What’s a Good Lease Agreement Really Worth?

Posted By: Sean Flynn Membership,

Industry regulations have become complicated as the region’s housing supply issues continue to fester. Emergency orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic place additional emphasis on the need to operate rental investments from the outset of tenancy as a professional business.

Success of a tenancy is almost always determined at the beginning of tenancy. Two tried and true steps remain valuable tools to help you locate a responsible tenant – screening and a security deposit. While screening and a deposit are not legal “musts,” they certainly will go a long way towards securing a responsible tenant, protecting your investment, and are strongly recommended steps in the process of securing a new renter. Even in cities where these tools have been tightly regulated, there is great value being thoughtful about what standards will net you the best fit for your rental property.

The third leg to this process is your rental forms, particularly the rental agreement or term lease agreement – the primary source of financial and legal protections to keep your property safe. Entering into a tenancy – even one where you’ve thoroughly screened an applicant – without a comprehensive, legally reviewed rental agreement can become a blind leap of faith that the rent will be paid and no other complicating factors will arise that interrupt the tenancy.

Information abounds online detailing the basic steps to take when renting out a property. The difficulty is filtering through the thousands or articles to find information based on current law, and that’s tested against fair housing rules and other industry standards and tailored to the needs of the individual rental owner in Washington State and specific cities. What was true a year ago about operating rental property in compliance with state and local laws is not today.

This is where the quality of your lease agreement can make or break a tenancy, possibly even your personal finances. Five fatal words - “I found my lease online” – have become synonymous at our Support Center with problems related to deposit refunds, early lease terminations, insurance and other issues related to damages, and behavioral issues. From first-hand experience, both reading the “free WA State leases” found online, and talking to people who have used them or an office supply store equivalent, it is true that “you get what you pay for.”
The best way I can illustrate the value of a great Washington State rental agreement or term lease agreement is to ask you to consider what an attorney charges for billable hours and how many attorney hours it can take to not only unwind poorly worded lease terms, but also to deal with resolving the problem at hand. $350+ per hour in legal fees adds up quick, and that high-quality, attorney-reviewed rental agreement that might’ve cost some money up front begins to look like the bargain of the century!