Ralph and Al: Read your lease
By Mark Wineka
College students who leave their residence halls for the brave new world of renting a house or apartment often run into misunderstandings with their landlords.
But itís not just college kids.
Retired Catawba College professor Al Carter stressed the importance recently of rentersí reading their leases thoroughly and knowing their rights as tenants.
Typical lease clauses include, Carter said, an ìimplied covenant of fitness for use,î meaning the landlord must keep the premises in good repair.
In signing a lease, the renter stipulates that he has examined the premises and they are, at the time of his lease, safe, clean and in good repair.
But Carter advised being proactive before signing a lease, taking pictures and making the landlord aware of potential problems that should be corrected as soon as possible.
ìItís up to you to change it,î Carter said.
He also warned that while many leases follow the same language, ìthere is no standard lease form ó at least Iíve never seen one.î
Most leases allow for the tenant to sublet the home or apartment to another party. This often happens to college students who must sign a one-year lease but only need the rental unit for nine months before they leave for home.
When that happens, they look for someone to sublet the property for the remaining months. Carter said the original tenant must realize, even with subletting, that he is responsible for the rent.
Getting back to previous class discussions about credit, Carter said some landlords will run a credit check on potential renters before leasing a unit. A bad credit score could disqualify the applicant or lead to the landlordís charging him or her more per month, Carter warned.
A short quiz about renting follows.
True or false:
1. By N.C. law, the security deposit on rental property cannot be more than 50 percent of the monthly rent.
2. The term ìquiet enjoymentî applies to a tenantís right to use property without undue interference from others.
3. Improvements made by the tenant become property of the landlord unless otherwise agreed.
4. A lease cannot prohibit subletting if rent is more than $600 a month.
5. If the rental property is taken by eminent domain, the lease is terminated.
6. A lease can list the number of people who will occupy the premises.
7. Implied covenant of fitness only applies if the tenant has a yearlong lease.
8. If a lease is assigned to another party, the original tenant can be liable for the rent.
9. A landlord can require that assignment and subletting of the property have his approval.
10. After a yearís lease is through, a holdover by the renter will result in a month-to-month occupancy in most cases.
Answers: 1) false; 2) true; 3) true; 4) false; 5) true; 6) true; 7. false; 8) true; 9) true; 10) true.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.