An Idaho residential lease agreement is your best safeguard against disputes that often arise in landlord/tenant arrangements. While oral agreements are valid, enforcing certain terms that you believed your tenant agreed to may be difficult. Other problems may also arise regarding your obligations to the tenant unless both parties are fully aware of each other’s responsibilities as well as what certain procedures need to be followed regarding security deposits, rental extensions, termination and other provisions. Any lease agreement that is for more than one year, however, must be in writing to be enforceable.
As a landlord, you should be aware of what your statutory obligations are in relation to your tenants. If you require an application fee and conduct a credit check, the applicant who is rejected is to be advised that he/she is entitled to a copy of the credit report by contacting the credit agency whose name and address you are required to furnish as well as the reason for the rejection.
You also cannot reject an applicant on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, familial status or disability. If you run an advertisement, you may not prefer a certain group or impose restrictive standards. You may exclude applicants for bad credit, poor references, a criminal record or even if they smoke.
Other obligations include:
- Provide basic services like electricity, heat, ventilation, plumbing, running and hot water
- Comply with state, city and county laws regarding housing conditions regarding safety and health
- Provide trash receptacles and method of removal and pickup
- Maintain common areas
- Provide smoke detectors
The tenant must abide by the rental agreement. Basic responsibilities include:
- Abiding by housing and building codes to keep their premises sanitary and safe
- Allowing the landlord entry at reasonable times after reasonable notice
- Not damaging, modifying or removing any part of the premises or allowing guests to do so
- Using appliances and services in the proper and intended manner
- Not disturbing the right of other tenants to the quiet enjoyment of their units
- Refraining from engaging in illegal or criminal activities in the unit
Contents of a 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
- Name all the tenants and any other occupants—have all adult tenants sign the lease so that both are jointly and severally liable for the lease terms, including the rent
- Address of the premises
- Beginning and end dates—or if the tenancy is weekly or monthly
- Amount of rent and date it is due—state a grace period and amount of late fees—you may ask for prepaid rent to use if the tenant vacates with rent still outstanding
- Insufficient check fees—no statutory amount but should be no more than what you are charged by the bank
- Security deposit:
- no limit but should be reasonable
- no interest required but funds must be deposited in an escrow account and the tenant advised of the address of where the funds are located
- that the funds are to be used to pay for damages that exceed normal wear and tear and for any outstanding rent due upon vacancy
- that funds will be returned within 21-days of tenant vacating unit to a forwarding address or submit a written, itemized statement with specific reasons for withholding deposit by mail with return receipt requested within this time (you may extend it to 30-days if both parties consent)
- you should provide and have the tenant sign a record of the inventory and condition of the premises when the tenant takes possession
- 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
- may request that the tenant provide a forwarding address for return of the deposit or submission of the itemized damages list
- Landlord’s obligations regarding repairs and maintenance and of services—Rules of conduct that fairly apply to and promote the safety or welfare of all tenants and preserve the landlord’s property
- Tenant’s obligations as noted above—you may require the tenant to perform specific repairs, maintenance and minor remodeling if it does not diminish the obligations of the landlord to provide a fit and habitable residence
- Party responsible for certain utilities
- Major appliances being provided
- No commercial, business or illegal use of premises by tenant or conduct that constitutes a nuisance or is unlawful
- Landlord’s right to receive attorney’s fee and court costs for any court action against the tenant
- Pet clause—may limit type of pet, weight and require tenant to clean up pet waste in common areas; may charge a deposit except for service dogs
- Subletting clause—whether you allow it and if you have to consent to whomever is the sublessee
- Your right of entry to make repairs, inspect and show to future tenants or purchasers or if the tenant has been causing a disturbance or is otherwise violating the lease—no statutory notice but recommend 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 7 days or longer
- 3-day notice required for nonpayment of rent or for other material violations but you may begin immediate eviction proceedings without notice if the tenant has engaged in illegal drug activities
- Notice for increasing rent—15-days in advance of the rent due date in a monthly lease (may not be for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose) unless the lease specifies that the rent is for a set period
- Changes in the lease terms—give 15-days’ notice of a change in the lease terms that is served 15-days before the end of the rental period in a monthly lease-if a fixed term, both parties must consent in writing to any changes
- 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.”
Do not include the following in your lease or you may be subject to damages if you attempt to enforce them:
- Waive civil remedies available to tenant
- Waive right to sue you for negligence or to claim certain or any damages from you regarding conditions of the premises or your conduct that violates state law or local ordinances
- Authorize a person to confess judgment on any claim arising out of the lease
- Allow you to evict tenant without a court order
- Allow you entry without notice at any time
- Alter the notice and other procedures for return of the security deposit
- Lock out the tenant for failure to pay rent absent a court order
You can charge whatever you wish as a security deposit but most landlords charge no more than one or two month’s rent as a practical matter. The funds have to be deposited in an escrow account and the tenant advised of its location. You are not obligated to have the funds in an interest-bearing account. You must state in the rental agreement that the funds are to be used for damages caused by the tenant or persons under the tenant’s control and for any rent that remains outstanding after the tenant vacates the unit.
You have 21-days to return the deposit or provide an itemized statement of the damages found and their cost. You can indicate a longer period up to 30-days but have the tenant initial this in the lease document. You should also indicate in your lease a date and time for you and the tenant to mutually inspect the premises shortly after the tenant vacates to minimize disputes over any alleged damages and allow the tenant to do repairs or ameliorate any unsatisfactory condition caused by the tenant.
If you do not return the deposit or itemized statement within the 21 or 30-day period, the tenant can ask for you to comply by sending you a 3-day notice to refund the deposit or submit the damages statement. If you refuse, the tenant may begin a small claims or district court action.
Termination of the Residential Lease
Any lease with an end date merely expires on that date without further action. Many leases become monthly ones once the landlord accepts the subsequent rent after the expiration date that is generally paid on the first of the month. If you want a rent increase or other changes to the lease, draw up a new one to be signed by the tenant.
The tenant should give you 30-days’ notice to vacate a fixed-term lease before the end of the stated end date.
For nonpayment of rent or for any other material breach of the lease, give the tenant a 3-days’ written notice to vacate or else cure the breach by paying the rent in full or remedying the breach, which could be for having an unauthorized pet or tenant or for damaging the property. You are entitled to receive attorney’s fees and court costs if you have to evict the tenant.
Should you have a reasonable basis for believing the tenant is engaging in illegal drug-related activity, then you may institute immediate eviction proceedings without notice.
Under the Servicemembers Relief Act, a tenant who is a member of the 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.
Idaho has no provisions regarding tenants who are victims of domestic violence and their right to terminate a lease early without incurring penalties.
Withhold Rent/Deduct and Repair
Idaho law does not allow tenants to withhold rent in case you neglected to make necessary repairs or provide basic or essential services. The only exception is that if the tenant sends you a 3-day notice to install a smoke detector. If you fail to do so, the tenant may install one and deduct the cost from the rent.
Should the tenant believe that you are not maintaining the premises or repairing necessary conditions, the tenant can send you a 3-day notice to comply. If you fail to do the repairs or fix the condition, the tenant may file a court action to force compliance. Trials are to be held within 12-days after service of a summons and complaint, though the tenant may request an extension. If the tenant suffers personal injuries as a result of your noncompliance, you may have to pay up to three times the tenant’s damages along with attorney’s fees and court costs.
A comprehensive Idaho residential lease agreement is no guarantee that you will not have problems with tenants or prevent disputes, but it can certainly minimize the chances. If rights, duties and responsibilities of each party are clearly stated, then a court will have a firmer basis for ruling on any disputed issues. If you have any concerns about your rights and obligations and what you should have in your rental agreement, contact an Idaho landlord/tenant attorney.