Kentucky Residential Lease Agreements are the cornerstone documents of being a successful landlord in Kentucky.
Kentucky and the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA)
Some but not all of Kentucky’s cities and counties have adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA) that offers more protections to tenants. In any case, you will want your Kentucky residential lease agreement to be thorough and comprehensive so that you and your tenants will have an enforceable and detailed outline of your respective duties and obligations.
If your rental unit is in a county or city where the URLTA does not apply, you might consider having some of its provisions apply to avoid the appearance or reputation of being an irresponsible landlord and not attracting the best tenants. For instance, you can have a lease that does not obligate you to make basic repairs and which passes that obligation on to the tenants but you risk having the unit fall into disrepair and it may cost you more to sue the tenants, evict them, find other tenants and then have do the repairs by yourself in any event.
Also, tenants who are credit-worthy, have solid references and will keep your unit in good condition may not want to rent from you if you omit certain basic terms. It is always in your best interest to have reliable tenants who will pay the rent on time, obey the law, not disturb other tenants and not damage the unit.
In any residential lease agreement, no landlord may refuse to rent to anyone on the basis of race, religion, color, creed, national ancestry, sexual orientation, familial status or disability. You may turn down tenants based on credit history, poor references, criminal background and history of past evictions.
Terms in Your Kentucky Residential Lease
Although a number of these terms are not required in all leases, especially those where the URLTA does not apply, you should consider including them anyway for the reasons given above.
- 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 (required provision)
- Names of the tenants and other occupants
- Description of the premises
- Term of the lease and beginning and expiration date—weekly, monthly, yearly or other
- Amount of rent, due date, and grace period before a late fee may be imposed (provide the amount of the late fee amount but it must be reasonable)–you may request prepaid rent of your tenant at the beginning of the tenancy
- Returned check fees—$50
- Security deposit—no limit, but must be deposited in a separate account and tenant advised of its location and account number and any interest earned be given to tenant; return funds within 30 days of tenant vacating unit and submitting a demand or send written statement with specific reasons for withholding it—tenant has right to inspection of the premises before lease is signed
- Separate refundable deposit for nonpayment of rent or late fees—optional provision
- 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—Required if security deposit is accepted
- Obligations of landlord:
- Provide a habitable residence—make necessary major repairs (provision is not required and passes obligation to tenant if language not in lease)
- Comply with all applicable housing and building codes
- Maintain all common areas
- Provide functioning sanitary, plumbing, electrical, heating, water, ventilating, air conditioning, heating and other appliances and in good condition
- Supply running and hot water between October 1 and May 1 unless your building is not required by law to supply same or the tenant is responsible and which utility is under the tenant’s direct control
- Obligations of tenant:
- Comply with all health and safety codes
- Keep the unit clean and properly dispose of garbage
- Optional—require tenant to make certain repairs
- Use all appliances and systems in a reasonable and appropriate manner
- Do not intentionally damage or deface the premises
- Do not disturb other tenants or interfere with the quiet enjoyment of their units
- Advise landlord if tenant is to be absent for 7 days or more or tenant is responsible for damages resulting from the absence
- Rules regarding playing loud music or musical instruments or having certain appliances or pieces of furniture like water beds—these must apply to all tenants
- Responsibility for certain utilities or services
- Major appliances that are being provided
- No commercial, business or unlawful use of premises by tenant or conduct that constitutes a nuisance or that is unlawful
- Pet clause—state deposit amount
- Subletting clause
- Right of entry by landlord 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—48 hours’ notice is required and entry must be at a reasonable time but you though you may enter immediately without notice if it is an emergency that threatens the safety of tenants or for a tenant’s extended absence
- Notices regarding termination for nonpayment of rent, other lease violations
- Notice for increasing rent—no statute (may not be for a discriminatory or retaliatory purpose)—it is suggested that your tenants be given reasonable notice
- 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 for fixed term lease 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, or by giving the tenant the option to renew with different terms such as increased rent
Prohibited Lease Terms
There are certain terms that you may not include in a lease that can lead to damages if you do include them and attempt to enforce them. These include:
- Waive rights and remedies afforded under state law
- Authorize a person to confess judgment on a claim arising out of the lease agreement
- Have the tenant pay your attorney’s fees
- Agree to limit your liability for any cause of action allowed under law or to indemnify you for costs incurred
Security Deposits in Kentucky
Although you can charge whatever you wish for a security deposit, or none at all, you have certain obligations if you do accept a deposit. The deposit must be kept in a separate account with any interest earned to be paid to the tenant. You also are required to provide a check-in list of the unit’s current condition and list any damages along with their cost estimate. Allow the tenant to inspect the unit and then have the tenant sign the statement or, if there is a dispute, attempt a resolution.
When the tenant vacates the premises, you will need another check-out statement regarding the premises’ condition. You have to allow the tenant to inspect the unit alone or with you to review and discuss any visible damage once you advise the tenant that a portion of the deposit will be withheld for damages. If you fail to provide any of these lists, you are not entitled to retain any portion of the deposit.
The tenant must submit a demand for the security deposit with forwarding address within 30 days but has until 60 days of vacating the premises before the landlord may claim the entire deposit if the tenant does not request its return and after the landlord has attempted to contact the tenant. This applies only if the tenant is entitled to return of any portion of it.
As landlord, you may only use the security deposit for unpaid rent if the tenant has not made a request for its return within 30-days after vacating the unit. You do have the right to demand an additional deposit separate from the security deposit to guard against nonpayment of rent or for late fees.
Termination of the Lease
Fixed term leases expire on the date indicated but may become month-to-month if you allow the tenants to remain and accept the next rent payment for the following month. You may want to renew the lease by advising the tenant that upon termination, a new lease with different terms including increased rent will have to be signed if the tenant wishes to remain. Consider an automatic renewal provision with a date by which the tenant has to advise you of an intent to vacate and remind the tenant of the provision before that date.
If you tenant fails to pay the rent, you have to give 7-days’ written notice and allow the tenant that time to pay the rent in full. Should you accept a partial payment without a written caveat that it is only a partial payment, then a court could construe your acceptance as full payment.
For other lease violations, you have to serve a 14-day notice with the condition that the tenant correct the violation unless you allowed the lease violation to continue once you had knowledge of it. For example, if you knew your tenant had a pet in violation of the lease and continued to collect rent for a month or more, you are probably precluded from serving an eviction notice based on that particular breach of the lease.
You may elect to not terminate a lease despite the tenant having damaged the property to the extent that it endangers the health or safety of the tenant by giving the requisite notice of 14 days and then charging the tenant for the reasonable cost of repairs after giving notice of the repair costs. If the tenant fails to pay for the damages within this time, then you may begin eviction proceedings.
Should the tenant, however, have breached the lease for a second time within the past 6-months, you have to serve the 14-days’ notice but may choose to not allow the tenant any opportunity to remedy or correct the violation.
You do have an obligation to reduce your damages by taking reasonable steps to re-let the premises to another qualified tenant. Your failure to do so can limit your ability to collect unpaid rent from the original tenant.
Under the Servicemembers Relief Act, a tenant who is a member of the Armed Forces including the national guard or Coast Guard 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 if practical and to pay for the remainder of that month’s rent but with no further obligations under the lease.
A tenant may deduct from the rent the reasonable costs of repairs if they were requested of the landlord who neglected to perform them after being given written notice and 14 days to have the condition remedied. The cost cannot be more than $100 or one-half the rent, whichever amount is greater. This is only applicable in areas of Kentucky that have adopted the URLTA.
The tenant may also deduct from the rent the cost of essential services that have been unreasonably turned off or choose to vacate until the services are provided without being charged rent, go to court to pay only the value of the leased unit without the services or terminate the lease. Once a remedy is elected by the tenant, no other is available such as deducting the rent and then terminating the lease, however, the tenant can file a court action and recover 3 times the rent plus attorney’s fees.
This remedy is also available should you unlawfully evict the tenant and the tenant may choose to repossess the premises.
If your Kentucky residential lease agreement is in certain areas of the state, then you have to comply with the URLTA or with the local ordinances where your leased unit is located. If you have any questions or concerns about your lease and what your responsibilities are as a Kentucky landlord, contact a landlord/tenant attorney.