Lease Agreements

Table of Contents
Oklahoma Bar Association, since 1904

Lease Agreements

What is a lease?

Lease Agreement A lease is a contract between two parties for the rental of real property, a motor vehicle or personal property. Many leases are a contract between a landlord and a tenant to rent property. The landlord is the person who owns the property. The tenant is the one who lives in the property. A lease tells how much the tenant will pay the landlord to rent the property. It also tells how long the lease will last. It usually includes additional duties and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord.

Does the lease have to be in writing to be legal?

Not unless the lease is for more than one year, but it is in the best interest of both the landlord and the tenant if the lease is in writing.

What should you consider before signing a lease?

  • Make sure you read and understand the entire lease before you sign it.
  • Do not sign unless all blank spaces are filled in or crossed out.
  • Get all promises IN WRITING so that after the contract is signed there is no mistake about what was promised.
  • Any changes or additions to the lease should be made on all copies of the lease and initialed by both the landlord and the tenant.
  • Look at the property and make sure it is in good condition before you sign the lease.
  • List on the lease any problems or damages to the property, such as carpet wear or carpet stains or cracks in the wall.
  • Obtain a list from the landlord of repairs to be completed (if any) before moving into the property.

Should you get renters insurance?

Renters Insurance Yes. The landlord's insurance only covers the building. It usually does not cover your personal belongings. The landlord's insurance only covers the building. It probably does not cover your things inside the building. Ask for price quotes from different insurance agents. See which policy best suits your needs and budget.

What is a security deposit?

A security deposit is money given by the tenant to the landlord to make sure the tenant follows the lease. When you move out, it may be used by the landlord to pay rent you owe. It can also be used to repair any damage caused, during your rental period, other than normal wear and tear. If your landlord keeps any of the security deposit, you must receive written notice of how the money was used. The landlord must return any unused security deposit to you within 30 days after the lease ends. If this does not occur, you should seek the services of an attorney. You may be able to receive reimbursement of your attorney fees under the law if the landlord is at fault. To get your security deposit returned, you must move out of the property. You cannot just move out and expect to apply your deposit to the last month's rent. You must make a written demand for the return of the security deposit. You need to include in your demand your new forwarding address. If you do not make a written demand for your security deposit within six (6) months after you leave, then the landlord may get to keep the deposit.

How do you terminate your lease?

If you have signed a lease for a set number of months, you are responsible for the rent for the whole period. However, if you move out before the end of your lease, you do not have to pay for the time remaining on the lease period if the landlord is able to rent the property for the same price to someone else for that time period.

If you do not have a lease, you rent from month-to-month. If you rent from month-to-month and wish to move, you must give at least 30 days' notice in writing to the landlord. The same rule applies to the landlord if he or she wishes to end the lease with you.

Many leases require that at the end of the lease, you give 30 days' notice before moving (even if your lease is up). If you do not give the notice, you will automatically become a month-to-month tenant.

Important: The 30-day notice must be given from rent-paying period to rent-paying period. This means that if your rent is due on the 1st of the month, then notice must be given before the first day of the month. The lease will end on the last day of the month. Example: If your rent is due on January 1st and you give notice on January 15th, you still owe rent for the entire month of February. The lease would end on the last day of February.

NOTE: Always read your lease. You need to know exactly what is required of you and the landlord. You also need to know when you must move out or sign a new lease. At some time, you may lease property with someone else. If you decide to move elsewhere during the term of the lease but your roommate stays, you are still responsible for the rent and any injury to the property. Be sure that the landlord releases you from the lease in writing.

What could happen if you don't pay your rent?

If you do not pay your rent when it is due, the landlord may give you notice to pay or move out. This notice can be given to you (or anyone else over the age of 12 who is living with you) to pay or move out within five (5) days. If the landlord posts a notice on your door and mails you a certified copy, generally you will have only ten (10) days to pay or move out. If you fail to pay rent, you may be taken to court. The court can order you to leave and pay your back rent. If you want to stay, you should read the written notice carefully and pay before the deadline. The landlord may report your failure to pay rent to a credit agency, which will damage your credit rating.

When can the landlord enter your premises?

A landlord may enter your premises without your permission only when there is an emergency. Otherwise, the landlord must give you at least one day's notice of his or her intent to enter and may enter only at reasonable times.

What can you do if the landlord refuses to make repairs to the premises?

You must give written notice of any problems you have with the property. You should keep a copy for your records to protect your rights under the lease and the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act.

Lease Agreements

If the landlord's failure to follow the lease affects your health or safety, you may give the landlord a written notice that he/she has broken (or "breached") the lease. The notice should state that if the repair is not made within 14 days, the lease will end in 30 days.

If the landlord does not make a repair costing less than $100, you may write the landlord that you intend to fix the problem within 14 days at the landlord's expense. Then, if the landlord does not correct the problem within 14 days, you should give the landlord an itemized statement of the actual cost (or a fair value of the repair), and then you may subtract this amount from the next month's rent. The lease then does not terminate based on the problem you repaired.

The landlord's failure to fix the problem may make the property unfit to live in or cause immediate threat to your health and safety. In this case, if the problem is not fixed immediately, you may move out and end the lease.

A person has a duty of ordinary care to keep his/her premises in a reasonably safe condition for others' use of the premises. A person should remove or warn others of any hidden danger on the premises.