Lease Agreement Templates

A lease agreement, also called a rental agreement, is a legal contract made between someone who owns and/or manages a property such as an apartment or house, and the person or people who rent it. In exchange for rent paid in monthly, weekly, or other consistent increments, the tenants can use the property to their likes, so long it falls in line with the conditions laid out in the lease.


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SCREEN TENANTS: Rental Application



Templates: By State


Table of Contents

  1. Lease Agreements By Type (6)
    1. Commercial Lease
    2. Lease to Own
    3. Month-to-Month
    4. Roommate
    5. Standard Residential
    6. Sublease
  2. How to Lease a Property (7 Steps)
  3. Landlord-Tenant Laws
  4. Security Deposit Laws
  5. Required Notice for Entry
  6. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  7. Glossary
  8. How to Write

Templates By Type (6)

 

Commercial Lease Agreements

A binding contract used to rent out a business-only property to a tenant in exchange for consistent payments. Retail, Industry, Hotels, and Multifamily are the types of properties that fall under the “commercial” label.

Download: PDFWordRich TextGoogle Docs

 


Lease to Own Agreements

Once signed by the parties, acts as a regular lease agreement until the end of the lease, in which the tenant(s) are given the option (not the requirement) to purchase the leased property for a previously agreed-upon amount.

Download – PDFWordRich TextGoogle Docs

 


Month-to-Month Lease Agreements

Short term agreement with no set end date. Either party can terminate the agreement with minimal notice (required notice different in each state).

Download – PDFWordRich Text | Google Docs

 


Roommate Agreements

A document that is used to set rules that tenants sharing the same apartment, house, or condominium agree to follow. For college and university students, download the college (dorm) roommate agreement.

Download – PDFWordRich Text | Google Docs

 


Standard Residential Lease Agreements

The most common type of lease contract, it is used for renting out homes, apartments, and other properties to tenants. The average contract length is one (1) year.

Download – PDFWordRich Text | Google Docs

 


Sublease Agreements

Gives tenants that are currently locked-into a lease the option of introducing a new tenant that will live in their rental for the remainder of the lease. In some states, it is mandated by law that tenants receive permission from landlords before subleasing the property.

Download – PDFWord | Rich Text | Google Docs

 


How to Lease a Property

Below is a guide on the leasing process for residential properties. Learn the basics on how to market the property, show the premises to a suitable tenant, obtain their personal information for a credit and background check, and begin collecting rent by signing a lease agreement.

Step 1 – Prepare the Property + Determine the Rent

Prior to listing the rental, the landlord should ensure the unit is clean, damage-free (not including standard wear and tear), and compliant with local building codes and regulations. All possessions from previous tenants (unless it’s the property’s first time on the market) should be removed as well.

Next, the landlord will need to determine the property’s rent. This is an important decision, as too high of a rent price can cause the property to remain vacant, whereas too low of a price could result in an overwhelming number of applicants (and lost income on the end of the landlord).

As a general rule, the rent price should:

    1. Cover all operating expenses (taxes, repairs, utilities, mortgage, etc.)
    2. Be in-line with the state of the market (renters or buyers market, for example)
    3. Closely resemble what similar rentals are going for in the area, and
    4. Reflect the value of the home or building (typically .8-1.1% of the property value)

Step 2 – Advertise + Tour the Rental

The first action a prospective tenant typically takes is to scour the internet for apartments that fit their price range and preferences. Is there a washer and dryer located inside the rental? Will electricity, heating, air conditioning, and internet need to be factored into the monthly rent? Does the property require maintenance and renovation?

Landlords looking to find quality tenants should be prepared to answer these questions upfront in an advertisement/listing. By creating quality, information-rich online postings, print advertisements, flyers, or similar advertisements, landlords will find the number of “flaky” calls/emails they receive be reduced significantly. While landlords may find the number of requests to tour the rental go down as a whole, the ratio of quality applicants to unfavorable applicants will be greatly increased, allowing landlords to spend less time touring, and more time signing.

A few popular and time-tested means of finding tenants are as follows:

  • Free Online Rental Marketplaces

Any exposure is good exposure, especially when it doesn’t cost landlords a dime (unless they are looking for premium options). In today’s age, the majority of apartment-seekers head to online marketplaces where they can browse for rentals that meet their requirements. Filters allow them to search based on rent price, square feet, baths, appliances, and much more. As mentioned before, when making a posting, the more characteristics landlords include the more likely they’ll fill the unit’s vacancy.

Popular options: Zillow | Craigslist | Cozy | Apartments.com | Realtor.com

  • Digital Newspapers

The classified section of newspapers is a great way to get the word out to potential tenants. While the option is never free, it can help landlords get the word out to those that could be looking for rentals in the future, and that don’t browse rental listing sites. Setting this up is as easy as visiting the newspaper’s advertising page and sending out an email to the party responsible for ads.

  • Yard Signs

Although it’s the simplest option of those provided, placing a sign in the yard or window of the rental property is free exposure that is visible to everyone that passes by. Unlike online marketplaces, a physical sign can inform people of the vacancy that wouldn’t be exposed to it otherwise. This can help spread knowledge of the available rental to those that are in the market for signing a new lease.


Step 3 – Rental Application

If the apartment or home fits the tenant’s expectations and requirements, they will request to sign a lease. It’s at this time that the landlord will request the tenant(s) to complete a rental application. Due to the liability involved with renting, landlords need as much information as possible in order to ensure the tenants moving-in to their property are responsible and trustworthy. Landlords should never lease to a tenant that they haven’t properly vetted.

During the screening phase, landlords will acquire some (or all) of the following:

  • Basic Tenant Info – Includes the name of the applicant along with certain identifying information, such as their Social Security Number, full name, address, email, phone number, and driver’s license number.
  • Employment Information – To get an idea as to whether or not the tenant can afford rent payments, the landlord will need to collect the applicant’s employment information. This can be in the form of tax documents, paychecks, or the contact info of a boss or employee who can verify the tenant’s income and job status.
  • Rental History – Landlords will almost always reach out to an applicant’s past landlords to get an honest and accurate depiction of the type of renter the prospective tenant is. Additionally, they will often require applicants to list several referrals that the landlord can contact as well.
  • Credit + Background Check (Separate to the Rental Application) – While not always required in a rental application, the landlord may request the rental candidate to pay for a credit check. Like employment information, the credit check gives insight into whether the applicant is likely to be timely with their rental payments. Missed payments on loans, bills, and any accumulated debt will be available to the landlord.

Step 4 – Create a Lease Agreement

Alongside identifying viable tenants, creating a comprehensive lease agreement is one of the most important tasks landlords face. Leases serve a very important role in the rental process, which is reinforced by the fact that they:

  • Serve as proof that the tenant(s) committed to leasing a property for a certain length of time;
  • Bind tenant(s) into an obligation of paying timely rent;
  • Ensure all parties are clear on their obligations and the rules they must follow;
  • Protect the rights of the landlord and tenant(s); and
  • Are the go-to resource for resolving disputes and arguments.

Note: In addition to the above points, the majority of states legally require leases of one (1) year or longer to be in writing.

Does a written lease have to be used? Not necessarily. For periodic leases, creating a verbal agreement is still legally binding in the eyes of the law. The problem? Proof. With a verbal agreement, it’s the word of the landlord versus that of the tenant(s).

Our recommendation: Due to the complex laws and requirements of each state, we recommend landlords and property managers use eForms to create a lease contract. While it’s not free (unlike our templates), we find the safety in knowing the lease has been approved for use in a specific state by a full team of attorneys is often worth the minimal cost and peace of mind.


Step 5 – Negotiation

If the landlord deems the applicant tenant worthy of renting the space and the tenant(s) are still interested in proceeding, the parties will sit down and discuss the terms and conditions found within the lease. Because the contract is provided by the landlord (and they obviously agree to everything included), they enter the agreement on the “defense” so to speak. Once sitting down with the tenants, the landlord should go section-by-section through the entire agreement, clarifying any confusing sections and answering any questions the tenants pose.

If the tenants do not approve of a certain section, they will most likely attempt to negotiate it with the landlord. Whether or not the landlord should agree to alter a section of the contract depends on several factors:

  • Is the section mandatory by state law? (forbidding tenants to alter installed smoke detectors, for example);
  • Will it increase the operating costs of the landlord or property manager?;
  • Is the rental highly-desired? (If the landlord received a significant number of applications, they have no reason to budge on the lease, as they can simply lease to someone else).
  • Are the applicants exceptional? (finding a great renter isn’t easy – if the landlord feels like the tenants will treat the property with respect and make timely payments, it may be worth complying with a negotiation request).

Ultimately, it comes down to the property manager’s decision. If they feel like the requests are reasonable, they should accept (and vice versa).

Important note: It is not the landlord’s responsibility if a tenant skims through the agreement, signs it, and later complains of a condition found within the form. It is the tenant’s responsibility to ensure they agree with all conditions. However, landlords cannot include a section in the agreement that conflicts with state law or the Federal Fair Housing Act.


Step 6 – Sign the Agreement

At this point, the tenant(s) should have read through the entirety of the agreement at least once, discussed any questions or concerns regarding the terms and conditions contained within the document, and reached an agreement regarding said terms. So long the parties are ready to enter into the binding contract, all parties should sign their names in the fields provided, officially putting the agreement into effect.

Having the lease signed by witnesses or notarized is not a requirement and is rarely done by landlords. While doing so can technically improve the document’s validity, it is generally viewed as non-essential.


Step 7 – Security Deposit + Moving In

The lease is now active and the tenants are excited to move into their new rental. To cover any damage to the property, a missed payment, or other penalties/fees, the landlord should require the tenant(s) to pay a security deposit. The amount is typically equivalent to one (1) months’ rent, although certain states have no limits on the amount that can be charged. In addition to the deposit, the landlord should collect the first month’s rent.

After receiving all deposits in full, the landlord should complete a condition checklist with the tenants. This is a form used for recording any damage/missing items within the rental property. This ensures landlords are protected from having a tenant state “the damage was there when we moved in!” when in fact, it wasn’t (works the other way as well – protecting tenants from being charged for damage they didn’t cause). Once the checklist has been completed and all initial payments have been received, the landlord should give the tenant(s) the keys and allow them to move into the property, completing the rental process.


Landlord-Tenant Laws

STATELAWS
Alabama§§ 35-9A-101 to 35-9A-603
Alaska§§ 34.03.010 to 34.03.380
Arizona§§ 33-1301 to 33-1381; 33-301 to 33-381
Arkansas§§18-16-101 to 18-16-409
CaliforniaCA Rental Guide
Colorado§§ 38-12-101 to 38-12-302
Connecticut§§ 47-a-1 to 47-a-20f
Delaware§§ 5101 to 5907 (Part 3)
Florida§§ 83.40 to 83.682
Georgia§§ 44-7-1 to 44-7-81
Hawaii§§ 521-1 to 521-82
Idaho§§ 6-301 to 6-324
Illinois765 ILCS 705
Indiana§§ 33-31
Iowa§§ 562A.1 to 562A.37
Kansas§§ 58-2501 – 58-2573
KentuckyKRS Ch. 383
Louisiana§§ 3251 – 3261
Maine§§ 6001 – 6017
Maryland§§ 8-101 to 8-812
MassachusettsCh. 186, §§ 1A to 29 & Ch. 186a, §§ 1 to 6
Michigan§§ 554.601 to 554.616
Minnesota§§ 504B.001 to 504B.471
Mississippi§§ 89-7-1 to 89-7-125
Missouri§§ 441.005 to 441.920
MontanaTitle 70, Chapter 24
Nebraska§§ 76-1401 to 76-1449
NevadaChapter 118A
New Hampshire§§ 540:1 to 540:30
New Jersey§§ 46:8-1 to 46:8-50
New Mexico§§ 47-8-1 to 47-8-52
New York§§ 220 to 238
North Carolina§§ 42-1 to 42-76
North Dakota§§ 47-16-01 to 47-16-42
Ohio§§ 5321.01 5321.19
Oklahoma§§ 101 to 136
Oregon§§ 90.100 to 90.875
Pennsylvania§§ 250.101 to 250.602
Rhode Island§§ 34-18-1 to 34-18-57
South Carolina§§ 27-40-10 to 27-40-940
South Dakota§§ 43-32-1 to 43-32-32
Tennessee§§ 66-28-101 to 66-28-521
Texas§§ 92.001 to 92.354
UtahTitle 57 Ch. 1 to 29
Vermont§§ 4451 to 4475
Virginia§§ 55-217 to 55-248
Washington§§ 59.04 to 59.30
West VirginiaArticle 6Article 6A
Wisconsin§§ 704.01 to 704.95
Wyoming§§ 1-21-1201 to 1-21-1211
Table description: Each US state's landlord-tenant laws (or applicable statutes). Click the "next" button to view additional pages.

Security Deposit Laws

STATEMAXIMUM SECURITY DEPOSITDEADLINE FOR RETURNING DEPOSITSSTATUTE
AlabamaOne (1) month's rent (with exceptions)Sixty (60) days after termination of the tenancy§35-9A-201
AlaskaTwo (2) month's rent
(with exceptions)
Fourteen (14) days if the tenant provides the proper notice (of their vacany); Thirty (30) days otherwise.§34.03.070(g)
ArizonaOne and a half (1.5) month's rentFourteen (14) days after termination of the lease (not including weekends & holidays)§33-1321(D)
ArkansasTwo (2) month's rentSixty (60) days after the termination of the lease§18-16-305(a)
CaliforniaTwo (2) month's rentTwenty-one (21) days after the tenant(s) move out, or within Sixty (60) days after the termination of a fixed-term lease§1950.5
ColoradoNo limitOne (1) month after the termination of the lease, or the tenant moves-out of the rental§38-12-103(1) & §38-12-104
ConnecticutTwo (2) month's rent (with exceptions)Upon receiving the tenant's mailing address, fifteen (15) days; upon termination of the tenancy, thirty (30) days (whichever is less)§47a-21
DelawareNo limit (for first rental year)Twenty (20) days after the termination of the lease§5514
FloridaNo limitIf no deductions, fifteen (15) days. If deductions are made the deposit, thirty (30) days§83.49(3)(a)
GeorgiaNo limitThirty (30) days after the tenant moves out of the rental§44-7-34(a)
HawaiiOne (1) month's rent (with exceptions)Fourteen (14) days after the lease officially ends§521-44(c)
IdahoNo limitWithin thirty (30) days if established by the lease; twenty-one (21) days if not§6-321
IllinoisNo limitIf the landlord makes deductions from the deposit, thirty (30) days; if no deductions, forty-five (45) days765 ILCS 710
IndianaNo limitForty-five (45) days after the termination of the lease§32-31-3-12
IowaTwo (2) month's rentThirty (30) days after the tenant(s) have moved out and provided the landlord with a forwarding address§562A.12(3)(a)
KansasOne (1) month's rent
(with exceptions)
Fourteen (14) days after the tenant requests the deposit; thirty (30) days otherwise§58-2550(b)
KentuckyNo limitLandlords must send a notification stating the tenant's refund owed. If no response is heard within sixty (60) days, they can keep the deposit§383.580(7)
LouisianaNo limitOne (1) month after the end of the lease§3251
MaineTwo (2) month's rentTwenty-one (21) days for periodic leases; thirty (30) days for fixed-term leases§6032 & §6033
MarylandTwo (2) month's rentForty-five (45) days after the end of the lease (with interest)§8-203
MassachusettsOne (1) month's rentThirty (30) days after the termination of the rental contractCh. 186 §15B
MichiganOne (1) and a half month's rentThirty (30) days after the official end of the lease§554.602 & §554.609
MinnesotaNo limitThree (3) weeks after the end-date of the lease; five (5) days if the tenant was forced. to leave the rental due to no fault of their own§504B.178
MississippiNo limitForty-five (45) days after the lease is officially terminated§89-8-21
MissouriTwo (2) month's rentThirty (30) days after the termination of the tenancy§535.300
MontanaNo limitTen (10) days if no deductions and unpaid debt; thirty (30) days otherwise§70-25-202
NebraskaOne (1) month's rent
(w/ exceptions)
Fourteen (14) days after the termination of the lease§76-1416
NevadaThree (3) month's rentThirty (30) days within the termination of the rental agreementNRS 118A.242
New HampshireOne (1) month's rent or $100 (w/ exceptions)Thirty (30) after the lease is terminated§540-A:6 & §540-A:7
New JerseyOne and a half month's rent (1.5) (contains exceptions)Thirty (30) days after the rental contract is terminated§46:8-21.2§46:8-21.1
New MexicoOne (1) month's rentThirty (30) days starting from the lease's end§47-8-18
New YorkOne (1) month's rentFourteen (14) days after the tenant(s) have moved out of the premises576/74 §6 & §7-108(e)
North CarolinaOne (1) and a half month's rent (with exceptions)If no deductions, thirty (30) days. If deductions, sixty (60) days.§42-51 & §42-52
North DakotaOne (1) month's rent (with exceptions)Thirty (30) days within the termination of the lease§47-16-07.1
OhioNo limitThirty (30) days after the lease is terminated and the landlord takes possession of the rental§5321.16
OklahomaNo limitForty-five (45) days after 1) the lease ends, 2) the tenant(s) have moved out, and 3) the they have requested their deposit§41-115
OregonNo limitThirty-one (31) days after the lease ends and the tenant(s) have moved out§90.300
PennsylvaniaTwo (2) month's rent (with exceptions)Thirty (30) days after the termination of the lease, or after the tenant(s) move out (whichever comes first)§250.511a & §250.512
Rhode IslandOne (1) month's rentTwenty (20) days after the tenant provides the landlord with a new forwarding address, they move-out, or the lease ends (whatever comes last)§34-18-19
South CarolinaNo limitThirty (30) days after the tenants move out, provide the landlord with a new address, and request the deposit§27-40-410
South DakotaOne (1) month's rent (contains exceptions)Two (2) weeks. Must provide list of any deductions (if requested by tenants) within forty-five (45) days after the termination of the lease§43-32-6.1 & §43-32-24
TennesseeNo limitThirty (30) days after the tenant(s) have moved out, or seven (7) days after new tenant(s) move in§ 66-28-301(g)(1)
TexasNo limitThirty (30) days after the tenant(s) leave the rental§ 92.103(a)
UtahNo limitThirty (30) days starting from the date the tenant(s) move out§57-17-3(2)
VermontNo limitFourteen (14) days after receiving notice or discovering the property was vacated; sixty (60) days for non-permanent rentals and seasonal tenancies§4461
VirginiaTwo (2) month's rentForty-five (45) days after the termination of the lease§55-248.15:1(A)
WashingtonNo limitTwenty-one (21) days after the tenant(s) move out of the rental§59.18.280
West VirginiaNo limitSixty (60) days after the termination of the lease; forty-five (45) days if the rental is re-leased§37-6A-1
WisconsinNo limitTwenty-one (21) days after the tenants have moved out of the rental§134.06
WyomingNo limitThirty (30) days after the termination of the lease or fifteen (15) days after the landlord receives the tenant's forwarding address. If damage to the rental, landlords can have an additional thirty (30) days§1-21-1208
Table description: The security deposit laws of each US state. "Maximum Security Deposit" refers to the maximum dollar ($) amount landlords can require tenants to pay for a deposit. "Deadline for Returning Deposits" refers to the number of days/weeks/months landlords have to return a tenant's security deposit once the lease has ended, the tenant(s) have moved out of the rental, and/or the tenant(s) have requested their deposit back. "Statute" is the official state law(s) relating to security deposits.

Required Notice for Entry

STATEREQ. NOTICE TO ENTERSTATUTE
AlabamaTwo (2) days§ 35-9A-303(c)
AlaskaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 34.03.140(c)
ArizonaTwo (2) days§ 33-1343(d)
ArkansasN/ANo statute
CaliforniaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 1954(2)
ColoradoN/ANo statute
ConnecticutAdequate notice§ 830-47a-16(d)
DelawareTwo (2) days§ 5509(b)
FloridaTwelve (12) hours§ 83.53(2)
GeorgiaN/ANo statute
HawaiiTwo (2) days§ 521-53(b)
IdahoN/ANo statute
IllinoisN/ANo statute
IndianaAdequate notice§ 32-31-5-6(g)
IowaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 562A.19 A(3)
KansasAdequate notice§ 58-2557(a)
KentuckyTwo (2) days§ 383.615(3)
LouisianaN/ANo statute
MaineTwenty-four (24) hours§ 6025(2)
MarylandN/ANo statute
MassachusettsAdequate notice§ 15B(1)(a)
MichiganN/A
MinnesotaAdequate notice§ 504B.211(Subd 2)
MississippiN/ANo statute
MissouriN/ANo statute
MontanaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 70-24-312(2)
NebraskaOne (1) day§ 76-1423(3)
NevadaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 118A.330(3)
New HampshireAdequate notice§ 540-A:3(V)
New JerseyOne (1) day§ 5:10-5.1(c)
New MexicoTwenty-four (24) hours§ 47-8-24(1)
New YorkN/ANo statute
North CarolinaN/ANo statute
North DakotaAdequate notice§ 47-16-07.3(2)
OhioTwenty-four (24) hours§ 5321.04(8)
OklahomaOne (1) day§ 41-128(C)
OregonTwenty-four (24) hours§ 90.322(b)
PennsylvaniaN/ANo statute
Rhode IslandTwo (2) days§ 34-18-26(c)
South CarolinaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 27-40-530(c)
South DakotaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 43-32-32
TennesseeTwenty-four (24) hours§ 66-28-403(e)(5)
TexasN/ANo statute
UtahTwenty-four (24) hours§ 57-22-4(2)
VermontForty-eight (48) hours§ 4460(b)
VirginiaTwenty-four (24) hours§ 55-248.18(A)
WashingtonTwo (2) days§ 59.18.150(6)
West VirginiaN/ANo statute
WisconsinAdequate notice§ 704.05(2)
WyomingN/ANo statute
Table description: "Req. Notice to Enter" refers to the number of hours or days landlords have to provide tenants before entering the rental property. "N/A" and "No statute" means the state doesn't require landlords to provide a notice prior to entering or doesn't specify a certain notice requirement (although notice should be provided). "Adequate notice" generally refers to providing tenants with twenty-four (24) hours notice prior to entering.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What happens if a Tenant Breaks the Lease?

Learning that a tenant has vacated a rental before it’s termination is sobering news, to say the least. However, the importance of remaining calm and collected amid the range of emotions that will be felt cannot be understated. It’s important to understand that a lease is a binding agreement, and with the tenant’s signature, they are guaranteeing they will pay the rent for the entire term of the lease. In the event of a broken lease, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Reach out to the tenant via a letter. Clearly state that they still have an obligation to pay for all remaining rental payments in full, by their pre-arranged due dates.
  2. Inspect the property. Take a detailed report of any damage. If severe (and the tenant is unwilling to pay for it), taking them to small claims court will most likely be required.
  3. Generally, state laws permit the taking of the tenant’s security deposit to cover unpaid rent. This should be done prior to taking the tenant to small claims court.
  4. Begin looking for a new tenant. Each passing month without a new tenant costs the property owner money. Additionally, many state laws prevent landlord’s from collecting rent from the tenant unless they are actively looking for a replacement. If a new tenant is found and moved into the property, the landlord CANNOT continue charging the previously evicted tenant rent.
  5. If the tenant is refusing to pay rent and the landlord hasn’t been able to find a replacement (although they should still be trying to), they can proceed to the “worst-case scenario,” which is suing the tenant. While it should be relatively straightforward once an attorney has been contacted, there is never a guarantee.

Important Exceptions:

In some cases, a tenant can lawfully vacate a rental. They are the following:

  • Uninhabitable Rental: If the property is unsafe, doesn’t provide access to clean/hot water, leaks, is heavily infiltrated by mold, doesn’t have locking doors, or contains pests, for example, the tenant can legally breach the lease.
  • Military Duty: In accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the tenant can vacate a lease so long they give the landlord a notice of at least thirty (30) days.
  • The Landlord Breached the Lease: Like tenants, landlords are equally responsible for holding up their end of the lease as well as following all state landlord-tenant laws. For example, if the landlord repeatedly showed up (without notice) in a state that requires a minimum of twenty-four hours of notice, the tenant may have a legal right to vacate the lease without notice (or very short notice).

Is a lease agreement legally binding?

Yes. Once signed by the landlord and tenant(s), it binds them to the conditions included, so long the rules and obligations comply with state and federal laws. While the agreement as a whole is legally binding, it’s important to know that not all of the sections can be enforced by a court of law.

For example, if the rental agreement contains a condition that requires the tenant(s) to keep silent about a part of the building/premises that doesn’t comply with local building codes, the tenant(s) do not have to comply with the condition. Rather, they should first inform the landlord of the issue in writing (following the required notice periods), followed by the local/city housing authority if no response is received.

What about a verbal lease agreement?

Yes. While verbal leases are not recommended, state laws view them as legally binding agreements. However, due to the difficulty of enforcing the conditions and proving what was agreed-upon, they should only be used in situations where the parties have extreme trust in one another (family, for example), or are leasing a property that the landlord will also share (a single room, for instance).

Lease agreement vs rental agreement?

“Lease agreement” and “rental agreement” are terms that are often used interchangeably to refer to a binding agreement over the right to live or work in a residential/commercial property. Although commonly used to mean the same thing, they differ in the term (duration) of their contracts.

  • Lease agreement – Used for leasing property on a long-term basis, typically in yearly (12-month) increments. With the contract, the end-date is known and the parties have a clear understanding of the total rent payments to be made (and when).
    • Types: Standard Residential Lease Agreement | Lease to Own Agreement | Commercial Lease Agreement
  • Rental agreement – Although containing many of the same conditions as a lease agreement, a rental agreement is used for short-term rental arrangements with no set end-date. Often called “periodic tenancies”, a rental agreement exists for one (1) rental term at a time where it automatically renews so long the landlord or tenant(s) do not wish to terminate it. If they do decide to end the lease, they have to provide the other party with a notice of one (1) month (or another agreed-upon notice).
    • Types: Month-to-Month Lease/Rental Agreement

Does a lease have to be Notarized?

Notarization is the process of having a certified third (3rd) party officially verify a signature on a legal document. Generally, lease agreements do not have to be notarized. However, certain states, such as Ohio, require leases longer than three (3) years to be certified by a Notary Public.

Although it’s not required, having a lease be notarized is an additional means of security, ensuring a lease agreement is enforceable in a court of law.

Can a lease be terminated before a tenant moves in?

Possibly. From a landlord’s point of view, the answer depends on whether or not their right to terminate is stated in the lease agreement. For a tenant, it also depends on the written lease, but also state law, which can provide the tenant with room for exiting the lease without incurring damages and other costs. In this situation, it’s in the best interest of landlords and tenants to provide notice to the other party of their intent to terminate the lease as soon as possible and try to come to an agreement on their own without involving litigation.


Glossary

Abandon / Abandonment – A tenant’s voluntary action of leaving the rental property prior to the lease’s end, and without providing notice to the landlord.

Arbitration – The act of including a third (3rd) party to listen to an argument, who will then make a final decision.

Arbitrator – The person involved in arbitration that makes the final decision regarding a dispute.

Assign / Assignment – The act of permitting a secondary tenant (the sublessee) to live in a rental property in replacement of (or alongside) the original tenant (the sublessor). Also known as subleasing.

Binding – Commonly used in the phrase “binding agreement” or “binding contract”, refers to a set of obligations, rules, terms, and other conditions that cannot be broken/breached.

Co-tenant – A roommate; a tenant that shares the same rental property with another tenant.

Contract – An agreement that binds two (2) or more parties to a number of requirements, obligations, and/or statements.

Credit Report/Check – Used by landlords during the application process to view an applicant’s credit score, payment history, loans, and to generally see if there’s a good indication that the tenant will make timely payments.

Discrimination – The illegal, unjust treatment of applicant tenants over topics out of their control (race/color, nationality, religion, disability, sex, age, and familial status).

Escrow account – In renting, an escrow account is a bank account that tenants deposit their rent into. The account is managed by the local municipality’s clerk’s office, who only pays out rent to landlords that comply with local housing codes or whatever the requirements were when the account was initially created.

Eviction – The forced act of removing one (1) or more tenant(s) from a unit due to their non-compliance with the lease.

Notice to Quit/Eviction Notice – A written notice given by the landlord to their tenant(s) stating the tenant(s) have to leave the rental by a certain date. Only used when the tenant(s) breached the lease.

Guest – An individual temporarily living/staying in a rental property. Invited by the tenant(s).

Habitable / Livable – A rental property that is in good enough condition to warrant the tenant(s) to live in it.

Holding Deposit – A monetary payment made from a tenant to a landlord to “hold” the rental property for a certain length of time, ensuring the landlord does not lease it to a different tenant.

Landlord – The party responsible for managing the rental and overseeing the tenant(s). Is often the owner of the property (but doesn’t have to be).

Lease – A form used for specifying the details of a situation in which a property/unit/room is rented to one (1) or more tenants.

Lock-out – The act of preventing tenant(s) from entering a rental unit via changing the locks or similar action. Used when tenant(s) are late on rental payments. Typically an illegal action.

Mediation – Used for resolving disputes. Includes a third (3rd) party that listens to the arguments of both sides and assists them in coming to a mutual decision.

Negligence – An action that doesn’t take other people’s care and wellbeing into consideration. A mistake due to an obviously unreasonable decision.

Periodic Tenancy – A type of short-term lease that has no pre-defined end-date. Can be terminated by the landlord or tenant so long appropriate notice is given.

Rent control ordinance – A local government restriction on the amount landlord’s can demand for rent. Common in large cities.

Rent withholding – The purposeful nonpayment of rent due to a landlord’s noncompliance with the lease. Legally permitted in some states.

Rental Period – The length of time between rent payments. Can be a year, a month, a week, or another pre-determined timeframe.

Renter’s Insurance – Purchased by tenants, covering them from liability in the event their possessions are destroyed by fire, flooding, theft, a broken pipe, and more.

Security Deposit – A monetary payment given from tenants to a landlord at the start of the lease. Used for covering unexpected damage, missed rental payments, and more. Landlords are required to return the deposit at the end of the lease if no deductions need to be made.

Sublease – The act of introducing a second (2nd) tenant to live in the property alongside, or in replacement of, the original tenant.

Sublessee – The individual living in the property in replacement of the sublessor. Also known as the “subtenant”.

Sublessor – The original tenant to a rental property. Acts as the sublessee’s landlord.

Subpoena – A document that legally requires a person to attend court.

Tenant – The party paying rent in exchange for the right to live/work in the property. Also known as the ‘lessee’, ‘renter’, or ‘occupant’.

Termination notice (for periodic leases) – A written notice delivered by the landlord or tenant signifying they wish to terminate the lease agreement. Typically provided thirty (30) days in advance of the next rental payment.

Warranty of habitability – A guarantee that the rental property will be livable for tenants for the full length of the lease term.


How to Write

The following is required to complete:

  • Names of the Parties (Landlord & Tenant)
  • Lease Term (Start and End dates)
  • Rent Amount
  • Security Deposit Amount
  • Utilities & Maintenance
  • Access to the Property
  • Notices
  • Required Disclosures
  • Signatures of all parties

Step 1 – Download the Agreement

To begin, download the Residential Lease Agreement in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word (.docx), OR Copy to Google Docs.

Step 2 – Identification of the Parties

In the provided fields, enter the date that the parties are completing the document, followed by the full names of the Landlord and Tenant(s).

Step 3 – Beginning & End of Lease Term

  • What day, month, and year the lease will begin
  • The day, month, and year in which the lease will terminate

Step 4 – Property Address

The full address of the rental (street address, city, state, and ZIP Code).

Step 5 – Monthly Rent

The full dollar ($) amount of rent due on the first (1st) of every month.

Step 6 – Late Charge & Returned Checks

Enter the number of days that can pass before the agreement is terminated (and eviction proceedings begin). Most states have a required amount of days that need to pass before the eviction process can begin. Enter the day of the month after which a late charge will be issued, along with the monetary amount of the late charge. For any returned checks, enter the dollar amount charge that will be billed to the tenant.

Step 7 – Utilities

Landlord will need to list all utilities that will be paid for. Any absent utilities are the responsibility of the tenant(s).

Step 8 – Security Deposit

In the underlined field, the Landlord will need to enter the full security deposit amount that the tenant(s) will need to pay before moving into the property.

Step 9 – Default

The landlord will need to enter:

  • The number of days after the delivery of a notice that can pass until the agreement can be terminated.
  • In the case the tenant does not pay rent on the due date, enter the number of days the default can stay in place until the entire rent balance will be immediately due and / or the agreement will be terminated.

Step 10 – Abandonment

Here, the Landlord will need to specify the number of days the tenant can remain absent from the property without paying rent or removing possessions, until it will be considered abandonment.

Step 11 – Smoke Detectors

Landlord states the length of time the tenant has to ensure all smoke detectors are functioning in the premises.

Step 12 – Additional Provisions

The state-specific mandated provisions for the lease agreement. Can vary widely depending on the state in which the agreement is being completed.

Step 13 – Date of Execution

The date in which signatures will be recorded on the document.

Step 14 – Signatures

In the provided fields, both the Landlord and Tenant(s) must write their full printed names and dated signatures.