Definition of Lease Or Tenancy Agreement: A tenancy or lease agreement is the basic grounding for probably the single largest monthly, or annual in the case of Ghana, transaction that a tenant will make.
It is important to understand that leases are subject to national legislation and that consumers cannot contract out of the basic rights that are assigned to them by law.
Therefore, it is critical to the smooth running of any tenant-landlord/landlady relationship that the lease is properly constructed and that it is legally correct. A lease agreement is a binding document and should not be entered into lightly. Tenants and landlords should, therefore, read carefully and be certain of what they’re going into before renting, buying or leasing house. Here are five tips on what to look out for when constructing or signing a lease agreement:
No additions or modifications outside of the lease
It is best practice to have the lease written with all provisions included. That way it can always be referred to in case of a breach on the part of either of the parties entering into the agreement. It is always best practice to not only reduce leases to writing but to also ensure that the lease is clear about the fact that no additions or modifications to the agreement can be made outside of the lease.
Always look for a clause that insists that any deviation from the terms should be agreed to by all parties in writing, otherwise you could end up in a situation where ad hoc changes are made verbally and bind all the parties involved.
Leases are subject to national legislation
It is important to understand that leases are subject to the constitution of the land and that consumers cannot contract out of the basic rights that are assigned to them by law. A landlord cannot, for example, put in the lease that should the tenant not pay then the water can be cut off or something ridiculous like the doors and windows are to be removed.
Even if the tenant signs such a lease it remains illegal for the landlord to do these things as they go against the basic rights to shelter as enshrined in the constitution.
Care of bills and facilities
In the event, some facilities are shared, either among tenants or between tenants and the landlord, it should be clearly stated who is responsible for maintenance of the said facilities and if it’s multiple people, the ratio of responsibility in terms of payment of bills regarding the facilities or cost of repairs and maintenance. For instance, if there’s a water tank or reservoir that’s shared among tenants (in the case where there are multiple tenants in an apartment complex) it should be clear who should pay for refilling it and how much if more than one person has to pay.
Period covered by the lease
This should be clearly specified and indicate the date from which the agreement takes effect so as to better calculate when the agreement expires. In most cases in Ghana, the period the lease covers directly affect the amount of money to be paid up front as rent, which is normally paid as a one-time advance payment (covering a year or more.) The constitution allows you three months, in the event the landlord cancels the agreement sometime during the period agreed upon in the lease, to find a new place and otherwise get your affairs together and vacate the premises in good condition. That means landlords are obliged, even in the event of cancellation of the tenancy agreement, to allow you this space of time before they can forcefully evict you.
State of the property at end of lease
Even though this is obvious to most people, it is good practice to include in the lease agreement, a clause that indicates clearly the state the landlord would like to receive the house at the time of the tenant leaving it. Generally, this should be in the same or in as close as possible a state as that in which it was handed over to the tenant. Anything outside of this would be irregular and both parties should be very certain about its implications before entering into it.
Those are our top five things to look out for in a lease agreement. But they are by no means everything. If there’s something else that’s very important we left out, please let us know in the comments. You’re also welcome to tell us some of your experiences with tenancy agreements you’ve signed in the past.