The Bare Necessities of a Residential Lease...

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The Bare Necessities of a Residential Lease

As the small-time landlord goes about getting started managing the rental property they just bought, they are sure to discover that there are literally thousands of different variations of the residential property lease. It is always best to have a lawyer draft a lease, but lets be honest, how many people can afford to have a lawyer draft them a real estate form every time they need one; and still make profit? More realistically, the landlord will often navigate the web or travel to brick-and-mortar office stores to buy an affordable version of a lease. With so many to choose from, the list below highlights a few of the bare-minimums that one should check to ensure that the lease includes them.

Preliminary Terms - This section is usually at the beginning of the lease and includes such things as the landlord's name, the tenant's name, the address of the residence being rented, and any appliances that are included in the property that are owned by the landlord (Often times, a separate appliance section may be included in the lease).

Term - Self-explanatory, the term is the length that the tenant(s) will be renting the residence (premises).

Rent/Security Deposit - All leases should of course include the rent. The rent section will often included the monthly rent amount, the exact day of every month that the rent will be due, and the address at which the tenant(s) can mail the rent check. A good lease will also include the amount a tenant must pay after a certain amount of days their rent is late and the fee that they must pay if their rent check bounces.

The security deposit often has a section of its own and usually states two things. First, exactly what the security deposit amount is, and secondly, the number of days before the security deposit will be returned to the tenant after their departure.

Subletting/Subleasing- One always want this section to appear in the lease. It ensures that the tenant will not rent the residence from the landlord and then turn around and rent it to someone else, leaving the property with a tenant that the landlord didn't approve.

Redecoration/Alterations - Also self-explanatory, this section ensures that the tenant must get the landlord's permission before painting the walls, fixing an appliance, or re-carpeting the floor.

Holdover Policy - This policy is great for busy landlords (Are there any that aren't?). It usually states that the current lease will hold over as a new month-to-month lease if the tenant and landlord cannot get together in time to sign a new lease before the current one expires. This situation is also useful for tenants who are unable to stay another year or are unsure of when they are going to need to move out. It gives both the landlord and tenant flexibility without immediately signing a new lease.

Pets - Four different textboxes often accompanies a pet policy. First, can the tenant have pets; yes or no? Secondly, what kind of pets specifically can the tenant have if the answer to the above question is yes? Third, a monthly maintenance fee that the tenant pays to maintain the cleanliness of the residence, and fourth, the extra security deposit that the tenant must pay for having the pet.

By checking for the above criteria on any lease one intends to use, they are safeguarding themselves against a few of the "sticky" situations that may arise from lack of specification in the residential lease. A lease can be both a friend and foe to the landlord, so make sure that you create a friend instead of a foe.

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* Government Statistics on Legal Verdicts and Jury Awards - $ U.S. district courts terminated approximately 512,000 civil cases during fiscal years 2002-03. Nearly 20% or 98,786 of these cases were torts in which plaintiffs claimed injury, loss, or damage from a defendant’s negligent or intentional acts. $ Of the 98,786 tort cases terminated in U.S. district courts in 2002-03, about 2% or 1,647 cases were decided by a bench or jury trial. $ An estimated 9 out of 10 tort trials involved personal injury issues C most frequently, product liability, motor vehicle (accident), marine, and medical malpractice cases. $ Juries decided about 71% of all tort cases brought to trial in U.S. district courts; judges adjudicated the remaining 29%. $ Plaintiffs won in 48% of tort trials terminated in U.S. district courts in 2002-03. Plaintiffs won less frequently in medical malpractice (37%) and product liability (34%) trials. $ Eighty-four percent of plaintiff winners received monetary damages with an estimated median award of $201,000. $ Plaintiffs won more often in bench (54%) than in jury (46%) tort trials. The estimated median damage awards were higher in jury ($244,000) than in bench ($150,000) tort trials. April 2006 - A Jury in New Jersey found last week that Vioxx significantly contributed to a 77-year-old man's heart attack awarded him $9 million in punitive damages yesterday, raising Merck & Co.'s liability in the case to $13.5 million and intensifying pressure on it to settle such lawsuits. Example of Personal Injury Case 2004 : Ford Explorer rollover-prone and roof not crash safe and worthy- CASE TYPE : Product Design Defect, Auto Truck Vehicle - SUV, Motor Vehicle – Rollover CASE : Buell-Wilson v. Ford Motor Co., San Diego Co., Calif., Super. Ct. GIC 800836 Los Angeles, Calif. JURY VERDICT: $369,000,000 (369 Millions Dolalrs 2005 - In what may be one of the biggest massive medical malpractice tort verdicts in the state of Texas, a state jury awarded $606 million - including a remarkable $ 600 million dollars in punitive damages - to the family of an 82-year-old patient who had cancer and then who died after receiving an overdose of chemotherapy drugs. 2005 - In the 9th big loss for Ford in SUV Explorer rollover cases, a Florida jury awarded $61.2 million to the parents of an 18-year-old boy who was killed in a 1997 (wrongful death & Product Defect and Product Liability Issues) Example of Personal Injury Lawyer Case 2004 : Dodge Caravan seatback collapsed on baby in a car-seat - CASE TYPE : Automobiles, Products Liability - Product Design Defect, Wrongful Death, Motor Vehicle - Rear-ender, Motor Vehicle - Passenger, Motor Vehicle - Minivan CASE : Flax v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., Davidson Co., Tenn., Cir. Ct. O2C-1288 JURY VERDICT : $105,500,000 (105 Million Dollars 2005 – Billion Dollar Verdicts - In one of 2005's largest verdicts to an individual plaintiff regarding financial fraud , a Florida jury ordered Morgan Stanley Broker Dealer to pay $1.45 billion to investor Ronald O. Perelman for defrauding him in the sale of his camping gear company - Coleman. 2005 - February, a prominent Houston law firm and a Texas bank were SMACKED and Beaten with a $65.5 million verdict in a highly complex estate planning case that involved major problems and conflicts of interest. (65 million dollar jury award) 2005 – 3 years after a jury acquitted a company in Florida of manslaughter and criminal charges, a Florida civil jury SLAMMED the outdoor advertiser with a $65 million jury award verdict for the shock and electrocution of a sixth-grade boy. Age Discrimination - In December, a Los Angeles California jury found that PrivatAir - an aviation company focusing on private airline services - wrongfully fired Captain Doyle D. Baker on the basis of his age, defaming him in the termination process and causing extreme emotional distress.

Punitive damages serve a number of important functions which—despite a few horror stories, which are themselves either apocryphal or overturned in the courts, the functions remain valid and in the public interest. Persons causing great harm—persons deliberately or with gross negligence causing great harm should not view paying damages as merely a cost of doing business, a cost that might fit neatly into a risk analysis of wrongdoing. That is what happened in the Ford Pinto case in which the cost of paying claims to victims of a known deadly hazard was deemed less than the cost to retool the assembly line, and thus the hazard was maintained knowing full well that further people—more people would be injured or killed. This is the purpose of punitive damages, to punish this kind of egregious wrongdoing, and to deter, to be a deterrent to such conduct. It is not immediately clear why a deterrent—or the necessity of the deterrent should bear any great relationship to the amount of actual damages in a given case. There is nothing wrong and indeed something highly desirable in maintaining this disincentive to wrongdoing in an appropriate relationship to the harm and the conduct of the tort-feasor. This trend has led one commentator to suggest that ''[p]unitive damages have replaced baseball as our national sport.'' Theodore B. Olson, Rule of Law: The Dangerous National Sport of Punitive Damages, Wall St. J., Oct. 5, 1994, at A17. See also Malcolm E. Wheeler, A Proposal for Further Common Law Development of the Use of Punitive Damages in Modern Products Liability Litigation, 40 Ala. L. Rev. 919, 919 (1989) (''Today, hardly a month goes by without a multimillion-dollar punitive damages verdict in a product liability case.'').  


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