As a landlord, you may have an oral rental agreement but it is in your best interests to have a written lease since the law requires that certain disclosures be made and that your tenant be fully informed of certain rights. You will also want to minimize the possibility of any disputes over the terms of the agreement by having an enforceable contract that clearly sets forth certain procedures and notice requirements.
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There are basic obligations that landlords have regarding their Connecticut residential lease agreements:
- Provide a clean premises
- Keep common areas clean and clear of trash
- Have lighted entryways and hallways
- Provide hot and running water, heat and ventilation
- Comply with state and local housing and building codes regarding maintenance of walls, ceilings, floors, porches or verandas and stairways
- Put locks on windows and exterior doors
- Provide functioning smoke detectors
- Install two electrical outlets in each room—depending on local ordinance
- Be sure to have trash receptacles
- Comply with weatherization standards
You may not refuse to lease a residential unit to anyone based on race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status, age in most cases and physical or mental disabilities. Some exceptions apply if you have an owner-occupied building with no more than 4 units. You may refuse to lease to anyone based on the applicant’s poor references, bad credit, history of evictions or late payments and criminal convictions.
Connecticut Tenants also have certain basic responsibilities:
- Pay the rent on time
- Keep the premises clean and properly remove garbage
- Do not disturb other tenants
- Obey the law and all terms of the lease
- Make minor repairs like replacing light bulbs
- Repair any damage caused by the tenant
- Notify landlord of repairs that need to be done
- Allow landlord entry at reasonable times after advance notice to make repairs and to show to prospective tenants or buyers
Provisions of the Lease
The following are terms in your rental agreement that are either required or recommended:
- Name of landlord and property manager who is authorized to manage the property, address where rent is to be paid and where request for repairs are to be directed
- Names of the tenants and other occupants—have all adult tenants sign the lease
- Description of the premises
- Term of the lease—weekly, monthly, yearly or other
- Amount of rent, due date, and grace period—you cannot charge a late fee until rent is at least 9 days overdue
- Rent increase—no statute and notice need not be given but consider giving tenants some notice, such as 30-days, before increasing rent and state what the increase will be
- Returned check fees—state amount
- Security deposit—up to 2-month’s rent but no more than one month if tenant is 62 years of age or over, to be deposited in a separate escrow account with interest to be paid annually; return deposit within 30-days of tenant vacating unit so long as you have a forwarding address, or wait 15 days after receiving forwarding address, or send written statement with specific reasons for withholding any portion of the deposit—recommend you have a mutual inspection of the premises shortly before or after tenant vacates
- Signed, separate statement of the premises’ move-in condition including list of current damages to be given to tenant and signed by tenant after inspecting premises (not required but recommended)
- Obligations of landlord regarding repairs and maintenance and of services provided as indicated above—consider allowing yourself 30-days to perform repairs once written notice is given to you by the tenant
- Obligations of tenant as noted above—you may include rules of conduct or others that are for the convenience, peace, safety and welfare of all the tenants
- Responsibility for utilities
- Major appliances that are being provided
- No commercial, business or unlawful 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, ask for deposit
- Subletting clause
- Right of entry by landlord to make repairs, inspect and show to future tenants—reasonable advance notice is required though you may enter immediately if it is an emergency that threatens the safety or health of tenants
- Notices regarding termination for nonpayment of rent, other lease violations
- Disclosure of the presence of any lead-based paint or hazards on the property for rental property built before 1978—both landlord and tenant must sign an EPA-approved disclosure form and the tenant provided an EPA pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”
- Automatic renewal provision unless tenant gives notice to not exercise the option within a certain time before the lease expires (such as 30-days) but you may choose to terminate the lease by giving notice to the tenant according to your notice provision, which may be 30-days before the lease expires
Depending on your county or municipality, there may be different rules affecting your lease. Be sure that the lease complies with local ordinances and that you understand procedures that may only be applicable in the city where the leased premises is located.
Also, if you foresee a special condition such as construction that will start or has been ongoing that can present a nuisance, it is best to include this event in the lease.
Unlawful Lease Provisions
You may not include certain terms in your Oklahoma residential lease agreement that are contrary to law or public policy or alter certain responsibilities mandated under the law. These include:
- Waiver of right to sue landlord for neglecting duties or obligations under law
- Taking a lien or security interest on the tenant’s personal property
- Prohibiting tenant from joining a tenant’s union
- Terminating the lease without a court order
- Altering any responsibilities of the landlord
- Waiver of any section of the law regarding security deposits
- Requiring tenant to vacate if a victim of domestic violence
- Allowing entry at any time without notice
You may charge a tenant up to 2-month’s rent for a security deposit but only one month for tenants who are 62 and over. The deposit must be kept in an escrow account and bear interest to be paid annually on the anniversary of the beginning of the tenancy. The deposit is a safeguard against damages that are beyond normal wear and tear.
Although not required, you should present the tenant a move-in checklist of the appliances being provided and if any current damage exists. Have the tenant review the list, sign and return it to you. You can use the list as a move-out checklist when the tenant vacates.
You must return the deposit within 30-days after the tenant vacates so long as you were given a forwarding address. If not, you can wait 15-days after you are given the address to return the deposit. If there is damage, then submit a written, itemized list of the damages and the cost that will be withheld from the deposit.
You may not raise the rent on the premises unless your lease permits it, nor do you have to give notice of the increase unless you provide it in the lease as well. It is good practice to at least allow some notice, such as 30-days, to your tenants to maintain good will.
If you have no set amount by which the rent will increase or the tenant objects to the increased amount, the tenant may attempt to pay what he or she believes is the fair market rate. Some municipalities have Fair Rent Commissions where tenants may present complaints of rent increases that are too high or alleged to be unfair. The commission can set hearings on the issue and deliver binding rulings.
Termination of the Lease
Your fixed term rental agreement will expire on its own. You can either terminate the lease at that time with the tenant vacating or accept the rent for the following month so that the agreement becomes a month-to-month. If you wish, include an automatic renewal provision but give the tenant time, such as 30-days, to notify you of an intent to vacate before the lease expires or to continue to lease the premises.
All tenants are given up to 9 days to pay the rent past the due date. If the rent is not paid at that time, then you may serve a 3-Day Notice to Quit on the 10th day. You can serve the notice at any time during that month and the following month. For weekly or oral tenancies, the notice is served after the 5th day that the rent is due. The first day the notice is posted or served is not counted. If the notice is for a tenant who is holding over, the notice is 3-days but cannot be given until the end of the period when the tenant would normally have the right to vacate.
For other material violations of the lease, you must serve a 15-Day Notice to Quit, also called a Kapa Notice. This might include damage to the premises or having an unauthorized tenant or animal in the unit. The tenant has 15 days to correct or cure the breach. For other material breaches that threaten the safety or health or others or for criminal activity, you can serve the 15-Day Notice with no opportunity for the tenant to remedy the breach.
Servicemembers Relief Act Exception
Under the Servicemembers Relief Act, a tenant who is a member of the Armed Forces including the national guard or Coast Guard or any of the uniformed services can terminate a fixed term lease or any other lease if the tenant receives deployment orders to move more than 35 miles from the premises for more than 90 days and a copy of the orders is given to the landlord. This also applies if the tenant is ordered to reside in government-supplied quarters. The tenant is required to give 30-days’ notice and to pay for the remainder of that month’s rent but with no further obligations under the lease. The lease will terminate 30-days after the notice is given.
Domestic Violence Exception
Connecticut law allows tenants and their children who are victims of domestic violence and who fear imminent harm to terminate their leases early without penalty. The tenant will need a police or court record or signed statement from someone within the Office of Victim Services within the Judicial Department or from the Office of Victim Advocate. Also, you must be provided a sworn statement from the tenant and a court or police record that is not more than 90 days old or a statement from the Office of Victim Services or Victim Advocate detailing an act of domestic violence within the past 30 days. A notice to vacate or to terminate the lease within 30-days must accompany these documents.
Constructive Eviction in Connecticut
Under circumstances where the unit or premises becomes unlivable because of some action or inaction by the landlord, the tenant may opt to terminate the rent. This may arise in situations where the landlord has been notified by the tenant that an essential service is no longer being provided or the safety and health of the tenant is materially affected. You must have been given a reasonable time to repair or correct the problem and failed to do so.
Connecticut residential lease agreements should be comprehensive and provide for any foreseen contingencies. Include optional terms that clearly define your and your tenant’s rights and duties. Maintaining a good relationship with your tenants can help minimize problems that can be costly. If you have questions or concerns about your lease, consult with a Connecticut landlord/tenant attorney.