Ask the Attorney: September Edition

Dear Ask the Attorney:I have recently taken over management of a single-family residential property from another management company. May I require that the existing tenant sign my lease agreement? 
Generally, no.  If the former management company correctly styled the residential lease agreement (i.e., the lease is between TENANT and MANAGEMENT COMPANY AS AGENT FOR OWNER) then you can assume management responsibilities under the existing lease as the new AGENT FOR OWNER.   You can, of course, approach the tenant as request that they sign your lease product.  Just note that they are not under a legal obligation to do so.  Also remember that you cannot execute a residential lease for less than 180 days without having short-term lodging tax implications.
My tenants were in a romantic relationship and they have broken up.  Now one of them wants off the lease and the other one doesn’t.  How do I handle this situation?
A residential lease agreement is a binding legal contract for a fixed period of time.  If both tenants are leaseholders they are jointly and severally responsible for the entire lease contract – that means that you, as landlord, are entitled to full performance under the contract from both tenants. Simply put, you don’t have to let anyone “off the hook”. If your lease contains an “exit provision” (i.e., an early termination provision) both tenants must jointly agree to exercise that early termination.  One tenant cannot unilaterally terminate the lease.
I have a tenant that would like to pre-pay their rent for six months.  Is that allowed? 
There is no legal restriction against pre-payment of rent.  If you are a qualifying broker or real estate agent, that pre-paid rent  should be held in a separate escrow account and billed against and distributed to the owner each month as it is earned.  Please note, however, that pre-paid rent can create significant complications for conduct-based evictions (i.e., unauthorized occupants, drug-activity, etc).  


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