James A. Cioffi J.D., The Juris Doctor
Advice to tenants before you sign a lease:
First and foremost, you want to verify that the person who represents that he or she is the owner of the property is actually the owner of the property. Recently a couple moved into a home after giving the “owner” first month’s rent, last month’s rent and a security deposit. A month later the couple was contacted by the actual owner and realized they were the victims of a scam. The person they thought was the owner had broken into the vacant home, changed the locks and advertised it as a rental. Within a week, the impersonator had the funds from the tenant and left the area. With technology, you can access the public records in the county to verify the name of the owner of a property. Once you determine the name of the owner, do not be afraid to ask for a photo identification to verify the identity. You will be asked to verify your identity so it is reasonable to ask the other party to verify also.
Be aware that a residence may be owned by a trust or a legal entity, i.e. a corporation, limited liability company or a partnership. In that case, you want to verify that person acting on behalf of the trust is the trustee or the person acting on behalf of the entity is the officer, manager or partner authorized to sign the lease.
It is also advisable to inspect the home to make sure all equipment and appliances are in working order. Then document in writing all matters that need repair. You do not want to live in a rental with a multitude of problems. The courts are filled with cases in which the tenants and landlords have disputes about the condition of the property. Once a problem develops about a repair, tenants often withhold the rent or take other action. Failure to pay rent entitles the landlord to legal remedies, including eviction, so a standoff can ensue between the parties.
I am often asked if leases for more than one year are legal. The answer is yes- as long as there are two witnesses to each party’s signature. A lease is a contract and each party has obligations. Be sure you understand the contents of a lease. An attorney review of a lease for you will clarify your obligations and those of the landlord. You do not want to be told at a later date, “You should have read the fine print!”
James A. Cioffi is one of the most experienced attorneys in South Florida today. In fact, he writes a legal advice column under theme of “The Juris Doctor” Feel free to contact James A. Cioffi confidentially regarding your legal question and he will personally respond. He can be reached at 561-747-6000 or visit his website at http://jamescioffi.com
© Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved.
James A. Cioffi, Esquire
The Juris Doctor
250 Tequesta Drive, Suite 200
Jupiter, FL 33469