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Avoid pitfalls of summer home rentals

Published On: Aug 14 2013 10:34:57 AM CDT   Updated On: Aug 15 2013 04:10:09 AM CDT
piggy bank on beach

iStock/urbancow

By THELAW.TV

Whether you're getting a beachfront mansion in the Hamptons or a small cabin in the woods, renting a home for the summer -- for a weekend, a week, or the entire summer -- can be a complicated and problem-ridden process.

If you don't follow some basic precautions when renting a summer getaway, you could end up paying more than you expected, for a place that's less than you expected, or you may not have a place to stay at all. Renting a summer home is similar to renting a house or apartment for the long-term. Just because it's a short-term rental doesn't mean that landlord-tenant laws don't apply.

"Landlord and tenant relationships are typically strongly regulated everywhere. The best way to avoid potentially expensive misunderstandings and problems down the road is to follow these simple tips," said Charley Moore, founder and chairman of the legal services website Rocket Lawyer.

Rocket Lawyer provides these tips for your summer rental:

Put it in writing: The most important item to put in writing between you and the tenant is the lease agreement. If you ever have problems with the tenant, the lease agreement protects you and gives you legal rights that would be more difficult to prove without documentation. It also makes it clear that both parties have agreed to specific terms that you can both reference later if there is a dispute.

Watch your language: Renting is a huge financial commitment with the potential for harsh penalties if you default, so make sure you understand what you're agreeing to. For example, if you sign a lease with a joint and several liability clause and rent an apartment with several others, all of you are responsible for each others' share of the rent.

Know your tenant: It's your responsibility to vet your potential tenants. Start by having them complete a rental application, which will help you collect the information you need to screen your potential tenants.

Understand the terms: Make sure you know and follow the terms of the lease you've signed. If you create a document and then flaunt the terms, your tenant could take you to small claims court and you could be found liable. You could also get in trouble with local housing authorities.

Get help: Has your apartment fallen into disrepair -- leaky sink, broken toilet, no heat? Did your landlord refuse to return your security deposit? Contact a lawyer. You can also research if there is a rent board in your area.

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