Things That Should Be In Every Lease
A lease or rental agreement sets out the rules landlords and
tenants agree to follow in their rental relationship. It is
a legal contract, as well as an immensely practical document
with crucial details, such as how long the tenant (you) can
occupy the property and the amount of rent due each month.
It needs to cover the basic terms of your tenancy.
Which Is Better, a Lease
or a Rental Agreement?
Here are some of the most important items to cover.
- Names of All Tenants
Every adult who lives in the rental unit, including both
members of a married couple, should be named as tenants
and sign the lease or rental agreement. This can settle
any rental payment disagreements with any roommates. This
makes each of you legally responsible for all terms, including
the full amount of the rent and the use of the property--meaning
the landlord can legally seek the entire rent from any one
of the tenants should the others skip out or be unable to
- Limits on Occupancy
The agreement should clearly specify that the rental unit
is the residence of only the tenants who have signed the
lease (and their children). This guarantees the right to
determine who lives in the property and to limit the number
of occupants. The value of this clause is that it gives
the landlord grounds to evict a tenant who moves in a friend
or relative, or sublets the unit, without their permission.
- Term of the Tenancy
Every rental document should state whether it is a rental
agreement or a fixed-term lease. What's the difference between
the two? Both rental agreements and fixed-term leases cover
basic details such as tenants names and rent provisions;
they differ mainly in the length of the tenancy they create.
Rental agreements usually run from month-to-month and self-renew
unless terminated by the landlord or tenant. Leases, on
the other hand, typically last a year. The choice will depend
on the arrangement with your landlord.
The lease or rental agreement should specify the amount
of rent, when it is due (typically, the first of the month),
and how it's to be paid, such as by mail to your office.
To avoid confusion, there will be details such as: acceptable
payment methods (such as personal check only) whether late
fees will be due if rent is not paid on time, the amount
of the fee, and whether or not there's any grace period,
and any penalties if a rent check bounces.
- Deposits and Fees
The use and return of security deposits is a frequent source
of friction between landlords and tenants, especially in
college environments. To avoid confusion and legal hassles,
the lease or rental agreement should be clear on: the dollar
amount of the security deposit how the deposit may be used
(for example, for damage repair) and not used (such as for
last month's rent) when and how the deposit will be returnedl
and account for deductions after you move out, and any legal
nonrefillable fees, such as for cleaning or pets. It's also
a good idea (and legally required in a few states and cities)
to include details on where the deposit is being held and
whether interest on the deposit will be paid.
- Repairs and Maintenance
Clearly set out your and the landlord's responsibilities
for repair and maintenance in your lease or rental agreement,
including: the tenant's responsibility to keep the rental
premises clean and sanitary and to pay for any damage caused
by their abuse or neglect a requirement that you alert to
defective or dangerous conditions in the rental property,
specific details on procedures for handling complaint and
repair requests, and restrictions on repairs and alterations,
such as adding a built-in dishwasher, installing a burglar
alarm system or painting walls without permission.
- Entry to Rental Property
To avoid tenant claims of illegal entry or violation of
privacy rights, the lease or rental agreement should clarify
legal right of access to the property--for example, to make
repairs-- how much advance notice landlord will provide
the tenant before entering.
- Restrictions on Tenant Illegal Activity
To avoid trouble among tenants, prevent property damage
and limit exposure to lawsuits from residents and neighbors,
include an explicit lease or rental agreement clause prohibiting
disruptive behavior such as excessive noise and illegal
activity such as drug dealing.
- Other Important Rules and Restrictions
Lease or rental agreement is clear on the subject of pets.
If pets are allowed, there should be any special restrictions
such as a limit on the size or number of pets, or a requirement
that the tenant will keep the yard free of all animal waste.
Any other legal restrictions, such as limits on the type
of business a tenant may run from home, should also be spelled
out in the lease or rental agreement. Important rules and
regulations covering parking and use of common areas should
be specifically incorporated in the lease or rental agreement.