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Changing Lease Terms

Life changes – and so can leases…if both parties agree.

What Can Be Changed
In theory, anything in an existing lease can be changed as long as it does not infringe upon a tenant’s legal rights. However, practically speaking, a tenant probably won’t consent to an increase in their rent. Keep in mind that because you have entered into a contract with your tenant, you cannot take it upon yourself to make any changes to the terms of the lease agreement. But, as long as all parties agree, feel free to make as many changes as you’d like.

Some common changes that result in a modification to an original lease are as follows:

  • Changing the wording in the original lease to allow a tenant to have a pet
  • Adding a tenant’s new spouse to the lease as a co-tenant
  • Allowing a tenant to terminate the lease early

One important note of exception – If it is so provided for in the original lease, you can implement a change without the tenant’s agreement because they would have already consented to the change by signing the original lease. So, for example, if your tenant’s last two rent checks have bounced, you can require all future payments to be in the form of a money order IF you reserved that right for yourself in the lease. You can reserve the right to do just about anything in the lease – just be sure your tenant(s) understand anything exceptional in the lease and you don’t go overboard. You may find it difficult to find a tenant when, for example, you reserve the right to increase the rent any time you want. Be reasonable and clear – “Landlord may increase rental payment by no more than 10% every 6 months if landlord provides 30 day notification of such increase to tenant.”

How to Cover Yourself Legally
We can’t stress it enough – get it in writing! Anything you agree on or change should be in writing. That way, no one can say later that they didn’t agree to something or didn’t understand it the same way as you do.

Not only do you need to get the change in writing and signed off on by all parties, but you also need to be certain you follow any requirements of your state.

Notification Requirements for Each State
As long as both parties agree, states do not require a specific amount of notification time before a lease change can occur. However, even if the tenant violates lease provisions, almost every state requires a certain amount of notice for a landlord to terminate tenancy.