenant of the apartment her friend would be living in. Among other things, she could now be held accountable for any damages to the property, or even more basically, for any rent due for it. My cousin still wasn’t fazed! She told me to lighten up and said that things weren’t that serious in Uganda.
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Why Is a Lease Important?
And so I shut up and decided instead to one day write this post. 🙂 The point of this post? To encourage anyone that might be reading to take leases seriously. Why? Because a lease is a legal contract that governs your tenancy and that can be used both in your favor and against you. Your landlord can evict you for not honoring the provisions in your lease (which can be for something as simple as having houseguests for longer than stipulated in your lease—7 days in the case of my last lease). Or the lease can serve you by protecting you from such things as inconvenient, unannounced visits from your landlord.
So what to do? For starters, I recommend that you read your lease in entirety and that you do not sign it until you are comfortable with every clause in the lease. If you don’t like something in your lease, then let your landlord know, and in my experience, your landlord will be more than happy to make the change (or at the very least discuss the provision with you). Even better, if you are tripped up by the legal jargon used in your lease, have a lawyer-friend glance at it and warn you of clauses that they think might be potentially problematic.
That said, I am not a specialist in the matter, so allow me to refer you to two excellent articles that cover the subject of leases in greater depth.
I hope these articles are useful to you and help you the next time you are set to sign a lease. I look forward to hearing anything you have to say.
Until the next time,
Photo Credits: innov8tiv.com; rentpost.com