A lease agreement is important if you want to be legally protected when renting or leasing property to tenants in Washington State, but if you’re unhappy with your existing agreement, you may want to change it. In Sammamish, like other parts of Washington, there are certain considerations to keep in mind, because if you don’t follow the law to the letter, you could be penalized through a lawsuit or city fines and fees. Asking a professional property management company is one of the easiest ways to go about making changes to your lease, but if you want to go about it yourself, you can use the following guidelines for help in doing so.
When Can You Change the Lease?
In Sammamish, the only real way to change the lease without tenant approval is when the existing lease expires. Check the period the tenant signed the lease for. If the year, eighteen months, or other period has expired, you may change the lease at any time, with no legal ramifications. The tenant can choose to sign the new lease, or choose to move depending on their preference. They will have 30 days, by Sammamish law, to move out.
If the tenant has a rental agreement, which is usually a monthly agreement to pay the rent, you can legally change the lease at any time, without proper notice.
Giving Proper Notice
If the tenant is still under a traditional lease, you have to give them a minimum of a 30-day notice when you propose any changes to the lease. However, unless you have a lease update clause or a change of terms notice written into your lease, the tenant may be able to dispute the changes and prevent you from updating the contract.
Change of Terms or Lease Update Clause
Writing in a change of Terms clause when you write your lease is something that everyone should consider, but not something you might have done if you didn’t consult with a professional property manager or real estate attorney when doing so.
Unfortunately, while change of terms clauses are broad, you usually have to be quite specific when writing them in. For example, “The landlord reserves the right to increase the rent by 4% yearly, or after 6 months,” or “The landlord reserves the right to ban pets from the premises for the duration of the tenancy,” or “the landlord reserves the right to make insignificant or low-impact changes to the lease with proper notice”.
Open ended clauses are often difficult to enforce in court, especially for important issues, such as if you decide to ban pets in your building. Mentioning specifics allows you to support your case in court if the tenant decides to fight it.
The best way to ensure that you have a lease that benefits you as a landlord or property investor is to make sure that you write it up properly in the first place. Whether you’re reworking or creating a lease for the first time, consider consulting a professional property manager or a real estate attorney for help.
The discussion herein is of a general nature only and is not to be construed as specific legal advice, which requires the establishment of an attorney-client relationship and fee agreement. SJA Property Management does not provide legal services.