How to Safely Modify a Lease Agreement

Here are some tips for handling lease modifications:

1. Always do the modification in writing. Be careful of the form used. It must be clear that the new language is an amendment relating back to an existing lease, not creating a new lease. To make this job easier, a lease modification form is available on the AAOA Landlord Forms page.

The same tenants who signed the lease must sign the modification. Include any important details, but strive to keep the language of the amendment as simple as possible.

2. If using a lease modification to change a policy — like adopting a smoking ban — it’s preferable to use the modification for existing tenants only; going forward, it’s easier to incorporate the new language into the body of the standard lease agreement before it’s provided to new tenants. A lease with a number of modifications attached can be confusing for tenants, and that increases the likelihood they’ll break the rules.

3. Ask your lawyer’s advice before finalizing the modification. A quick phone call can avoid compromising your legal position.

4. Keep the modification with the original lease agreement. Over time, the lease may accumulate more modifications. Make sure you are able to immediately cross-reference all related leasing documents.

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