A residential lease agreement is a contract between a landlord and a tenant for the lease or rental of a house, apartment, condominium, duplex or other residential property. Both the landlord and tenant should carefully consider the terms and form of the agreement before signing as an agreement that is signed by both parties becomes a legally binding contract.

The Parties

The parties to a lease are the landlord and one or more tenants. The landlord is the rental property owner, his agent, or a rental management company. The landlord agrees to allow the tenants to live on the property in exchange for the payment of rent. The tenants are the residents of the property who pay rent to live on the property.

The Agreement

The lease agreement is the written or oral contract that contractually binds the parties. While lease agreements may be made orally, they are generally placed in writing. The specific terms of the agreement along with state or local laws govern the agreement.

Standard Lease Terms

Generally, standard residential lease terms may include:

  • the parties’ names
  • a description of the residence to be leased, including apartment numbers if applicable
  • the lease term
  • when the lease begins and ends
  • amount of rent
  • the rent’s due date
  • penalties for late rent payments
  • acceptable forms of payment
  • amount security deposit
  • other deposits such as key deposits, pet deposits, and garbage usage deposits
  • responsibility of the landlord to pay utilities such as water, heat, electricity
  • physical alterations to the premises
  • the parties’ responsibilities for repair and maintenance
  • early lease termination
  • lease termination notices
  • the payment of costs and fees associated with a lawsuit regarding the lease
  • pet rules
  • maintenance of renter’s insurance
  • renewal options, and
  • the circumstances under which the landlord may enter the property

Other Restrictions

The lease should also mention any other restrictions upon the tenants. Restrictions limit certain activities such as whether the tenant can operate a business from the home, noise restrictions, parking rules, and regulations regarding the use of common areas.

Unenforceable Lease Terms

Under the law, certain terms of a lease may not be enforceable. For example, a landlord cannot withhold personal property for late rent, enter the premises without proper notice, requiring a tenant to pay all damages to a residence without regard to fault, or require certain limitations on race, gender, or disability.

Compliance with Applicable Laws

A residential lease agreement must comply with all federal, state, and local laws regarding housing. A landlord must comply with antidiscrimination, disclosures regarding a building’s structure, presence of mold or flooding, rent control laws, laws regarding security deposits, health and safety laws, rights of tenants to sublet, and landlord entry upon the premises.

Conclusion

A residential rental or lease agreement covers the rights and responsibilities of the parties to the lease. Various federal, state, and local laws apply to residential leases that impose certain restrictions upon landlords, such as discriminating against tenants based on race, gender, or disability.

A lease should include key terms such as the lease period, a description of the rental property, the amount of rent due, when rent is due, and should outline the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant.