One of my old law partners and I wrote a great residential lease about 15 years ago. Over the years, I have made dozens and dozens of changes to that lease. For example, when a client calls me and reports a problem with a tenant that I had not previously experienced, I will consider the challenge faced by the landlord and will often address that situation by adding new language to my lease form. The lease grows each year by another sentence or two. Every year, I am surprised by the actions of irresponsible and reckless tenants who endanger themselves, their family, friends and property, not to mention the landlord’s property, by doing really dumb things. As long as tenants find new ways to pose risks to landlords, I will be adding new provisions to my lease form.
One of my favorite dumb-tenant activities involved the tenant placing a trampoline between the rental house and his unlawful above-ground pool. His children (young children) would climb a ladder onto the roof of the home, so that could jump off the roof, onto the trampoline and into the pool. Can you spell – L – I – A – B – I – L – I – T – Y?
It is impossible to predict or even react to every dumb thing that a tenant might do. So, it is impossible to guard against every liability risk in a good lease agreement. However, you should try to cover as many risks as are reasonable in a lease.
Last week, I received a call from a client about a risk that I do not think warrants a new provision in my lease form. Ghosts. Seriously, ghosts. The tenant called the landlord to complain about ghosts. I’m not talking about leaking noisy pipes or creaky floors. The tenant claims the rental home is haunted, and the tenant wants concessions from the landlord. And we don’t think the tenant is joking. It appears that the tenant is quite serious about the ghosts and the concessions.
While not every tenant demand, threat or crazy activity will warrant changes to your lease form, you should develop the practice of talking about such challenges with your lawyer and decide whether the threat warrants changes to your lease form or even to the rules promulgated under your lease form.