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Using Plain Language Leases

December 5, 2022

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Why Should You Use Plain Language Leases?

How many times have you started reading a legal or government document and immediately felt frustrated? 

The language in the document was probably complex, vague, and verbose.  

Sometimes a rental agreement or a residential lease can suffer from this same issue. Instead of using straightforward language and reasonable words, people often opt for “legalese.”  

Using plain language leases is a good idea to clearly communicate your rental property rules and regulations. 

It builds trust with potential renters because it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to get away with anything. If someone can understand something without time-consuming research and a team of professional lawyers, chances are a lot higher they’ll want to sign a lease. 

There are tangible and intangible benefits to plain language leases. Let’s dive in and take a closer look. 

What Are Plain Language Leases? 

A rental agreement document that uses plain language makes a world of difference for you and renters. But what do we mean when we say, “plain language leases”? 

Mainly, plain language leases use short sentences and succinct wording, and avoid hidden verbs. Plain language leases get to the point and stay away from wording that might confuse people.  

Potential tenants appreciate leases that clearly outline details like starting and ending dates, move-in costs, where to send rent payments, etc. The goal of a plain language lease is to prevent confusion and expedite the lease signing process. Think about it: If your tenant has fewer questions and comprehends most of what they’re reading the first time they read it, they’re more likely to sign the agreement quickly. 

Additionally, there is a lower likelihood that potential tenants will break lease terms or misunderstand your requirements. If you’re crystal clear and define things simply, you help tenants know what they’re getting into. It also leaves less room for interpretation. 

Murky communication is never a good way to begin a relationship. And make no mistake, your relationship with your tenant is critical. This is why plain language leases are so useful. They put everyone on the same page.  

Let’s look at an example of how you could incorporate plain language into your lease in the table below. 

Before  Plain Language 
In order to be considered on time, we must receive your rent payment on or before the 15th of each month Rent payment due date: 15th of every month 
Signee shall indemnify, defend, and hold Company harmless from any and all claims, suits, actions, liabilities, damages, and costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs, incurred by Company arising from or based upon… If an arbitrator finds that this contract was breached and losses were suffered because of that breach, the breaching party will compensate the non-breaching party for such losses or provide the remedies specified in the agreement… 

As you can see, plain language isn’t necessarily a dramatic change; often, it involves simple changes that enhance clarity and brevity. In the two examples above, notice how plain language versions make it easier to understand what’s being communicated without “talking down” to anyone. 

Be Concise and Precise 

One popular myth about plain language leases is that you need to “dumb down” the wording so that any child can understand the agreement. Instead, you need to understand your typical tenant and the purpose of your lease, and that will guide how you craft the document. 

The key is to craft something most people can understand that clearly highlights your expectations and requirements. And then get specific on your requirements. You want your lease to cover as much ground as possible while delivering information in an easily digestible way. 

Concision and precision are your best friends when it comes to plain language leases. Words like “heretofore” and “indemnification” aren’t going to win you any points. And they’re not going to make tenants feel secure. Phrases like “subject to the foregoing” and “including but in no way limited to” are unnecessarily wordy and can create confusion. Your tenants shouldn’t have to call a lawyer every other sentence to make sure they understand what they’re reading. 

A lease is the document that guides your relationship with your tenants. Thus, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make it something all involved parties can easily understand.  

Conclusion 

Plain language leases save everyone time and headaches. No one wants to deal with a contract that feels like they’re reading a foreign language. 

By committing to concise, clear communication, you will build trust and save valuable effort that would be wasted deciphering unnecessarily complex wording.  

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