“Residential Leases: A Little Extra Effort Goes a Long Way”
Although landlords often scrutinize the background and rental history of prospective tenants, they sometimes neglect to focus energy on the very document that will be used to determine the parties’ respective rights if a dispute occurs. I have often heard it said, and it is true (at least from a landlord’s perspective), that ‘no lease is better than a bad lease.’ Why is that? Primarily because the inclusion or omission of certain terms, which lead to a ‘bad lease’, can make it difficult for a landlord to evict a problem or nonpaying tenant, and the landlord would have been better off with the statutory provisions that apply when there is no lease.
Among other important provisions, a lease should contain a clear and strong default provision, enabling a landlord to begin the eviction process soon after a breach of the terms of the lease. Additionally, a lease should include a carefully crafted holdover clause, ensuring that the terms of an otherwise expired lease (including the default provision) remain in effect if the tenant does not move out at the end of the term for whatever reason (landlords often let the lease continue after expiration by accepting rent, which can result in the creation of a “tenancy-at-will” governed by the statutory rules for notice and eviction unless a hold-over provision says otherwise).
The statutes dealing with lease terms and Forcible Entry and Detainer (eviction) actions can be quite technical. (See http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/14/title14ch710sec0.html; http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/14/title14ch709sec0.html for the relevant statutes.)As such, it is important that some thought be put towards the drafting of a lease that will protect the landlord’s investment in the property.