Rental leases: the good, the bad, and the ugly

March 11, 2023

A signed lease is a common rental agreement most landlords and property owners require before a property can be rented. It outlines your rights to the rented property and while as renters we’ve come to expect them, we don’t always take the time to fully understand their merits and their drawbacks. Or read the fine print. 

We also don’t realize that alternatives exist in the rental market that allow leases to be avoided altogether. Read on to dig into the benefits (and non-benefits) of these legally binding documents. 

The good

Let’s start with the positives. A standard rental agreement is usually the length of a year and ensures you have a place to live for the lease’s duration. It also prevents rent hikes during this time period, which can temporarily fend off rising housing costs. For those looking to establish long-term residency in a fixed location, a one-year lease is sometimes too short. For example, families with established careers and kids in school may depend on long leases to lay down roots. 

The bad

Let’s say you’re offered a better job in another city before your lease is up. You can decline because you have a lease to fulfill…or you can pack up and move towards greater opportunity. Like with any contract, a lease means you’re legally bound to pay the agreed-upon amount every month. Of course, you can break the agreement (with financial consequences) as many people end up doing. Depending on the details of the lease, you may just lose your hefty security deposit in the process. Be sure to read the agreement to see if you have an early termination clause. 

Some less generous leases require you to continue paying the entire rent for the remaining lease period. In this case, you could consider subletting your rental to someone else who moves in and covers the costs, though it’s important to get your landlord’s permission. Documents like this free sublease agreement can be helpful when looking to rent out your dwelling (just remember to make sure your landlord approves of the tenant – the more communication the better). 

The ugly 

There’s a rather confusing legal term called “joint and several liability” that all renters should understand before they sign with a roommate. 

Simply put, “joint and several liability” means that everyone on the lease is responsible for the entire rent amount (this includes damages and lease violations). Even more simply put, if one party is unable to pay, the others named must pay more than their share to cover all costs.

So if someone moves out, the remaining tenants are still responsible for the entire rent, not just their share. This could leave you with a large rent payment hanging over your head, and as in the case of Gregory Mitchell, it could lead to an eviction. Mitchell was forced to leave his apartment when his roommate couldn’t pay their share of the rent; sadly, this isn’t an uncommon story for people relying on roommates to cover rent expenses – especially as housing costs continue to climb. 

The alternative

Leases serve a purpose. They’re not an intentional hardship but a necessity for property owners to protect their interests and for renters to protect theirs. But what if there was a better way? 

Mitchell found one. After his eviction, he ended up moving into a PadSplit in Atlanta that didn’t require a lease, a downpayment…or reliance on a roommate. Yet he still benefited from the shared cost model of coliving and was able to save enough to buy a house in his hometown of Louisville. 

At PadSplit we hear a lot of stories similar to this. What does that mean to us? It means we’re on the right track to helping people move forward. 
If you’re interested in forgoing the lease for a more flexible housing option, check out our available rooms now. We have PadSplits in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and more.

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