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The Top 10 Lease Terms You Should Have When Renting

Landlord Gives Keys to Tenants After Negotiating Lease Terms

lease or rental agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. There are specific lease terms that should be in every agreement you create or sign to help protect the landlord and the person renting. Here are the top ten lease terms you should have when renting.

1. A Complete List of Tenant's Names

It's crucial to get the name of every adult living in the rental unit on the lease. By getting every tenant's signature, each tenant becomes fully responsible for all of the terms of the lease. This means you can collect the full rent from any one of the renters, as well as terminate the entire lease if one of the tenants violates material terms of the lease.

2. The Amount of Rent Due and Due Date

Spell out exactly how much is due for the month's rent. Don't forget to include:

  • Acceptable forms of payment
  • Where payment should be made
  • Whether any grace period exists
  • Any fees for late payments
  • Any rent increases (for example, rent may increase after a year if the tenant goes to a month-to-month lease)
  • If the property has rent control

3. A Clear Rental or Lease Term

The proper terminology depends on the state you live in and local laws, but generally:

  • Rental agreements are usually short term or month to month
  • A standard lease is for longer periods of time (typically six months or a year)

It helps to be specific about the time period. Otherwise, you may find your agreement is defined by the common law of your state (which often has unfavorable terms). Set a definite end date, or a deadline for the renter to continue their lease at the rental property.

4. Any Deposits and Late Fees

Security deposits and extra fees are two of the most commonly disputed items between landlord/property managers and tenants. In addition to defining the amount of the deposit, also include:

  • How the deposit can be used
  • Any non-refundable fees (such as cleaning fees)
  • How the deposit will be returned after the tenant moves out
  • What constitutes normal wear and tear vs. real damage

Security deposits are governed by state laws, which typically define maximum amounts and time periods for returning the deposit. Check your state's landlord-tenant law before drafting your rental agreement. 

5. Right to Entry Terms

Spell out exactly when and under what conditions the landlord can enter the tenant's unit. State law regulates how and when a landlord can enter a tenant's property, so be sure your lease terms comply with state law. Most require proper notice in writing, at least 24 hours in advance.

6. Maintenance and Repairs

Both the landlord and tenant have responsibilities to maintain the premises. Spell out the obligations of both parties. Tenants typically have a duty to:

  • Keep the premises clean
  • Repair any damage caused by neglect or abuse

Landlords usually have a responsibility to:

  • Maintain a livable property
  • Complete necessary repairs to damage not caused by the tenant (such as repairing a leaky roof or fixing a heater)

In the lease, you should make it clear that the tenant must contact the landlord for repairs as soon as they become aware of a problem. The tenant should have contact information to ensure that repairs can be completed quickly and in a cost-effective manner.

7. Limits on Occupancy

Ensure that your agreement specifies that only people who have signed the lease (and their minor children) can legally live on the property. This prevents tenants from moving their relatives and friends in or subletting without permission. It also gives the landlord grounds to terminate the agreement if the tenant does not comply.

8. Rules for Pets

Specify whether the property allows pets at all and if so, carefully spell out:

  • How many are allowed
  • What kinds of pets are allowed or prohibited
  • The tenant's responsibility to keep both the rental and surrounding areas clean
  • Procedures for dealing with any other animal-related issues, such as noise complaints from neighbors

9. Restrictions on Disruptive and Illegal Behavior

Restrict specific disruptive and illegal activity from your tenants. If you don't, your other tenants may have justifiable grounds for terminating their agreements based on that tenant's offensive behavior. To prevent this, spell out all unacceptable behavior, such as:

  • Excessive noise
  • Large parties or pool parties
  • Drug dealing
  • Underage drinking

Tell prospective tenants these actions are prohibited and are grounds for terminating the agreement and facing eviction.

10. Miscellaneous Terms and Restrictions

State law will define many other terms that should be included in your lease or rental agreement. Typical things that states require include:

  • Notice requirements
  • Rights on subletting
  • Flood and chemical disclosures
  • Anti-discrimination notices
  • Parking
  • Use of common areas
  • Whether tenants can run a business from the property

Need Help Drafting the Lease Terms in Your Agreement? Talk to a Lawyer

Writing out a landlord-tenant contract can be tedious and time-consuming. While you could use boilerplate language you find on the internet, why take the risk? Contact an experienced landlord-tenant attorney. They can help you carefully craft your lease agreement to make sure it is legally binding.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.

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