A lease agreement is an important document that spells out the terms and conditions of your stay in a rental property. Your landlord has to give you a copy of the lease agreement so you can refer to it from time to time and enforce your rights as stated in the lease agreement.
If you sign a lease agreement and your landlord refuses to give you a copy, you are still legally bound by the terms of the lease by staying in the rental property. As such, the landlord can hold you to the responsibilities you agree to in the lease. You may face difficulties determining what you can do and what you can demand from the landlord during your rental period without a copy of the lease agreement.
You have the right to request a copy of the lease agreement even before you or your landlord signs it. This allows you enough time to carefully review the terms of the lease. You can also take the lease agreement to a lawyer for a legal review. You can then request any changes or decide not to rent the property. If the landlord refuses to give you a copy of the lease agreement to review before the signing, you should find another rental property instead.
Depending on your state laws, your landlord may have a legal obligation to provide you with a copy of the lease agreement. The law may require your landlord to give it to you within a certain number of days of signing the lease. If your landlord does not comply with this law, he may have to pay a fine. Consult your local housing authority to determine whether you can take any legal action against your landlord for refusing to vie your a copy of the lease agreement.
To avoid a situation whereby you live in a rental property without a copy of the lease agreement, you should insist that there are two copies at the signing of the agreement. Both you and your landlord then sign both copies, so you can keep one copy each. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recommends that you always get a copy of the agreement with the landlord's original signature and not just a photocopy.