Standard Residential Lease Agreement Templates

A Standard Residential Lease Agreement is a legal contract formed between a landlord and a tenant that allows the tenant to live in a home, apartment, or condo in exchange for consistent rent payments. In contract terms, the person renting the property is called the “lessee,” and the landlord is formally known as the “lessor.” The common term of a standard lease is one (1) year, although the length is ultimately up to the landlord to decide.

Standard Leases by State


Table of Contents

  1. What is a Standard Residential Lease?
  2. The Leasing Process
    1. Prepare the Home
    2. Determine the Monthly Rent
    3. Create a Lease Agreement
    4. List the Property
    5. Screen Tenant(s)
    6. Sign the Lease
  3. How to Write

What is a Standard Residential Lease?

A standard residential lease agreement is a type of fixed-term lease, that once signed, requires the parties involved to adhere to the conditions outlined in the written contract. While a lease cannot physically prevent a tenant from damaging property or missing rent payments, it gives the landlord legal weight to evict the tenant as well as sue the tenant in order to collect any damages. The famous saying, “the best offense is a great defense,” couldn’t apply more to leasing; a landlord should ensure only tenants that pass an in-depth rental application be permitted to lease a property. Not only does this save needless headache down the road – it gives landlords ease of mind knowing they did all they could to ensure the tenant is occupied by trustworthy tenants.


The Leasing Process

From getting a rental up to code and advertised, to introducing the first tenants into a property, the rental process should be taken with great care and due diligence in order to do it right the first time. The overview below provides landlords and property owners with a checklist to get a rental property up and running.

Step 1 – Prepare the Home

Providing a deep clean isn’t enough. Before being ready to accept tenants, a rental property should be pest free, have working appliances, be up to code, and free of any hazards or dangers. Remember: attempting to cut costs will only delay the pain. The tenant(s) will complain and request repairs, or worse, bring the manager of the property to civil court. It’s always better to ensure everything is repaired and in good shape before accepting tenants.

The following form can be used for ensuring a property is ready to accept tenants:


Rental Property Checklist (Word | PDF)


Step 2 – Determine the Monthly Rent

The rent that is set for the property needs to cover any costs associated with the property and accurately reflect rent averages for the area. In total, the following should be considered when determining a rent price:

  • Cover all expenses – The rent needs to cover all expenses relating to the home, including taxes, mortgage payments, property management services, and any repair/ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Compare rentals in the area – Seeing what other rentals are going for in the area can provide a great ballpark value. However, it is imperative to only compare properties that are very similar to the property to be rented.
  • Judge the current market – In an upmarket, rentals will be less desirable due to lower interest rates leading to an increase in homeownership. Rentals perform better in a downmarket, leading to a wider audience of rentals. Supply and demand leads to an ability to increase the rent price.
  • Property value – By far the largest determinant of monthly rent is the value of the leased home or apartment. To calculate monthly rent based upon property value, take the total value of the rental and multiply anywhere from .08% to 1.1%.

Step 3 – Create a Lease Agreement

Using a state-specific lease agreement template, complete all applicable fields and save the document without any names or signatures on the agreement. This allows it to be easily reused for subsequent tenants. While writing the contract, check the local state laws to make certain that all fields are legal and sufficiently protect both parties. If the landlord wishes to lease the property on a monthly basis instead of on a yearly one, the month-to-month lease template should be used.

Step 4 – List the Property

To get the property in view of prospective tenants, the rental should be listed online. Taking the time to advertise the property in addition to listing it can give it the publicity it needs to obtain a quality tenant. While some may recommend advertising in a newspaper, with the onset of the internet and the convenience of listing a property with the click of a button, using an online platform is the recommended course of action for landlords and homeowners. The following websites are recommended for advertising an apartment or home rental property:

Step 5 – Screen Tenant(s)

Once a tenant has shown interest in the rental property, is given a full tour, and has requested to rent the property after the viewing, it’s the property owner’s job to require the tenant(s) to complete a rental application. This is a document that provides the owner with a comprehensive history of where the tenant has previously rented, a set of references (past renters, employers, etc.), their employment status and monthly income, any criminal history, whether they have pets or not, and personal information (such as their social security number) that allows the landlord to run a criminal and credit check on the tenant.

Without question, the landlord should request a fee for the application process. This does two (2) things: 1) it ensures only serious tenants apply, and 2) it covers the cost of running the application, which is typically around $20. The following are the types of answers that should make the property owner immediately deny the prospective tenant’s application:

  • The applicant is unemployed
  • Their monthly income is less than three (3) times the monthly rent
  • A reference doesn’t give the applicant a positive review (or says anything other than they were perfect tenants)
  • The tenant tries to argue or is confrontational at any point during the application
  • The tenant has a poor credit score
  • Have had an eviction or bankruptcy in the past ten (10) years

The above are just a sample of the types of answers that should result in a denied applicant. Before issuing an application, a landlord should already have created a set of parameters that result in an applicant being denied. This ensures the property manager is providing all applicants with an equal opportunity at housing.

Step 6 – Sign the Lease + Condition Checklist

If the applicant passes the rental application, the property owner should set a time and date for the parties to sign the lease agreement. The landlord should highlight all areas where the tenant(s) will need to sign the agreement to ensure a smooth process.

After the agreement is signed, the owner should collect the security deposit and the first month’s rent. The landlord should only accept a trusted payment source for the first month’s rent and security deposit – this can include cashier’s check or money orders.

Once the agreement has been signed and all payments collected, the parties should complete a full condition checklist of the property. This includes noting any damage (holes in walls, counterstains, non-working switches, etc.). It is recommended the landlord takes a video of the property in addition to pictures. This can provide a more detailed look at the property and include areas that otherwise wouldn’t be considered for pictures.

Once the tenant(s) have moved-in, the property owner will have officially accepted their first tenant.


Security Deposit Laws by State

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.

How to Write a Residential Lease Agreement

Download

Before heading to the first step, save the template in Adobe PDF (.pdf) or Microsoft Word (.docx).

Note: The fields entered into the form below are examples only. The laws in which the rental is located should be consulted prior to completing the form, as each state has its own requirements for security deposits, evictions, defaults, and other conditions.

Step 1 – The Parties

Start by entering the current day, month, and year. Then, enter the:

    • Full name of the Landlord, and
    • The full name(s) of the Tenant(s)

Step 2 – Lease Term

Enter the full beginning and end dates in which the lease will be in effect. The standard length is one (1) year, although this time can be changed if both parties agree to do so.

Step 3 – Property

Enter the full address of the rental (including the unit, if applicable).

Step 4 – Monthly Rent

After the dollar sign ($), enter the full cost of the monthly rent. This is the total rent regardless of the number of tenants occupying the unit.

Step 5 – Late Charge / Returned Checks

Enter the following in the four (4) provided fields:

    • The number (#) of days that have to pass before the landlord can end the lease,
    • The number (#) of days before the landlord can charge a late fee,
    • The dollar amount ($) for a late fee the tenant(s) would be required to pay, and
    • The dollar amount ($) for a fee due to a returned check.

Step 6 – Utilities

On the lines provided, list what utilities will be paid for by the landlord. Any utilities not included will be the responsibility of the tenant.

Step 7 – Security Deposit

Enter the amount ($) the tenant(s) will be required to pay for a security deposit upon move-in. The state laws in which the rental is located should be researched to ensure the deposit is within the maximum that can be charged. If it is required by law to return any accumulated interest to the tenant(s), the template should be edited to match said requirements.

Step 8 – Default

Enter:

    • The number of days that have to pass (after the delivery of a notice) until the landlord can terminate the agreement, and
    • The number of days after default in which the landlord can require all rent be immediately due (and execute other rights as permitted by the lease).

Step 9 – Abandonment

Input the number of days that need to pass, after which the landlord can deem the rental as “abandoned”.

Step 10 – Smoke Detectors

In the visible field, enter the number of days the tenant(s) have to confirm the smoke detector(s) are working after they move into the property.

Step 11 – Governing Law

The state in which the rental is located.

Step 12 – Additional Provisions (Optional)

If there is additional information the landlord would like to provide the tenant(s), they can do so in the lines provided.

Step 13 – Landlord’s Signature

Above the space for the landlord’s signature, enter the current date (day, month, and year).

Then, the landlord will need to handwrite (or electronically sign) their name, print their name in full, and enter the date in which they recorded their signature.

Step 14 – Tenant(s) Signature(s)

Each tenant (up to four total tenants), will need to write their:

    • Signature (e-signed or handwritten),
    • Full printed name, and
    • The date of their signature.

Sample