An Alaska residential lease agreement is a written contract between you and your tenant that is legally enforceable and contains your and your tenants’ duties and obligations. Though you may have a valid and enforceable oral lease, you can avoid many disputes and disagreements by simply having a written rental agreement so long as it is comprehensive and adheres to state and local laws.
Obligations of the Landlord
As a landlord, you have a legal obligation to provide a dwelling that is habitable and contains the basic essential services and that you maintain it as such. As landlord, you are required to do the following:
- Comply with all housing, building and health codes affecting the tenant
- Make all necessary repairs within a reasonable time regarding conditions, systems and services that affect the habitability of the premises
- Maintain common areas and keep them free of trash, snow and ice and other hazardous conditions
- Provide services including heat, electricity, air, plumbing, ventilation, sanitary, elevators and appliances in good and working condition
- Provide running and hot water and heat between the months of October 1 and May 1 unless the building is exempt or where the tenant has exclusive control of the heating or hot water and a direct public utility connection is in place—not required if dwelling is in a rural area without wells or water
- Though not required, consider providing trash or garbage receptacles and a means of removal
- Not required but recommended that you provide each tenant a move-in checklist before taking possession that advises of the condition of the premises and any damage
- Provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all dwellings
- If the tenant requests, provide locks on doors and windows
Further, treat all tenants and tenant applicants equally and do not deny leasing to anyone on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national ancestry, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability. Federal and state laws pertaining to disabled tenants prohibit you from refusing to provide reasonable accommodations in the dwelling, common areas or in the rules that apply to all other tenants.
You may not retaliate against a tenant by increasing the rent, decreasing services or terminating the lease if the tenant has exercised basic civil rights including filing a complaint with a governmental agency about the premises, become a member of a tenants’ organization or pursued remedies or damages against you in accordance with the fair housing laws or other state laws. You can still act to evict or terminate the lease under other conditions such as nonpayment of rent or material violations of the lease.
Finally, do not include provisions that alter your own basic obligations to your tenants, conflict with state laws or local ordinances or waive the tenant’s rights to certain remedies or damages against you if you breach the lease or any laws affecting the health or safety of your tenant.
Obligations of the Tenant
State the tenant’s obligations so you can avoid future disagreements or misunderstandings. Basic tenant responsibilities include:
- Maintain the dwelling in a safe condition and do not damage, deface, modify, alter or remove any part of the unit
- Comply with building and health codes to keep the premises safe and clean
- Use all appliances and systems such as air, heat, electricity and plumbing in the appropriate manner
- Refrain from unlawful activities on the premises
- Pay the rent on time and adhere to all terms and provisions of the rental agreement
- Do not disturb the right of other tenants to the quiet enjoyment of their own premises
- Promptly notify the landlord of needed repairs
- Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors such as replacing worn batteries
- May change the locks if an emergency and the tenant provides you within 5 days with duplicate keys and written notice of why the locks were changed
- Advise landlord if tenant is to be absent for more than 7 days
Provisions of the Lease
To ensure enforceability, your rental agreement must have certain essential terms. Optional provisions to address common landlord/tenant situations should be added but these must apply to all tenants equally. Consider the following terms and provisions for your Alaska residential lease agreement:
- Name of property owner and property manager; address where rent is to be paid; emergency or maintenance contact information; address and name of person to whom legal documents and notices are to be served
- Names of all the tenants and any other occupants—have all adult tenants sign the lease so that they are jointly and severally liable for the lease terms, including the rent
- Description or address of the premises
- Beginning and end dates
- Amount of rent and date it is due—state grace period and amount of late fees and when the fees apply—may require prepaid rent
- Insufficient check fees—no statute but include the amount a bank would charge
- Provide rules that apply to all tenants fairly, are clearly worded and that promote the convenience, safety and welfare of the tenants; preserve your property and are not intended to avoid your own duties and obligations
- Allow for reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs arising out of the rental agreement
- Tenant’s obligations as noted above—you may require the tenant to perform specific minor repairs or maintenance if it does not diminish the obligations of the landlord to provide a residence fit for habitability
- Landlord’s obligations as noted above—may provide house or conduct rules that apply to all tenants and are for the convenience, safety and welfare of all tenants, provides for the fair distribution of services and facilities to all and preserves the landlord’s property from damage
- Party responsible for certain utilities
- Major appliances and furnishings being provided
- No commercial, business or illegal use of premises by tenant or conduct that constitutes a nuisance or is unlawful
- Pet clause—may limit type of pet, weight and require tenant to clean up pet waste in common areas; may charge a deposit of an additional one month’s rent; no deposit for service dogs is permitted
- Subletting clause—whether you allow it and that you have to consent to whomever is the sublessee
- Your right of entry to make repairs, inspect and show to future tenants or purchasers—give 24 hours’ notice and entry at reasonable hours; indicate that you may enter immediately if it is an emergency
- Notify landlord if absence from unit is to be more than 7-days
- If lease is monthly, termination upon 30-days’ notice without cause or any other notice period—failure to give proper notice can result in the tenant forfeiting the security deposit and incurring liability for the rental period
Alaska Notice to Quit
- 7-day notice to quit required for nonpayment of rent
- 5-day notice for failure to pay utilities with 3-days to comply
10-day notice for other violations of the lease if so specified such as:
- substantial damage or waste to the premises caused by tenant or persons under tenant’s control that has not been repaired
- unauthorized pets or occupants
- engaged in criminal activity that endangers the safety of other tenants including the manufacture of illegal controlled substances
- sublease without consent
- being a constant nuisance to other tenants
- refusing entry to landlord after being given reasonable notice
- Right to garnish a tenant’s Permanent Fund Dividend if you obtain a judgment against a tenant for unpaid rent or damages
- Notice for increasing rent or changing any other lease term—30-days in advance of the effective date of the increase in a monthly lease or before the beginning of the following month (may not be for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose);
- Recommend an automatic lease renewal by giving tenant 30-days’ notice before the expiration of the current lease term that the lease will automatically renew at same terms or ask for rent increase at this time—or you may accept current rent and lease becomes month-to-month
- Provide disclosure of the presence of lead-based paint on the property for all rental property built before 1978—provide the tenant with an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
- two month’s rent unless the rent is over $2000 per month, then you may charge whatever you wish—if prepaid rent is included, state that it is separate—the total amount of the security deposit and prepaid rent may not exceed two month’s rent
- funds and prepaid rent to be kept in a separate account or deposit funds with licensed escrow agent
- if paid in cash, should give tenant a receipt
- interest not required unless funds are in an interest-bearing account and you and the tenant agree that no interest is to be paid
- recommended that you provide a check-in list and statement of the condition of the property to be signed by both parties
- state that that the funds are to be used for damages that exceed normal wear and tear, unpaid rent or utilities for which the tenant was responsible; state that normal wear and tear is deterioration not caused by negligence, carelessness, accident, misuse or abuse
- that funds will be returned within 14-days of tenant requesting return of deposit if no damages and sent to a forwarding or last known address that is supplied by the tenant—if you intend to retain any portion for damages, you have 30-days to submit to the last known or supplied forwarding address an itemized list of damages and repair costs
- recommend that you set a time and date for a mutual inspection a short time after the tenant vacates with check-out list on hand
You may charge a security deposit of no more than two month’s rent with the funds deposited in a separate account or escrow agent unless you are charging more than $2000 in rent. If you want a separate deposit or prepaid rent, the total may not exceed two months’ rent. You do not have to pay interest on the deposit unless the funds are in an interest-bearing account and you and the tenant agree that no interest will be paid out. Specify in your agreement that the deposit is to be used to pay for damages that are more than usual wear and tear and define the phrase “normal wear and tear” as indicated herein. You may use the deposit for unpaid rent, unless you have a separate prepaid rent deposit, when the tenant vacates.
You should provide a move-in checklist or statement of the dwelling’s condition when accepting a security deposit. Use this list when the tenant vacates the unit and give your tenant an opportunity to have a mutual inspection of the premises to review its condition shortly after the tenant has cleaned the dwelling and removed all possession.
Deposits must be returned within 14-days if it is to be returned in full; otherwise, if you intend to retain a portion for damage, you have 30-days to send an itemized statement of the damages and costs to a forwarding address supplied by the tenant. If you fail to do this, the tenant may sue you for 2 times the amount of the deposit.
Termination of the Lease
All leases with end dates or fixed terms terminate on the final day. You should Include an automatic renewal provision and give the tenant 30-days’ notice before it expires regarding the renewal provision and, if you wish, that the rent will increase or other terms will be added or modified. For month-to-month lease, either party may give 30-days’ notice for no cause. Week-to-week leases require a 14-day notice.
For nonpayment of rent, serve a 7-day notice to quit within which time the tenant can cure by paying the rent in total.
If the tenant or someone under the tenant’s control, such as a guest, deliberately causes damage to the unit that exceeds $400, or if the tenant engages in criminal activity, you only have to give 24-hours’ notice to quit.
For nonpayment of utilities, serve a 5-day notice that advises the tenants they have 3-days to pay the arrearages or reinstate services. If the same breach occurs within 6-months, serve a 3-day unconditional notice to vacate if you did give prior notice.
For all other material lease violations, serve a 10-day notice to quit with an opportunity for the tenant to remedy the breach within this time. This applies to lease violations specified in the lease agreement or if it pertains to damages that the tenant can repair so long as it is done within a specified period such as 10-days.
If you evict a tenant or the tenant vacates early in violation of the lease, you must mitigate your losses by undertaking reasonable steps to find a suitable replacement tenant.
Under the federal Servicemembers Relief Act, a tenant who is a member of the American Armed Forces including any of the uniformed services may terminate a fixed term lease if the tenant receives deployment orders to move more than 35 miles from the premises for more than 90 days or must live in a barracks or other residence supplied by the government. The tenant must provide a copy of the orders or at least a written statement from the commanding officer. The tenant must give 30-days’ and has no further obligations under the lease so long as the rent owed for the final rental term is paid.
Repair and Deduct
For conditions affecting the habitability of the unit or affects the tenant’s health and safety such as a leaking roof, gas line, or lack of running water or heat, the tenant must notify you and give you a reasonable time to remedy the condition. If you do not, the tenant can deduct up to one months’ rent for repair costs. The condition must not have been the fault of the tenant or person under the tenant’s control. This remedy is only available twice in a 12-month period. If the condition does occur again, the tenant may serve notice to you to repair the condition within 10-days or terminate the lease.
Alaska residential lease agreements can be complicated and require that you include certain provisions and comply with state laws and local ordinances or you may forfeit certain rights and/or be liable for damages. Consult with an experienced Alaska landlord/tenant attorney if you have any questions about your rental agreement.