About Rental Agreements

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In all rental agreements, the tenant is responsible for paying rent on time, following the terms or rules of the rental agreement (also called a lease), and keeping the rented space clean and undamaged. The landlord is responsible for collecting rent, enforcing the terms of the rental agreement, and keeping the property in good repair in accordance with the Lincoln Housing Code.

A rental agreement may be verbal or written, but in all instances it is better for a tenant to have a written lease. A written lease may be long and detailed, but you should read it carefully and get help, if necessary, to understand it. You should also always retain a copy of the signed rental agreement.

7 simple rules for renting

  • Keep the space you're renting clean and safe.
  • Get rid of your garbage in a clean and safe way.
  • Fix any damages you did or your guests did.
  • Do not bother your neighbors with noise or irritating behavior.
  • If you will be away from home for more than a week, let your landlord know your plans.
  • Do what you agreed to do in your lease or rental agreement.
  • Don't break any laws.

Once you have found a property you are interested in renting, you will be asked to complete an application. When you fill out an application and pay the application fee, you give the landlord permission to check your employment, credit history, and references.

If the landlord accepts your application, he or she will ask for your security deposit and/or the first month's rent. Both parties will sign the lease and your landlord should give you a photocopy of it. If he or she will not, you should not rent from that landlord.

After a lease is signed, it is a legally binding agreement and you are held responsible for complying with the lease. If you want the landlord to change anything in the lease, say so before you sign the lease. Also, make sure both parties understand exactly when you are allowed to move in and where and when you can get the keys from the landlord.

Most rental agreements specify a term, commonly six months or one year, after which the rental agreement is to be renegotiated if you plan to continue renting the property. The new negotiated terms may include an increase in rent.

If the lease does not specify a term, a landlord may change the rent at any time with two month's notice. The landlord must notify each tenant in writing of any rent increase by written notice or by United States mail at least sixty days prior to the effective date of the increase.

The tenant needs written permission from the landlord before having someone other than those who have signed the lease living in the space. Do not allow anyone else to move in with you unless the landlord makes a lease agreement with that person or adds that person to your lease. The tenant is always responsible, no matter what a roommate does, unless the roommate signs a lease with the landlord's permission. The tenant is also responsible for everything done by guests. If your guests do any damage, you will have to pay for it.

Always comply with the rental agreement you signed, including whatever it says about pets. City ordinances require that pets be vaccinated and licensed. Be sure to understand other ordinances regarding pets as well.

You'll find more advice and rules in the Landlord-Tenant Handbook from Legal Aid of Nebraska.