Your Guide To A Residential Lease Agreement

If you’re getting ready to lease a rental unit, then you need to have a residential lease agreement. In most cases, it is required by law for the landlord and the renter to have signed an agreement before leasing a property.

The document itself is easy to write, but you need to make sure you use it properly. Chances are that you’ve seen one and possibly even signed one before, especially if you’ve ever rented an apartment or a house.

If you’re in doubt, you can always ask an attorney to make sure you’re going in the right direction. To help you get started, we will discuss these agreements, as well as what needs to be in them, so they stay applicable for your situation.

What Is a Residential Lease Agreement?

Residential lease agreements are forms used for renting real estate like houses or apartments. These lease agreements provide protection for you whether you’re the landlord or the tenant.

Simply put, when there is property involved, a lease agreement is necessary to keep everyone aware of what is expected. That includes everything from property descriptions, types of property, lease terms, rental payments, and consequences for violations.

You can write one up yourself, or you can have one written up for you. You can even find copies of residential lease agreements online. There are several legal companies that offer these PDF downloads for free or for a low cost. Once you find the one you want, you’re as good as done.

Alternatively, you can approach a real estate attorney to have an agreement written up for you instead. Finding someone experienced with writing agreements like this would be a good idea even if you found a downloadable document online. At the very least, it would benefit you to have someone read over a pre-written agreement to make sure that you’re fully compliant.

Lease Agreement vs. Rental Agreement

Lease agreements are not the same as rental agreements even though they serve a similar purpose. Both are completed before a rental can be approved, but there are some key differences between them.

Residential lease agreements are meant to cover a given length of time and are very specific in the details about the property as well as landlord and renter information. Length of time set in a lease agreement do not get changed. It cannot legally be changed. That means that you are locked into a lease until it ends or until it gets terminated. They do not get renewed.

Rental agreements are different in that they expire and renew automatically. Landlords can also increase the amount of rent without actually violating anything. This is a fundamental difference between the two different types of agreements.

Rental agreements tend to be shorter, too. Because these run month to month, terms can be adjusted at the whim of the landlord as long as the agreement is compliant with local laws.

Remember, rental agreements and lease agreements are different in their expectations and the way they work when used for renting properties. It’s important to know which one you’re using so you know the limitations that exist on either one.

How to Write a Lease Agreement

There are specific things that you need to include in a residential lease agreement. Start out with a lease agreement title at the top to make it obvious that this is a legally binding contractual agreement.

You’ll need to make sure that all parties involved in the lease agreement are identified. That means listing the landlord information and the tenant information. Within the section, you need to also make sure it is very clear who is taking on what role regarding lessee and lessor.

Contact information needs to be clearly recognizable. That means phone numbers and address information for anyone and everyone that is signing the residential lease agreement.

You’ll also need to include the property that is being leased. You need to have the complete address and unit number if that is part of the property that is on the agreement. You’ll also need to make sure you give a detailed description of the unit and its condition within the rental agreement.

Be sure to include the dates that the lease applies. That means that you’ll need to have the starting date and ending date. You’ll also need to have a total length of time included in the lease agreement. If it is six months, make sure that’s in there.

If it’s twelve months, then that’s what needs to be said. This is also the section where you make it known whether or not there is an option for early termination.

Payment terms also are included in the rental agreement. That means that you need to specify the day rent is due, where rental payment needs to be sent, whether or not the payment includes utilities and a grace period. Is there a late fee? What is the deposit? What does it take to get the deposit back once the agreement expires?

Residential Lease Agreement Responsibilities

Inside the lease, you have to make sure that you assign responsibilities as necessary. Who is responsible for paying utilities like water, electricity, and gas? Is the landlord responsible for taking care of the area outside? Do you need to make sure you mow the lawn if you’re renting a house or is someone else supposed to do that?

On behalf of the renter, it needs to be made known that the landlord is responsible for resolving problems that may occur on the property. If there are issues with the plumbing or with the home, apartment, or other rental property, and you’re the renter, you need to know who to contact.

If you’re the landlord, then you need to make sure you spell out tenant obligations. It seems obvious, but you need to add that the property is meant for residential purposes and nothing further. You also need to make sure that the tenant knows what to do if damages occur as a result of renter negligence.

Having pets is a frequent question that comes up, too. You need to decide whether or not you’re going to allow pets and determine the associated deposit that usually goes along with allowing pets. If you prefer not to have pets on your property, you need to make that known.

Dealing with Violations When Leasing

The best tenants won’t break or violate their leases, but the reality is that some of them will eventually. You need to have consequences written out in the residential lease agreement, so the tenants know what to expect if violations were to occur.

Consequences as a result of breaching the contract or other violation can include everything from warnings to eviction, and even repossession if necessary. It is possible that tenants can even face court actions for breaking a lease if lease termination isn’t followed correctly.

Once everything has been given a proper explanation, then all parties involved need to sign. The signature is proof that the landlord and tenant have agreed to the terms set forth in the residential lease agreement.

A Few Last Words on Residential Lease Agreements

Having a residential lease agreement is important for both the person acting as the landlord as well as the tenant. You need to have one so that everyone knows where they stand for the length of the agreement.

Rental agreements are great for monthly arrangements, but if you’re in need of a long-term rental, then you’ll end up using a lease agreement. If you’re the tenant, make sure you know what you’re getting into. If you’re the landlord, know what to use in whatever situation you’re facing.

Finally, you’ll want to ensure that you comply with local laws for whatever document you’re using. If there are laws against how much you can raise the rent, become familiar with them. If there are laws that prevent you from being able to evict a tenant without a given amount of notice, you want to know that, too.