Table of Contents
- Download a Lease / Rental Agreement Template (PDF & MS Word)
- What is a Lease Agreement?
- How to Write a Lease Agreement
- Landlord-Tenant Laws by State
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Download a Lease / Rental Agreement Template (PDF & MS Word)
Download this sample lease agreement into MS Word, or view a simple, completed rental agreement PDF between a fake Landlord and Tenant to see what this document looks like filled out. You can also click on the image to zoom in if you’d like to read any of the lease agreement clauses we include in our free template.
|State of __________||Rev. 133C5EE|
This Lease Agreement (this “Agreement”) is made as of this __________, by and between __________ (“Landlord”) and __________ (“Tenant”). Each Landlord and Tenant may be referred to individually as a “Party” and collectively as the “Parties.”
- Premises. The premises leased is __________ located at __________, __________, __________ __________ (the “Premises”).
- Agreement to Lease. Landlord agrees to lease to Tenant and Tenant agrees to lease from Landlord, according to the terms and conditions set forth herein, the Premises.
- Term. This Agreement will be for a term beginning on __________ and ending on __________ (the “Term”).
- Rent. Tenant will pay Landlord a monthly rent of __________ for the Term. Rent will be payable in advance and due on the __________ day of each month during the Term. The first rent payment is payable to Landlord when Tenant signs this Agreement. Rent for any period during the Term which is for less than one month will be a pro rata portion of the monthly installment. Rent will be paid to Landlord at Landlord’s address provided herein (or to such other places as directed by Landlord) by mail or in person by one of the following methods: and will be payable in U.S. Dollars.
- Guaranty. __________ located at __________, __________, __________ __________ (“Guarantor”) promises to unconditionally guarantee to Landlord, the full payment and performance by Tenant of all financial duties and obligations arising out of this Agreement. Guarantor agrees to joint and several liability with Tenant for Tenant’s financial duties and obligations under this Agreement including rent, damages, fees and costs. Guarantor further agrees that this guaranty shall remain in full force and effect and be binding on Guarantor until this Agreement is terminated.
- Late Fee. Rent paid after the __________ day of each month will be deemed as late; and if rent is not paid within __________ days after such due date, Tenant agrees to pay a late charge of __________.
- Additional Rent. There may be instances under this Agreement where Tenant may be required to pay additional charges to Landlord. All such charges are considered additional rent under this Agreement and will be paid with the next regularly scheduled rent payment. Landlord has the same rights and Tenant has the same obligations with respect to additional rent as they do with rent.
- Utilities. Tenant is responsible for payment of all utility and other services for the Premises.
- Security Deposit. Upon signing this Agreement, Tenant will pay a security deposit in the amount of __________ to Landlord. The security deposit will be retained by Landlord as security for Tenant’s performance of its obligations under this Agreement. The security deposit may not be used or deducted by Tenant as the last month’s rent of the Term.Tenant will be entitled to a full refund of the security deposit if Tenant returns possession of the Premises to Landlord in the same condition as accepted, ordinary wear and tear excepted. Within __________ days after the termination of this Agreement, Landlord will return the security deposit to Tenant (minus any amount applied by Landlord in accordance with this section). Any reason for retaining a portion of the security deposit will be explained in writing. The security deposit will not bear interest while held by Landlord in accordance with applicable state laws and/or local ordinances.
- Landlord’s Failure to Give Possession. In the event Landlord is unable to give possession of the Premises to Tenant on the start date of the Term, Landlord will not be subject to any liability for such failure, the validity of this Agreement will not be affected, and the Term will not be extended. Tenant will not be liable for rent until Landlord gives possession of the Premises to Tenant.
- Holdover Tenancy. Unless this Agreement has been extended by mutual written agreement of the Parties, there will be no holding over past the Term under the terms of this Agreement under any circumstances. If it becomes necessary to commence legal action to remove Tenant from the Premises, the prevailing Party will be entitled to attorney’s fees and costs in addition to damages.
- Use of Premises. The Premises will be occupied only by Tenant and Tenant’s immediate family and used only for residential purposes. Tenant will not engage in any objectionable conduct, including behavior which will make the Premises less fit to live in, will cause dangerous, hazardous or unsanitary conditions or will interfere with the rights of others to enjoy their property. Tenant will be liable for any damage occurring to the Premises and any damage to or loss of the contents thereof which is done by Tenant or Tenant’s guests or invitees.
- Condition of the Premises. Tenant has examined the Premises, including the appliances, fixtures and furnishings, and acknowledges that they are in good condition and repair, normal wear and tear excepted and accepts them in its current condition.
- Maintenance and Repairs. Tenant will maintain the Premises, including the grounds and all appliances, fixtures and furnishings, in clean, sanitary and good condition and repair. Tenant will not remove Landlord’s appliances, fixtures, or furnishings from the Premises for any purpose. If repairs other than general maintenance are required, Tenant will notify Landlord for such repairs. In the event of default by Tenant, Tenant will reimburse Landlord for the cost of any repairs or replacement.
- Reasonable Accommodations. Landlord agrees to comply with all applicable laws providing equal housing opportunities, including making reasonable accommodations for known physical or mental limitations of qualified individuals with a disability, unless undue hardship would result. Tenant is responsible for making Landlord aware of any such required accommodations that are reasonable and will not impose an undue hardship. If Tenant discloses a disability and requests an accommodation, Landlord has the right to have a qualified healthcare provider verify the disability if the disability is not readily apparent, and Landlord has the right to use the qualified healthcare provider verifying the disability as a resource for providing the reasonable accommodation.
- Sex Offender Registry. Pursuant to law, information about specified registered sex offenders is made available to the public. Tenant understands and agrees that Tenant is solely responsible for obtaining any and all information contained in the state or national sex offender registry for the area surrounding the Premises, which can be obtained online or from the local sheriff’s department or other appropriate law enforcement officials. Depending on an offender’s criminal history, this information will include either the address at which the offender resides or the community of residence and zip code in which he or she resides.
- Compliance. Tenant agrees to comply with all applicable laws, ordinances, requirements and regulations of any federal, state, county, municipal or other authority.
- Mechanics’ Lien. Tenant understands and agrees that Tenant and anyone acting on Tenant’s behalf do not have the right to file for mechanic’s liens or any other kind of liens on the Premises. Tenant agrees to give actual advance notice to any contractors, subcontractors or suppliers of goods, labor or services that such liens are invalid. Tenant further agrees to take the additional steps necessary to keep the Premises free of any and all liens that may result from construction completed by or for Tenant.
- Subordination. With respect to the Premises, this Agreement is subordinate to any mortgage that now exists, or may be given later by Landlord.
- Alterations. Tenant will not make any alteration, addition or improvement to the Premises without first obtaining Landlord’s written consent. Any and all alterations, additions or improvements to the Premises are without payment to Tenant and will become Landlord’s property immediately on completion and remain on the Premises, unless Landlord requests or permits removal, in which case Tenant will return that part of the Premises to the same condition as existed prior to the alteration, addition or improvement. Tenant will not change any existing locks or install any additional locks on the Premises without first obtaining Landlord’s written consent and without providing Landlord a copy of all keys.
- Smoking. Smoking of any kind is strictly prohibited on any part of the Premises. This prohibition applies to Tenant and any visitor, guest or other occupant on the Premises.
- Pets. Tenant is not allowed to have or keep any pets, even temporarily, on any part of the Premises. The unauthorized presence of any pet will subject Tenant to penalties, damages, deductions and/or termination of this Agreement. Properly trained service animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities may be permitted on the Premises with the prior written consent of Landlord, which shall not be unreasonably withheld. Tenant will be responsible for the costs of de-fleaing, deodorizing and/or shampooing all or any portion of the Premises if a pet has been on the Premises at any time during the Term (whether with or without written consent of Landlord).
- Fire and Casualty. If the Premises are damaged by fire or other serious disaster or accident and the Premises becomes uninhabitable as a result, Tenant may immediately vacate the Premises and terminate this Agreement upon notice to Landlord. Tenant will be responsible for any unpaid rent or will receive any prepaid rent up to the day of such fire, disaster or accident. If the Premises are only partially damaged and inhabitable, Landlord may make full repairs and will do so within a prompt and reasonable amount of time. At the discretion of Landlord, the rent may be reduced while the repairs are being made.
- Liability. Landlord is not responsible or liable for any loss, claim, damage or expense as a result of any accident, injury or damage to any person or property occurring anywhere on the Premises, unless resulting from the negligence or willful misconduct of Landlord.
- Renter’s Insurance. Tenant is required to obtain, and maintain at all times during the Term, a renter’s insurance policy with a minimum of $100,000.00 personal liability coverage. Tenant will name Landlord as an interested party or additional insured. Tenant will provide Landlord with a certificate or proof of insurance upon request.
- Assignment and Subletting. Tenant will not assign this Agreement as to any portion or all of the Premises or make or permit any total or partial sublease or other transfer of any portion or all of the Premises.
- Insurance Requirements. Tenant will not do or permit to be done any act or thing that will increase the insurance risk under any policy of insurance covering the Premises. If the premium for such policy of insurance increases due to a breach of Tenant’s obligations under this Agreement, Tenant will pay the additional amount of premium as additional rent under this Agreement.
- Right of Entry. Landlord or its agents may enter the Premises at reasonable times to inspect the Premises, to make any alternations, improvements or repairs or to show the Premises to a prospective tenant, buyer or lender. In the event of an emergency, Landlord may enter the Premises at any time.
- Surrender. Tenant will deliver and surrender to Landlord possession of the Premises immediately upon the expiration of the Term or the termination of this Agreement, clean and in as good condition and repair as the Premises was at the commencement of the Term, reasonable wear and tear excepted.
- Default. In the event of any default under this Agreement, Landlord may provide Tenant a notice of default and an opportunity to correct such default. If Tenant fails to correct the default, other than a failure to pay rent or additional rent, Landlord may terminate this Agreement by giving a __________ day written notice. If the default is Tenant’s failure to timely pay rent or additional rent as specified in this Agreement, Landlord may terminate this Agreement by giving a __________ day written notice to Tenant. After termination of this Agreement, Tenant remains liable for any rent, additional late, costs, including costs to remedy any defaults, and damages under this Agreement.
- Remedies. If this Agreement is terminated due to Tenant’s default, Landlord may, in addition to any rights and remedies available under this Agreement and applicable law, use any dispossession, eviction or other similar legal proceeding available in law or equity.
- Subordination. This Agreement and Tenant’s right under it shall be subject and subordinate to the lien, operation and effect of each existing or future mortgage, deed of trust, ground lease and/or any other similar instrument of encumbrance covering any or all of the Premises, if any, and each renewal, modification, consolidation, replacement or extension thereof.
- Condemnation. If all or substantially all of the Premises are covered by a condemnation including the exercise of any power of eminent domain by a governmental authority, this Agreement shall terminate on the date possession of the Premises is taken by the condemning authority, and all rent under this Agreement shall be prorated and paid to such date. Landlord is entitled to collect from the condemning authority the entire amount of any award made in any proceeding. Tenant waives any right, title or interest which Tenant may have to any such award and agrees to not make any claim for the Term of this Agreement.
- Hazardous Materials. Tenant shall not keep on the Premises any item of a dangerous, flammable, or explosive character that might unreasonably increase the danger of fire or explosion on the Premises or that might be considered hazardous or extra hazardous by any responsible insurance company.
- Notices. All notices given under this Agreement must be in writing. A notice is effective upon receipt and shall be delivered in person, sent via certified or registered mail to the following addresses (or to another address that either Party may designate upon reasonable notice to the other Party):
__________, __________ __________
Notices shall be sent to the Tenant at the following address:
__________, __________ __________
- Quiet Enjoyment. If Tenant pays the rent and performs all other obligations under this Agreement, Tenant may peaceably and quietly hold and enjoy the Premises during the Term.
- No Waiver. No Party shall be deemed to have waived any provision of this Agreement or the exercise of any rights held under this Agreement unless such waiver is made expressly and in writing.
- Severability. If any provision of this Agreement is held to be invalid, illegal or unenforceable in whole or in part, the remaining provisions shall not be affected and shall continue to be valid, legal and enforceable as though the invalid, illegal or unenforceable part had not been included in this Agreement.
- Successors and Assigns. This Agreement will inure to the benefit of and be binding upon the Parties and their permitted successors and assigns.
- Governing Law. The terms of this Agreement and the rights and obligations of the Parties hereto shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of __________, without regard to its conflicts of laws provisions.
- Disputes. Any dispute arising from this Agreement shall be resolved through mediation. If the dispute cannot be resolved through mediation, then the dispute will be resolved through binding arbitration conducted in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association.
- Amendments. This Agreement may be amended or modified only by a written agreement signed by the Parties.
- Counterparts. This Agreement may be executed in one or more counterparts, each of which shall be deemed to be an original, and all of which together shall constitute one and the same document.
- Headings. The section headings herein are for reference purposes only and shall not otherwise affect the meaning, construction or interpretation of any provision in this Agreement.
- Entire Agreement. This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the Parties and supersedes and cancels all prior agreements of the Parties, whether written or oral, with respect to the subject matter.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Parties hereto, individually or by their duly authorized representatives, have executed this Agreement as of the Effective Date.
|Landlord Signature||Landlord Full Name|
|Tenant Signature||Tenant Full Name|
|Guarantor Signature||Guarantor Full Name|
2. What is a Lease Agreement?
A lease agreement is a written document that officially recognizes a legally binding relationship between two parties — a landlord and a tenant. A landlord agrees to rent all (or a portion of) their property to a tenant for a fee, and the terms of that rental are laid out in the form of a lease agreement.
As a reference, people often call this document by other names:
- Rental Agreement
- Rental Contract
- Lease Form
- Rental Lease Agreement
- Apartment Lease
- Tenancy Agreement
- House Rental Agreement
A standard residential lease agreement will identify the following basic elements:
- Premises: a house, apartment, condo, basement, or attic
- Landlord: the owner of the Premise, aka “Lessor”
- Tenant: the renter who wants to live in the Premises, aka “Lessee”
- Rent: the amount of money paid by the Tenant to the Landlord
- Term: the length of time a Tenant has the right to stay on the Premises
Our How to Write a Lease section lists out each critical detail that should be included in a simple one page lease agreement and multi-page lease.
Lease / Rental Agreement forms may also be used to cover these additional Premises:
- Room Rental
- Mobile Home
- Vacation Rental
- In-law Suite
- Other living spaces
- Rent-to-own options
Here are a few other examples of what a Landlord or Tenant may agree to in a simple lease agreement:
The Landlord promises to:
- Repair and maintain the normal wear and tear of appliances — like the air conditioner or heater
- Respect the Tenant’s privacy and not make any surprise visits or allow anyone else to use the condo (“Quiet Enjoyment”)
- Provide a safe and clean home to the Tenant for the Term of the Lease
- Return the Tenant’s Security Deposit (with interest if required) if the Tenant treats the Premises like their own, and it is still in good condition at the end of the lease term
- Tell the Tenant in advance if they need to enter the Premises to fix something or show someone the property
The Tenant promises to:
- Pay the Landlord on time each month on a specific day
- Pay the utility company directly for light, gas, heating, and water
- Live in the home only with their spouse, children, and maybe even their parents or grandparents (“immediate family”)
- Not have a dog, cat, chinchilla, potbelly pig, or pet goat in the house without first asking the Landlord or paying a small fee (“Pet Policy”)
- Not start an illegal business like a meth lab or human trafficking scheme (only “residential” and “lawful” purposes)
A written agreement clearly spells out the detailed promises between the Landlord and Tenant. It also explains what should happen if they break their promises to each other.
Planning on running a landlord business professionally? Keep in mind that these promises carry the full weight of the law — avoid making these 7 major mistakes that could spell the end of your business.
When Do I Need a Lease Agreement?
When a formal relationship exists between two parties, the law recognizes that both the Landlord and Tenant have a special set of rights and obligations. A lease agreement helps protect both parties as well as the property being rented — be sure you use one every time you wish to occupy an apartment or house for lease.
A residential lease agreement has the added advantage of laying out potential problems that might occur while detailing possible solutions available to the Landlord and Tenant.
In contrast, an oral lease agreement (verbal, spoken, or word of mouth) is difficult to enforce in court, and is unlikely to accurately capture important details over time.
A written version, however, serves as a constant reminder to everyone, including yourself and the court, about what everyone agreed to at the beginning of the relationship.
If you choose not to use a lease agreement form, the consequences can be severe.
Take a look at this chart of preventable issues a generic lease agreement could resolve:
Potential Problems This Document Will Solve
|Lost rent money||Damaged or bad credit|
|Unpaid utility bills||Unable to find a new place|
|HOA fees for nuisance or eye sores||Getting sick because there is no heat|
|Property damage||Penalties for unpermitted use|
|Expensive lawyer fees||Expensive lawyer fees|
|Personal safety & well being||Property damage
|Risk of illegal activities||Personal safety & wellbeing
|Fear of Landlord|
3. How to Write a Lease Agreement
A standard residential lease agreement will generally contain the following:
1. Who is on the hook? (the “Parties”)
A simple rental agreement form needs to name the parties and where they live:
- The Landlord and their current address
- The Tenant and their current address
2. Where? (the “Premises”)
It is common sense for a Texas residential lease agreement to explicitly identify that everyone is talking about the same place — a sleek, modern studio apartment in Dallas or the attic room of a rustic home in a college town like Austin.
Our free rental agreement requires you write down the exact address and type of place — such as an apartment, house, or condo — being rented (the “Premises”).
3. For how long? (the “Term”)
A standard lease agreement should detail exactly when the lease term begins and ends. By listing the date, there is a clear understanding of the duration of the landlord-tenant relationship.
Depending on where you live, a month-to-month rental agreement carries a different set of rights and obligations than a 1-year lease agreement.
What is the difference between fixed-term and month-to-month?
A month-to-month lease means the agreement is for a one month period with no predetermined end date and continues month-to-month until either the landlord or tenant terminates the agreement.
A fixed-term lease means the agreement is set for a predetermined, fixed period of time, and expires at the end of the agreement. The length of time may be 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc.
A basic lease agreement of 1 year or more MUST be in writing in order to comply with the Statute of Frauds in most states.
Note: If the Tenant does not renew the Lease, and the Landlord allows the Tenant to continue staying on the Premises after the Lease expires, most states treat this as a month-to-month tenancy.
4. For how much? (the “Rent”)
Asking a tenant to “just pay what you think is fair,” or a generic number written on the back of a napkin is not an option.
Your lease agreement should explicitly list the monthly rental amount. If you are unsure of what the going rate is for a place, check out Zillow. You can also include the terms under which the rent may be subjected to change in the future by using a Notice of Rent Increase.
Another detail outlined in a standard lease agreement is a point about what happens if the rent is late. Will a late payment fee or interest rate apply?
For example, if the monthly rent of $500 is due on the first of the month, what happens if the rent is not paid until the 15th of the month? You can use a Late Rent Notice to ensure rent payment is made.
How much should I charge for rent?
It is at the landlord’s discretion to decide how much to charge for rent, but the cost is usually comparable to other properties within the same area. The monthly rent amount is typically based on the home’s real estate value and can range between 0.8 to 1.1 percent of a home’s value.
- $100,000 home value
- 0.8% to 1.1% of the home value
- $1000 monthly rent = .01 * $100,000 (1% example)
Other basic factors that may affect the rental price includes the neighborhood and the condition of the property. If you are not sure, it is best to check comparable properties in the area.
Please note that there are rent control laws for certain communities in five states:
- District of Columbia (D.C.)
- New Jersey
- New York
Standard rent control laws limit the amount that you are able to charge for rent. To ensure that you have the latest regulations on rent control, check your local rent control ordinance by looking up the local rent control board.
5. What about a Security Deposit?
Landlords have the right to collect a Security Deposit from their Tenants. Security Deposits are usually paid up front at the beginning of the lease.
- The Tenant promises that they will treat the Landlord’s home like their own.
- The Landlord promises that they will return the Security Deposit if the Tenant does not damage the Premises.
For more information about Security Deposits, please read this Wikipedia article.
Each state regulates the maximum amount a Landlord can collect from a Tenant as a security deposit. We recommend you check the requirements specific to your state, which should be findable with a simple Google search.
Furthermore, some states require Landlords to return Security Deposits to their Tenants within a certain amount of time — potentially with interest.
Usually, the Landlord can deduct the following amounts from the security deposit:
- Unpaid rent
- Cleaning costs
- Key replacement costs
- Cost to repair damages to Premises above ordinary wear and tear
- Cost to repair damages to common areas above ordinary wear and tear
- Any other amount legally allowable under the Lease
6. What other details should be included?
Here are some other useful details a written lease agreement might include:
- Access: may the Landlord come over to use the laundry machine?
- Alterations: can the Tenant paint the bedroom, hang a chandelier in the living room, or install a security alarm system?
- Guests: can the Tenant have a short-term guest stay for two weeks?
- Keys: how many copies of the key can be distributed?
- Pets: can the Tenant have a pet if they ask the Landlord?
- Right to Entry: can the Landlord come and make repairs or show the home to a possible future Tenant? Maybe only after giving the Tenant 24-hours advance notice, unless there is an emergency water pipe burst?
- Smoking Policy: can the Tenant smoke inside the Premises?
- Sublet: will the Tenant be allowed to sublet the apartment to someone else without the Landlord’s permission beforehand?
- Note: The subletting period must be for less than the lease term.
- Water Beds: can the Tenant have a waterbed or “liquid-filled furnishing” that uses 10 or more gallons of liquid?
- *Other: can the Tenant start a small garden in the backyard?
Fees & Payments
- Attorney Fees: who should pay the lawyer fees if there is a disagreement?
- Guarantor / Co-Signer: does the Landlord require the Tenant have someone pay rent if the Tenant is unable to do so?
- Insurance Liabilities: should the Tenant purchase renter’s insurance to cover possible theft or damage of their property?
- Late Rent Fee: should the Tenant be responsible for paying a late fee in the event they miss a rent payment?
- Utilities: who should pay and manage the utilities?
- Appliances: will the Landlord provide a refrigerator or dishwasher?
- Furniture: will the Tenant need to use the Landlord’s existing furniture?
- Option to Purchase: can the Tenant buy the house at a later time?
- Parking: where can the Tenant park their bicycle, Segway, car, or RV?
- Asbestos Disclosure: if the apartment was built before 1981, did the Landlord tell the Tenant not to hang pictures on the walls because asbestos exposure increases if the walls and ceilings crumble?
- Fire and Accidents: can the Tenant leave the Premises and end the Rental Contract if a fire, flood, or earthquake destroys the Premises?
- Lead Disclosure: if the house was built before 1978, did the Tenant receive a Lead-Based Paint Disclosure Form or EPA Pamphlet?
- Noise Policy: are there any quiet hours in the apartment building, condominium, or neighborhood?
- Notice: when must the Landlord tell the Tenant to leave?
- Property Maintenance: who is supposed to cut the grass, take out the garbage, or unclog the kitchen and bathroom drains?
- Renewal: is there an option for the Tenant to renew the Lease?
- Rent Increase: how much advance notice must the Landlord give?
- Default: what will happen if the Tenant does not pay rent, or violates a provision of the Rental Lease Agreement (i.e. notice of default, a chance to correct the problem, early termination of the Lease, or eviction proceedings)
- Condemnation: what if the City takes the Premises for a public purpose like building a library (i.e. eminent domain)
- Joint and several liability: if the rental unit is damaged by Tim the Tenant, his roommate Tina the Co-Tenant is also on the hook for the repair costs
- Successors: if Larry sells the home, the buyer becomes the new Landlord
- Assignment: if Larry transfers the right to collect rent to Anna, Anna is the “assign” and the Tenant must pay Anna rent
- Severability: if one part of the Rental Lease Agreement is invalid for any reason, the rest of the Lease is still enforceable (i.e. the bad part of the Lease is “severed” or cut out from the Lease)
7. When are you finally done?
Once you have finished negotiating and discussing the details . . .
Remember to PRINT, SIGN, and SAVE:
Step 1: Print – print TWO copies of the Rental Lease for you and the other party.
Step 2: Sign – BOTH the Tenant and Landlord need to sign AND date the Lease Agreement form
Step 3: Save – File a hard printed copy of the SIGNED document in a safe place AND scan a soft electronic copy in secure cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox.
Alternatively, let Legal Templates take care of this for you.
Step 1: Print or PDF – generate a PDF of the document using our easy form builder that you can print or email to the other party for review as you hash out the details.
Step 2: E-Sign & Share – digitally sign your name and allow the other party to sign electronically. E-signatures are validly recognized in most states.
Step 3: Save & Store – we save a digital copy of your signed agreement and store a copy for both parties on our secure server.
Even after it has been signed, remember to do a standard walkthrough of the Premises together. Before the Tenant moves into the Premises, use a rental inspection checklist like the one provided by the University of Santa Cruz (UCSC) to document the current condition of the Premises.
4. Landlord-Tenant Laws by State
Use the following table as a quick resource to find your specific state legislation for landlord leasing and rentals:
Most Common Landlord-Tenant Relationships
A landlord or tenant can actually be an organization or company that owns an entire apartment building, as well as just individual people.
Possible Landlords and Tenants
- An individual
- Homeowners and Renters
- Family members
- Users of a public online search engine
- i.e. PadMapper, Craigslist, Zillow, or AirBnB
- Husband and wife
- Same sex marriage partners
- An organization
- Public housing agency
- Company employer for an employee
- Property managers
- Tenant placement services
- Legally recognized domestic partners
- Boyfriend and girlfriend
5. Frequently Asked Questions
General Lease Agreement Questions
Should the lease start date (effective date) be the same as the move-in date?
The lease start date does not have to be the same as the move-in date. The lease start date is when your tenancy begins, and should be a date prior to the move-in date. Once the Tenant has finalized and signed the lease agreement with the Landlord, then they can move in at anytime starting from the effective date of the lease.
How should a Landlord handle violations of a lease agreement?
In the event the Tenant defaults for any reason other than failing to pay rent (i.e. having a pet if not permitted or breaking any other rule specified in the Agreement), the Landlord may give written notice to the Tenant to terminate the rental agreement form.
Specify the number of days in advance the Landlord will give to the Tenant before terminating the agreement. The notice period can vary by state so we recommend you check your local laws.
What is the difference between lease and rent?
The main difference between lease vs. rent is as follows:
Lease is the written agreement between a landlord and a tenant outlining the duration in which a piece of property will be rented.
Rent refers to the payment — typically a monthly payment — required to use a landlord’s property.
What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?
Arbitration is when an arbitrator — a neutral third party selected by the parties — evaluates the dispute and determines a settlement. The decision is final and binding.
Mediation is when a mediator — a neutral third party selected by the parties — tries to facilitate a compromise and agreement. The decision is nonbinding.
When is rent due?
The rent due date is the date when the Tenant has to hand over the rent due for that month.
Rent is usually due on the 1st of the month, but the Landlord is able to change it to another day.
Both the Landlord and Tenant are free to discuss when the best time to pay rent may be, but the Landlord ultimately has the authority to decide the monthly due date.
How will the rent be paid?
There are many ways to have rent paid, however, accepting cash from your Tenant is not recommended.
The most advisable methods of accepting a rental payment include:
- Personal check
- Cashier’s check
- Money order
These options are more safe and secure than cash since they provide a verifiable paper trail. Additionally, they help reduce the possibility of a non-payment dispute between the Landlord and the Tenant.
Whether your property is being managed by a third-party or yourself, the rental contract must provide the Tenant with a mailing address for paper checks to be delivered, as well as information regarding all acceptable forms of payment.
When should I charge prorated rent?
The Landlord may choose to charge prorated rent for a portion of the first month if the lease begins on a day other than the day the rent is due.
For instance, the Tenant moves in on March 18 but the Landlord wants the rent to be due on the 1st of the month. The Landlord would charge prorated rent for March 18th to March 31st and the regular monthly rent is due thereafter on April 1, May 1, and so on.
If monthly rent is $500 and due on the 1st of the month, see the following based on different move-in dates:
- April 1: $500 full rent
- April 15: $250 prorated rent
- April 19: $316.67 prorated rent ($500 / 30 days = $16.67 per day * 19 days = $316.67)
The prorated rent amount should be explicitly detailed in a residential lease agreement.
What is the grace period for late rent payments?
The grace period is a short period of time (typically 3-5 days) after the rent due date. During this time, the Tenant can still pay the rent without being charged a late fee. As long as the Tenant pays the rent before the end of the grace period, then a late fee will not be charged.
Some states regulate the length of the grace period. In other words, the Landlord must not charge a late fee for late rent for a certain number of days. Follow these guidelines if you aren’t sure what to do when the rent is late.
How much is the late fee?
Generally, most states do not put a limit on the late fee amount, although some do. Be sure to check the regulations for your specific state or locality to get a clear picture. However, the amount charged must be reasonable, or else it can likely be brought to court.
See below for examples:
- Reasonable Grace Period: 3-5 days
- One-Time Fee: 3-5% of rent amount
- (Optional) Daily Late Fee: $20 per day starting on 2nd late day
Example: Tenant with $500 monthly rent due Jan. 1, with a 5-day grace period:
- If within Jan 1-5: Tenant pays $500
Rent with a one-time late free:
- Jan 6: Tenant pays $525
($500 rent + 5% one-time late fee of $25 = $525)
Rent with both a one-time late fee and daily late fee starting on the second late day:
- Jan 7: Tenant pays $545
($500 rent + $25 late fee + $20 daily fee = $45)
What is a guarantor (or co-signer)?
A guarantor agrees to pay the rent and other charges on behalf of the Tenant, if and when the Tenant is unable to do so. The guarantor will jointly sign the lease agreement with the Tenant, and may also be referred to as a co-signer of the lease agreement.
The guarantor is commonly:
- A parent
- Close friend or relative
Should I require the tenant to have a guarantor?
Usually, if the Tenant does not have a lot of credit history or is particularly young (such as a college student), then the Landlord will require a co-signer or guarantor.
Requiring a co-signer for the Tenant is mainly for the Landlord’s protection if the Tenant defaults on the lease, in which case, the cosigner is responsible for paying the amount due to the Landlord.
A guarantor is usually someone in good financial standing or has excellent credit. Use a Lease Application in order to require any prospective tenants to undergo a background, credit, and proof of income check as well as supply a Employment Verification Letter before allowing them to sign a lease agreement.
Where can I learn more about failure to pay rent?
In the event the Tenant defaults by failing to pay rent, the Landlord may give written notice to the Tenant to terminate the agreement. The Landlord must give the Tenant adequate warning — in writing — a certain number of days before terminating the agreement. The notice period can vary by state, so we recommend you check your local laws.
Read these guidelines if you aren’t sure what to do when a Tenant is late paying the rent.
Security Deposit Questions
When can the landlord use the security deposit?
The Landlord may use the security deposit in certain circumstances specified in the lease agreement, such as in the event the premises are found to be damaged under the Tenant’s care. Landlords commonly charge an amount equal to one month of rent — subject to state laws.
When does the landlord return the security deposit to the tenant?
After the Tenant’s lease ends, the Landlord must return the security deposit to the Tenant within a certain number of days. Check the relevant laws in your state to learn the precise time frame a Landlord has to return the deposit to the Tenant.
Where can I learn more about security deposit regulations?
Security deposit rules are regulated by state and local law. It is strongly recommended that you check the relevant laws in your state to make sure these security deposit provisions meet those requirements. For example, some states require interest to be paid on the security deposit.
Who should be responsible for which utilities?
Normally the Tenant pays for all utilities, but in many cases the Landlord will pay for trash, and sometimes even water. However, you can specify which utilities (electricity, gas, telephone, television, water, trash, sewage, or any custom expense you wish to enter) must be paid by the Tenant, and which ones are paid by the Landlord.
Generally speaking, if the property has an individual meter to track the gas, water, and/or electricity usage of the Tenant, the Tenant will pay for his or her own utilities usage.
If there is no meter and utilities are shared, the Landlord should disclose this in the lease agreement form.
What happens if my property was built prior to 1978?
If the housing was built prior to 1978, the lease / rental agreement form will need to contain a disclosure page on lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards.
There is a federally-approved, printable disclosure form (“Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead Based Paint Hazards”) and simple information pamphlet (“Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home”) that you can download.
What additional information about the property should I include?
If your property requires an additional description or provisions on what is included or excluded from the lease, then it is best to include it — along with any restrictions regarding its use.
Examples of additional information might include:
- The use of the roof, a swimming pool, or some other shared common area in the building
- Neighborhood quiet hours or guidelines
- The presence of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA)
- Required maintenance of the property, such as lawncare or exterior upkeep
What additional provisions should I include?
Some states have mandatory provisions, such as disclosing the presence of asbestos or mold. Check your state and/or local laws, and include all necessary disclosures about the leased property.
It is part of the Landlord’s responsibility to provide livable premises for his or her Tenants. This includes the obligation to disclose if there is any aspect of the leased property that can cause injury, or harm the Tenant’s use of the property as a home.
Should I include a disclosure about asbestos or mold?
Asbestos was a common insulation material for houses built prior to 1975, and is a federally-recognized health hazard.
If you’re unsure of the maintenance and liability regarding mold in the rental property, be sure to detail it in the lease agreement, and enforce the responsibilities of property cleanliness.
Can I include more than one tenant on the lease agreement?
Yes, if the Tenants are living on the same Premises during the same time period and subject to the same terms of the Lease. This is referred to as “joint and several liability”.
Joint and several liability means that all the Tenants are responsible, both individually and/or collectively, for any property damage caused during the Lease.
What should be included in the pet policy?
The pet policy should clearly outline:
- the type of pets that are allowed (if any)
- how many of each type
- the expected care and cleanliness to be maintained
You can also specify any rules regarding the pet and whether you retain the right to change the pet agreement — as long as you give proper notice (typically 30 days).
What should be included in the visitor policy?
The residential visitor policy should specify if guests are allowed and under what conditions.
For example, you may include:
- the maximum length of time a guest can stay
- whether or not giving notice to roommates is required
- and/or any rules and regulations that the visitor must follow during their stay
Learn more about right of entry regulations
Right of entry rules are regulated by state and local law. By default a Rental Lease Agreement includes the Landlord’s right to enter the property at reasonable times to inspect the property, make improvements or repairs, as well as enter in times of emergency.
As the Landlord, it is a good idea to give reasonable notice to your Tenant before entering the property.
For example, in the event of a pipe leaking, you may enter the property, but it is wise to give notice to the Tenant.