Is It Necessary to Notarize a Lease Agreement?

Understanding lease agreements and their notarization can clarify the legalities of renting, ensuring smooth relations between landlords and tenants. This guide dives into the essentials, from the importance of lease agreements—whether written or verbal—to the benefits of notarization, which adds a layer of trust and legal validity, although not always required, depending on state laws and lease specifics.

By
Gemma Smith
|
Last Updated
March 4, 2024
Is It Necessary to Notarize a Lease Agreement?

If you're a landlord or tenant puzzled by the details of lease agreements and curious about the role of notarization, you've come to the right place. The legalities of renting can seem daunting, but they are essential for ensuring a smooth relationship between a landlord, property owners, and renters.

This guide provides a straightforward overview of lease agreements, highlighting their importance as legally binding documents, whether verbal or written. We'll also delve into notarization—a step that authenticates your lease agreement further, enhancing its security and the mutual trust between landlords and tenants.

Dive into the fundamentals of lease agreements and the notarization process with us. With this knowledge, you can confidently approach the legal aspects of renting, making well-informed decisions that safeguard your rights.

Understanding notarized lease agreements

A lease agreement, or rental contract, establishes a legally binding relationship between a property owner, tenant, and renter, detailing the terms and conditions of the rental arrangement. While it's more common to encounter written lease agreements, verbal contracts can also hold legal weight under specific circumstances.

These agreements safeguard all parties involved, minimizing potential legal disputes by clearly outlining rights and responsibilities. Before finalization, leases can be adjusted to address any changes, clarify points of confusion and legal requirements, and ensure both landlord and tenant are on the same page.

But what does notarization mean in relation to lease agreements? Notarization involves a notary public officially confirming the signatures on the document. This step goes beyond merely applying a stamp or seal; it certifies the authenticity of the lease agreement itself.

For landlords and tenants alike, notarization adds a layer of trust, security deposit, and legal validity to the document, enhancing the security of the contractual relationship.

The legal implications of notarizing lease agreements

Notarizing a lease agreement goes beyond the mere formalities. It carries legal implications, with varying requirements based on state laws, lease terms and duration, legal description, and property type.

We will explore the specifics of requirements based on the state, duration of the lease period, the lease term, and the legal requirement for non-residential lease notarization.

State-specific requirements

Notarization requirements for lease agreements span a wide spectrum across different U.S. states and territories. Take Washington State, for instance. According to Washington State Law under RCW 59.18.210 and RCW 59.18.010, if a lease is for a term of more than one year, it must be notarized. Leases exceeding two years need to be recorded in the county recorder’s office where the property is located.

The role of signature witnesses during the document recording also depends on the specific state law. Ohio, similar to Washington State, also bases its notarization requirements for lease agreements on the duration of the lease.

The variation in state-specific requirements underscores the importance of being well-informed about local laws.

Non-residential leases and notarization

Generally, non-residential leases do not require notarization. However, in Washington State, residential and commercial leases exceeding two years must be recorded in addition to the contract being notarized, as they are considered a transfer of real property interest. Similarly, Ohio mandates notarization for residential and commercial leases exceeding a three-year term.

Despite the lack of a general mandate, notarizing commercial leases can offer added protection in case of disputes or ambiguities concerning the lease agreement. This practice ensures that the landlord and tenant are on the same page, literally and figuratively, mitigating potential legal complications.

When is it advisable to have your lease notarized?

As discussed, although not always legally recognized and required, notarization provides several advantages:

  • It vouches for the authenticity of the lease agreement
  • It confirms the identity of the involved parties
  • Notarized leases add an enforceability layer, making it easier to prove the validity of the lease terms in the event of a dispute.

Notarizing a lease can provide the tenant with several benefits, including:

  • Ensuring indisputable recognition of the amounts paid by the tenant, preventing issues regarding payment terms
  • Accounting for all legal guarantees within the lease, reducing the chance of overlooking essential obligations
  • Equating the tenant’s payment obligations to a court decision, allowing for swift recourse in instances of non-payment

Though notarization may be unnecessary in certain situations and is typically contingent on state laws and the specific circumstances of the lease or tenancy agreement, it is advisable as it provides a significant level of authenticity, enforceability, and protection for both landlords and tenants.

Can I notarize a lease agreement myself?

As a landlord or property manager, you cannot notarize a lease agreement—or any document—if you are a party to the document. Notarizing your own documents would be a conflict of interest and is not legally permissible.

To have a lease agreement notarized, you would need to find an independent notary public who does not have a stake in the agreement.

The notarization process

Finding a Notary Public is your first step. You can use online resources like FindaNotary.com, Notary Public databases, or directories.

Alternatively, you can find notary services at banks, libraries, and photocopy shops during regular business hours. Retail locations such as AAA, UPS Stores, law firms, real estate offices, tax preparer offices, and auto-tag and license service centers often have on-site notaries. It’s advised to call these locations in advance to ensure a notary is available.

Upon locating a notary, you can proceed to the actual notarization. This requires the signer's personal appearance, which can be in person or through remote online notarization. Before notarization, check the lease agreement for any blank spaces and confirm the type of notarization required by the notarization of a lease document’s certificate wording.

The notary must carefully identify the signer using personal knowledge, acceptable identity documents, or credible identifying witnesses as part of the notarization procedure.

The notarization details must be recorded in the Notary’s journal, as this could be essential if the document or the notarization is challenged in the future. The final step includes completing the notarial certificate and ensuring all details, venue, notary signature, and notary seal are correctly placed and legible.

Remote online notarization

Remote Online Notarization (RON), a modern solution, facilitates lease agreement notarization via electronic signatures and real-time identity verification on digital platforms. RON simplifies the notarization process, allowing for rapid and efficient document execution and cost savings by minimizing the need for physical documents and storage.

RON is a blessing for landlords managing properties in various locations and for tenants relocating, as it offers the convenience of remote management. Moreover, RON technologies contribute to environmental conservation by reducing paper use and incorporating digital audit trails for increased security and evidence of transactions.

With an established fee structure, RON services are widely available across most U.S. states, promoting accessibility while providing secure platforms that incorporate fraud prevention mechanisms.

Costs and considerations for notarizing a lease

Potential costs should be factored in while contemplating lease notarization. Notary public fees paid for notarizing documents like leases vary by state, with maximum fee schedules set by state regulations.

Additional costs may include travel fees if the notarization is performed off-site, and any lease or contract amendments will require a new notarization, which can add additional fees to the time and total expense.

However, there are ways to offset these costs. Cost-saving options for notarization can include using services provided by banks or credit unions, which sometimes offer discounted or complimentary notarizations for their account holders.

Weighing these costs and considerations can help you make a more informed decision about notarizing your lease.

The role of witnesses in lease notarization

In lease notarization, witnesses hold a significant role. They observe the signing of the document with two witnesses and must be over 18, of sound mind, and have no interest in the lease to avoid conflicts of interest. Their presence ensures that signing parties act willingly and without coercion while providing assurance about the authenticity and validity of signatures should they be disputed.

Notaries generally should not act as witnesses to maintain impartiality; however, in certain states, they may become signature witnesses for real property transactions. The signer is responsible for providing the witness, while the notary must record witness signatures as necessary.

Signature witnesses are not required to be identified, nor are their own signatures notarized. Notaries should note the signature witness’s name in their journal for record-keeping and as a best practice, although notarization is unnecessary for that witness.

Electronic signatures and digital leasing agreements

Electronic signatures and digital leasing agreements, such as those offered by Azibo, have changed how rental contracts can be handled. They offer:

  • Cost savings by reducing paper, ink, and transportation expenses
  • A more professional and current image for landlords, which can attract tenants and improve occupancy rates
  • Safe document storage and organization, enhanced by encryption and secure cloud storage facilities

Creating an electronic signature for a lease involves the following steps:

  1. Selecting a service
  2. Uploading the document
  3. Designating signature areas
  4. Specifying signatories
  5. Sending it to be signed

Signing processes can be automated by integrating data sources and management systems, improving accuracy and efficiency.

Electronic signatures enable signers to execute leases and temporary contracts from various locations, adding significant flexibility for all parties involved.

Notarized lease agreement–Your questions, answered

Lease agreements are vital to rental legality, and notarization is crucial in validating these agreements. Notarization requirements vary by state lease duration and even the type of property leased. While not always legally required, notarizing leases is advisable for added authenticity, enforceability, and protection.

Modern solutions like Remote Online Notarization simplify the process, while digital leasing agreements and electronic signatures, such as those offered through Azibo, streamline transactions.

With the role of witnesses and notaries in preventing fraud and the insights from legal professionals, it’s clear that notarizing lease agreements is a prudent step towards a more secure rental process.

Do lease agreements need to be notarized FAQs

Do leases in NY need to be notarized?

No, lease agreements do not need to be notarized in New York. As leases are considered similar to standard contracts valid in the state, notarization is not required.

Does a lease have to be notarized in Texas?

No, lease agreements do not notarize a lease need to be notarized in Texas. They only need to be signed by the tenant and landlord.

Does a rental agreement need to be notarized in California?

No, in California law, rental agreements do not need to be notarized. It is only notarized is required by state law as long as the criteria for a valid and legally binding lease are met.

Disclaimer: This article provides general information regarding the notarization of lease agreements and the use of digital leasing agreements and electronic signatures. The necessity and process of notarizing lease agreements can vary significantly by jurisdiction and may depend on specific circumstances. Therefore, it is essential to consult with a legal professional to understand the requirements and implications of notarization in your area.

Gemma Smith

With 7 years in property management, Gemma serves as a key content strategist at Azibo.com. While excelling in writing, editing, and SEO, she also enhances Azibo's social media presence. Passionately, Gemma educates others to make informed real estate investment decisions in the ever-changing market.

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