Standard Lease Provisions
When you rent an apartment or house, you will almost always sign a lease agreement. The lease is a legally binding contract between tenant and landlord, which includes specific responsibilities of the parties involved (which may or may not include subtenants). Keep in mind that rental agreements protect both the landlord and the tenant; and the more robust a lease agreement is, the less likely there will be confusion (or legal disputes) during the lease term. While leases vary from one landlord to another, certain provisions are standard in nearly all lease agreements.
This article provides a snapshot of standard lease provisions, in addition to some lease provisions that are unenforceable. See FindLaw's Rental and Lease Agreements section for additional articles and resources.
Common Lease Provisions
Standard lease provisions which set forth landlord and tenant rights and obligations include the following:
- The names of the parties - While this may sound obvious, you want to make sure that everyone who is a party to the lease (such as sublessors) is accounted for in case a problem arises.
- A description of the rental property - Does the rental property include a parking space? What about the locked storage unit attached to the building?
- The term, or length, of the lease - Without this, the term often reverts to month-by-month, with no obligation to stay for a fixed term.
- The amount of rent - This is best set in writing, so as to clear up any possible confusion.
- The due date of the rent - Again, all parties should be clear on when rent is due, how much (if any) time may pass before a late fee or other adverse action is taken, etc.
- The amount of the security deposit - This sometimes comes as a surprise to tenants; make sure it's clarified up-front.
- Whether the tenant is subject to late fees - If it's not in the contract, the landlord can't charge a late fee.
- Maintenance responsibilities - Often, landlords will make it clear what they will and what they won't fix, and the procedure for getting something fixed.
- Options to renew - Make sure this is cleared up ahead of time, so you know what to expect at the end of your lease.
- Termination notice requirements - If either party has to terminate the lease, you'll want to have a procedure in place ahead of time.
- When the landlord may enter the rental property - Landlords must respect your privacy, but also have a right to enter the property under certain conditions; get this in writing to prevent any surprises.
- Rules concerning pets - Apartments that allow pets often certain rules for noise, the types of animals allowed, where they may urinate, etc.
While leases or rental agreements do not have to be in writing to be valid, the terms of the agreement will be easier to enforce and the responsibilities of the parties will be clearer if the rental agreement is in writing.
Unenforceable Lease Clauses
Some clauses that appear in a written lease or rental agreement are, by the nature of the clause, unenforceable. These include:
- Agreements that the landlord can repossess property if the tenant falls behind in the rent - Generally, the landlord will have to follow standard eviction procedure, as regulated by state and local laws.
- Agreements allowing the landlord to enter the rental unit any time (without notice) - This is a violation of the tenant's right to a reasonable amount of privacy.
- Agreements that tenants will pay for all damages to the rental unit without regard to fault - It would be unconscionable for a landlord to charge a tenant for damage that would have occurred regardless.
- Agreements that court action entitles the landlord to more money than can be ordered by the court
Have Questions About a Lease Provision? An Attorney Can Help
Since you're bound to each provision of your lease agreement, unless it's unenforceable, it's important to understand exactly what you're agreeing to before signing. Lease provisions are usually described as "boilerplate", such as those relating to the terms of the lease, payment dates, and late fees, among others, but unusual issues sometimes crop up. Consider speaking with a landlord-tenant law attorney if you have additional questions or need representation.