A lease is an agreement, or a contract, between the owner and the tenant for the rental of property. The tenant receives exclusive possession of the rental unit and the owner receives money for rent. In the past, the lease was often written in complex legal terms. The lease must be written in plain language to make it easier to understand because Pennsylvania has a Plain Language Consumer Contract Law.
There are two types of leases: an oral lease and a written lease. An oral lease is a verbal agreement between the landlord and the tenant. In Pennsylvania, an oral lease is legal and binding for up to 3 years. The term of an oral lease is usually month-to-month but may be shorter depending on when you pay your rent. For example, if you live in a place where the rent is paid weekly, then the oral lease term would be a weekly one. The term of a lease is important because it determines what kind of notice a tenant or landlord must give to terminate the lease.
A written lease is a contract that defines the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant. A written lease is better for both the tenant and the landlord. Both can go back to the written lease to find out what was agreed upon. The written lease is the best defense if the tenant or the landlord challenges the other for breaking the lease. You should receive a copy of the signed lease from your landlord after you sign it. Keep this copy for your records.
The landlord should not include arbitrary or unfair clauses in the small print of the lease. A court should refuse to enforce a provision that seems unconscionable or has been ruled by the courts to be illegal. Read the lease carefully before you sign it and have both parties initial any changes made to the lease.
With both oral and written leases, if either party wants to end the lease, proper notice must be given to terminate the lease agreement. A written lease should state the amount of notice required, but usually, it is one or two months in advance. With an oral lease, the amount of notice is determined by how the rent is paid. So, if you pay monthly, then a month’s notice would be required, but if you pay weekly, that may be the amount of notice that is required. Any notice you give the landlord about terminating the lease should be in writing. Keep a copy of the notice for your records