Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, it’s always best to have a written rental agreement. Most professional property management companies always use written rental agreements, which means most tenants are unlikely to encounter a verbal lease when renting an apartment in a large multi-unit complex.
However, a tenant renting a house or other property from a relative or friend may very well end up with an oral lease.
In this context, it’s easy to assume you will never need a written rental agreement. You’re friends (or family), after all – what could go wrong?
Actually, quite a bit can go wrong. With a written rental agreement in place, you are much less likely to wind up a party to a landlord-tenant dispute. Protect yourself by working with a Miami landlord-tenant lawyer.
Verbal lease agreements may be fast and convenient, but they have many downsides. Here are four reasons why verbal leases are rarely a good idea:
1. Little Protection in a Dispute
Under Florida law, the Statute of Frauds requires any lease lasting longer than one year to be in writing. Contracts that violate the Statute of Frauds are generally unenforceable.
Most verbal lease agreements are tenancies at will, meaning they have no fixed term. Instead, the term is determined by the payment period, such as month to month or week to week.
With no written agreement, both sides are vulnerable. In the event of a dispute, it is very difficult to prove what exactly the parties agreed to. In the absence of written terms, disputes boil down to one person’s word against the other’s word.
Even a relatively minor disagreement can result in costly litigation. If you’re renting from a friend or family member, a landlord-tenant dispute can even damage your relationship.
2. Greater Likelihood of Misunderstandings
Verbal lease agreements leave the door wide open to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Without explicit terms that clearly detail both parties’ rights and responsibilities, it is very easy for disagreements to develop.
For example, if a clothes dryer breaks down, both the landlord and the tenant may assume it is the other person’s responsibility to repair it. This is a situation that can easily be avoided with a written rental agreement.
3. Both Sides Can Back Out with Short Notice
Oral lease agreements make it fairly easy for both sides to end the agreement with little or no notice. For example, in a month to month tenancy, the landlord may decide to terminate the lease to free up the property for a tenant who is willing to pay a higher rental amount.
This leaves the current tenant just 15 days under Florida law to locate different housing, pack up his or her belongings, and make moving arrangements.
4. No Control over the Rent
Well-drafted written lease agreements clearly state the cost of the rent, and explicitly state when the landlord is allowed to adjust the rent. With a verbal lease agreement, the tenant has no protection against arbitrary and unreasonable rent hikes.
In places like New York City, local ordinances strictly control how much rent landlords can charge their tenants. Florida doesn’t have rent control ordinances, nor does any state law regulate rent prices beyond enforcing the terms of a written rental agreement.
If you are currently a party to a verbal lease agreement, you may be wondering whether it’s too late to get your agreement in writing.
The good news is that you can convert your oral lease agreement to a written agreement. This gives both the tenant and the landlord protection and peace of mind.
Furthermore, just because you have an oral lease agreement does not mean you’re not entitled to protection as a tenant under Florida law. If you believe your landlord has acted unlawfully, you may be entitled to damages.
Read more about landlord-tenant issues:
Residential Evictions: Do Landlords Really Need Help from a Lawyer?
Get Help from a Miami Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Today
Landlord-tenant law can be incredibly complex. Having a well-crafted written rental agreement is one way to make things less complicated.
The South Florida Landlord-Tenant Legal Center helps both landlords and tenants in a wide range of landlord-tenant matters. Contact a Miami landlord-tenant lawyer today to discuss your case.