Should You Sign a Rental Contract That Was Downloaded from the Internet? (Legal Information)
Most of us have no legal education and are not used to drafting contracts with financial and legal implications. However, we live in the 21st century, and can access the World Wide Web, where a variety of “ready-made” contracts can be found, without the need to pay a lawyer to draft a contract for us. Not everyone is aware that using a contract found on the Internet may cause future legal problems. Unfortunately, many discover these problems only after the fact. In this article, a lawyer from our firm who specializes in contract and real estate law points out the main obstacles encountered by renters and landlords, and explains about the legal ways to avoid them.
Our law offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv specialize in contract and real estate law. We offer a variety of legal services to private and business renters and homeowners. Among other things, we deal with landlord–tenant contracts for private residents, businesses, and offices.
Contracts Obtained from the Internet – The Various Potential Legal Problems
After a long period of searching, you have found the perfect home. All that remains is to sign a rental contract, which you have already received. The landlord requests that you sign a contract they have downloaded from the Internet, and you are unsure about whether you should do so. From a quick reading, it seems like a standard contract, just like any other, but you are still wondering whether you’ve missed something. You would be right to wonder, since signing a rental contract that was downloaded from the Internet may lead to a variety of legal problems and is generally not recommended without sufficient knowledge of the law.
The use of downloaded contracts has recently become common in many areas, especially home rental. If, in the past, homeowners and landlords had no choice but to ask a lawyer to draft a rental contract for them, today there are many websites that offer free contract templates. These may simply be downloaded, filled out, and signed.
However, as stated above, this may lead to problems that could have been avoided if the contract was inspected by a professional lawyer. Renters and landlords may lose money, suffer various forms of damage, or get into legal disputes. Our experience in this area has taught us about a number of problems that are common when signing downloaded contracts. These are discussed below.
Common Problems for Renters
Anyone who rents property for residence purposes wants to rest assured that no unwanted surprises lay ahead. However, many downloaded contracts raise legal issues that may make things very difficult if not addressed in advance. One of the prominent issues that cause problems is payments. Landlords like to create sanctions for late payments. Beware of sections in the contract that contain such sanctions, and try to replace them with sections that allow extra time to make arrangements for payment if you are late.
For example, it is customary to ask for a warning before receiving late-payment sanctions, so that the renter has time to make arrangements for payment. This is important because renters may often be late in paying due to technical reasons that are not their fault, such as an illness preventing the renter from taking care of the payment, a mistake during a bank transfer, or a returned cheque. Any of these may serve as a basis for demanding monetary compensation from the renter and even for cancelling the contract, unless a clear agreement is created ahead of time to address these situations.
There may also be problems regarding the ending of the contract. What do you do if your plans change and you need to leave the property earlier than you thought? This phenomenon is especially prominent nowadays, due to the coronavirus crisis. However, many renters sign contracts without thinking about this, and, when they need to leave, and have even found a new tenant, the landlord refuses to end the contract. It is important to discuss this possibility in advance and agree on a mechanism that both parties will accept when the need comes up.
Another issue that causes many legal problems is the contents of the apartment. Apartments often come with furniture and electric appliances that belong to the apartment owner. A standard contract downloaded from the Internet cannot refer to the contents of a specific home. Therefore, you should specify in the contract what the contents of the apartment are, and include a guarantee by the landlord regarding the state of the furniture and appliances before entering. You should also specify in the contract who will be responsible for damages caused to the furniture and appliances.
Common Problems for Landlords
Landlords are commonly those who take responsibility for creating a written contract. When landlords use contracts that they have downloaded from the Internet, they do not always know that this may expose them to many legal problems. A prominent issue in this context is the payment of bills (electricity, water, ”arnona” property tax, etc.). To avoid this type of problems, tenants are usually required to transfer the payments in their name. That way, the landlord can avoid any type of warning if the tenants are late in paying the bills.
Another issue is property rights. Home owners often sell the house during the rental period. To do this legally, without breaching the rental contract (in accordance with the law), it is important to create a mechanism for transferring the property rights while ensuring continued rental of the home during the transfer of ownership. It is also important to include written agreements in the contract regarding visits at the apartment, as well as the option to extend the rental period.
The Solution – Deeply Study the Issue of Contracts in Advance
The problems discussed above are only a small part of a wide variety of potential problems that may arise when signing a contract that was downloaded from the Internet. We recommend understanding the value of contracts and taking the trouble to consult a lawyer who specializes in contract and real estate law. Advice and assistance before you begin may save you money and much legal hassle, and ensure peace of mind throughout the rental period for both parties.
Contact a Lawyer Who Specializes in Contract and Real Estate Law
For any question you may have or assistance you may need regarding rental contracts, a lawyer from our firm will be happy to be at your service. Our law offices specialize in contract and real estate law, and provide clients with a high-quality comprehensive legal solution for rental contract issues.