Can a Landlord Change a Lease Agreement?
In Chicago, commercial and residential property landlords use leasing to set rules that reflect their needs. Once a lease has been established, can a landlord change a lease? Understanding when a landlord can change the lease is essential in avoiding costly legal issues. Here's everything you need to know about lease-changing agreements.
As soon as a lease between a landlord and tenant is signed by both parties, it becomes a legally binding contract. Can landlords change rules mid-lease? Landlords will not be able to change the existing lease without contacting the tenant and getting their consent. If the lease needs to be altered, it can only happen if the original lease allows a party to change something independently.
For example, the lease contract may allow the landlord to alter their animal policy at any time. However, neither the landlord nor the tenant can unilaterally make changes to the lease regarding the leasing period, the rental payment, or any associated fees. Both parties will need to develop a lease amendment agreement and sign it before any changes become official.
Keep in mind that the lease is not the same as the rental agreement, which is often confusing.
Circumstances can change at the least opportune moment, which is why a landlord may want to change a lease agreement in the middle of the lease. It may be specific rules in reaction to an issue with the tenant, or they could be trying to solve a problem that they did not think about when drafting the original document. Here are some common examples of new rules or lease changes that the landlord may want to introduce before the end of the lease period:
- Increasing the rent in the middle of the renting period
- Increasing the late fees or changing the grace period
- Introducing additional fees for amenities that were previously included in the rent, such as access to the swimming pool
- Modifying the lost key and lock-out policies
- Proceeding with immediate changes by prohibiting tenant behaviors that do not violate the terms of the current lease
Is it always forbidden for a landlord to change a lease? When can a lease be changed without the risk of repercussions? Here's what you should know about this critical topic.
1. UPON LEASE RENEWAL
Landlords may choose to make alterations to the lease when it expires. In this case, landlords should always contact the tenant and notify them of any upcoming changes before they sign the new agreement.
Some tenants are using a month-to-month leasing agreement. If this is the case, the landlord needs to give the tenant enough notice, usually at least 30 days, to understand the new terms and decide if they want to move forward.
2. WHEN A NEW LEASE CONTRACT IS SIGNED
Lease amendments can also occur when a new contract is signed. Incoming tenants will be given a new lease with updated terms before they move in, giving them the chance to look it over to ensure it fits their needs.
3. ANYTIME BY SIGNING LEASE ADDENDUM
Lease addendums are amendments to the lease agreement. These addendums are signed by both the tenant and the landlord and added to the original lease contract to update or add new terms. It's important to note that both sides in the deal must agree upon these new terms before they are put into action.
Tenants may opt for lease addendums as it gives them more negotiating power in instilling changes to the lease. They may be implemented on nearly any term that is covered in the original lease. In the case that both parties cannot agree on the new lease addendum, the changes will not be implemented.
LEASE AMENDMENT VS. LEASE ADDENDUM: IS IT THE SAME?
A lease amendment agreement and a lease addendum both modify the original lease, but their purpose is different.
A lease amendment modifies rules that were addressed in the existing lease agreement but are no longer relevant. For example, if the tenant decides to contract an independent cable TV plan when utilities were originally included in the monthly rental payment, a lease amendment can modify the lease terms regarding utility payments.
Meanwhile, a lease addendum adds terms that were not addressed in the original lease. For example, a pet deposit and pet rent if you are getting a dog and the landlord agrees.
Any modification introduced before the lease ends requires that both the landlord and tenant agree to the changes. However, some landlords formulate their lease agreements in a way that allows them to change the rules during the tenancy without the need for a new lease or an agreement signed by both parties. Therefore, it is extremely important to read the written agreement very carefully before signing on the dotted line. Here are some examples of "hidden changes" tenants should take notice of before they sign a written lease:
- The landlord reserves the right to change the rental fee, especially if the clause does not specify a particular amount or time period before they can exercise this power.
- The landlord reserves the right to modify the tenant's access to part of the rental property, such as the use of the swimming pool or a parking spot.
Since a lease agreement is a legally binding contract, the tenant implicitly agrees to these changes if the landlord chooses to exercise his right to modify the original lease as long as these changes are within the limit defined in the contract. Therefore, tenants should be particularly wary of lease agreements with vague or open terminologies. You may want to consult with a law firm if you have any doubts about the legality or implications of your landlord’s “standard contract” before you sign the lease.
At 33 Realty, we have been helping Chicago landlords navigate the real estate market since 2008. We have built a trustworthy reputation with residential and commercial property owners, and we're happy to help with your property management needs. Get in touch with us or call us today at 773-692-6720 to learn more about how we can help!
HOW DO I ADD A PET TO MY LEASE?
So, you are adding a pet to your family? Congratulations! First, check for the words "pets allowed" in your rental agreement. A good tenant will inform their landlord early on to avoid any issues and write an addendum if necessary. Most landlords address the issue upfront, but here are some elements to check on your lease:
- Additional pet rent
- Number and type of pets allowed
- Breed and size restrictions
- Leash rules
HOW DO I SUBLEASE OR ADD A TENANT TO MY LEASE?
If someone other than yourself is moving into the property, or if you are planning to sublet the apartment if you are moving before the lease expires, you should inform your landlord immediately. The new tenant will likely need to sign an agreement with all parties involved to avoid issues down the road. The landlord may require the new tenant to complete the application process, including background and credit checks.
HOW DO I CANCEL MY LEASE?
If you must leave the rental property early and do not have a month-to-month lease, you will need to modify the terms of the original agreement. If both parties agree and the landlord will have no difficulties finding a new tenant, sign an Agreement to cancel the lease stating the new end date for the lease, plus any prorated rent or early termination fees.
CAN A LANDLORD ADD FEES MID-LEASE?
No, a landlord cannot add fees in the middle of the lease, including for services that were free before. The exception is if the tenant is adopting a pet and the lease previously said no pet. In this case, both the landlord and tenant sign an addendum that may include extra costs to cover the potential damages and additional wear and tear to the property.
CAN A NEW LANDLORD CHANGE THE LEASE?
If your landlord sells the property while you are occupying it, the new landlord must respect the terms of the lease you originally signed, including the monthly rent payments, security deposit, services to be provided, and so on. The exception would be if modifications in the eventuality of a sale were mentioned in the initial lease (if your lease started while the property was already on the market, for example).
CAN A LANDLORD RAISE THE RENT AFTER THE LEASE IS SIGNED?
The landlord is not allowed to raise the rent before the lease ends. If the tenant has a yearly lease, the landlord must give legal notice that the rent will be increasing when sending a rent renewal letter, typically at the eleven-month mark. Both parties agree to the rate increase when they renew the lease. However, some landlords include verbiage in the initial lease, allowing them to raise the rent within measure.