A rent-to-own home provides a chance at owning a home if you can't qualify for a mortgage. Under a rent-to-own agreement, also known as a lease-purchase agreement, you pay rent and an additional fee to the landlord, or seller. The additional fee goes toward the purchase price of the home, which you can buy once the lease term ends. Since you're both a tenant and a buyer, you have more responsibilities in a rent-to-own home than you would in a traditional rental.
You're still responsible for maintenance of the home. Although major problems and repairs should fall on the seller's shoulders--unless your agreement states otherwise--you're stuck mowing the lawn, shoveling snow and handling the basic upkeep homeowners normally have. You may have to paint, do cosmetic work and take care of appliances. For example, if the built-in dishwasher breaks, you have to call someone and have it repaired, as opposed to calling your landlord. A regular tenant, by contrast, usually doesn't paint or handle basic upkeep because the responsibility falls to the landlord instead.
Following the Agreement
Even if circumstances change, such as the selling prices for homes in your neighborhood, you're still responsible for holding up your end of the agreement. The seller doesn't have to offer you the home until the agreement ends and you reach the dates of your purchase option. So, even if you come into money and can buy the home outright, you're still bound by the agreement unless the seller agrees to end the lease early. Not following the agreement terms can cost you. For example, if you pay rent late, you might forfeit the percentage of the rent that is going toward the sale price. You have to fulfill your duties as a good tenant as well. Since the seller is also your landlord, you can be evicted if you violate terms in the agreement related to you as a tenant.
You're responsible for finding financing before the end of the lease-purchase agreement term. When the term ends, you have option to purchase the home for the price shown in the agreement. If you can't come up with the money or find a lender to finance the sale, you lose any money you gave the landlord toward the sale price under the agreement and the money you put into maintaining the home. Since there's no wiggle room with the sale price, if the home is worth less than it was when you signed the agreement, you may have trouble finding a lender to finance the sale.
You might have additional responsibilities in your lease-purchase agreement. When you're negotiating the agreement with the seller, don't agree to terms you're not willing to accept. In most cases, you can't change the agreement unless you and the seller agree to the change in writing. If you're not sure about a particular duty or responsibility relating to the house, check your agreement before taking action so you don't accidentally violate its terms.
Since you're responsible for finding financing, you'll need to build or repair your credit while you're a tenant in the home you want to buy. Failing to fix your credit before you reach the purchase option may cost you the home.
Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.