Q: My lease deals with repairs with the following clause: “Tenant is responsible for all repairs $50.00 or less. Any repairs over $50.00 are the total responsibility of the Owner unless due to tenant negligence.” With the consent of my landlord, I recently had a $180 repair done. When I sent the invoice, I was only reimbursed $130. When I asked, he said I had a $50 deductible for repairs. Is he correct? — Fay
A: No, your landlord is not interpreting the lease agreement correctly.
At its core, a contract is an expression of the intent of the people agreeing. The intent of the parties, or what attorneys call the “meeting of the minds,” creates the binding obligation.
Because words often vanish in the wind, a written contract is usually preferred or, in some cases, required. A written agreement clarifies the parties’ intent and expectations and can be referred to as time goes by and memories fade.
Over time, our legal system has developed rules to objectively interpret what the parties intended when they signed a contract. These rules, or “canons of construction,” provide a framework for figuring this out.
Several of these canons can be used to interpret your contract objectively. You should give the words used their ordinary, everyday meanings when the contract was signed. Nothing should be added to what the text states or reasonably implied. You cannot pick and choose words and phrases but must interpret the text as a whole.
Finally, the various parts of the agreement should be read to be compatible, not contradictory.
Using these rules to interpret your contract, it is clear that if a repair costs $50 or less, you will need to pay for it in full.
Your lease does not mention a deductible, and your landlord should reimburse you for the full amount of the repair because this is what you both agreed to.©2022 South Florida Sun Sentinel. Visit at sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.