What to Include in Your Leasing Agreement
The old adage goes, “a verbal agreement is as good as the paper it’s written on.” The kindest, most accommodating landlords still must protect themselves and their property. To do so, they need to provide clear and understandable terms and rules for their tenants in a written lease agreement. Here is a list of what to include in your leasing agreement.
- Names: Name all parties to the agreement. Each named person should sign the lease, including the landlord and every adult who will be living in the leased property. Every person whose signature appears will be responsible for upholding the terms of the lease. This way, if one tenant fails to pay rent, the other (or others) will still be responsible. The same goes for breaking rules about pets or smoking.
- Property Description: Include the full property address, with the unit or apartment number, and any extras such as a parking space or storage. Specify the rules for common areas shared by all tenants and what areas are off-limits.
- Rent: Spell out the amount of the monthly rent, and when, how, and where the tenant will need to pay it. What types of payment will you accept—checks only? Or are electronic payments OK? Further, specify the start and end date of the lease and the terms and notice requirements for renewal.
- Term: Most leases are for a one-year term, but some are shorter. Specify start and end dates, and deadlines for giving notice of intention to renew (or not).
- Fees: If you require a security deposit, state how much, and under what circumstances you will retain or return the deposit. Also list fees for late-payments or for use of any common areas that require an additional fee.
- Maintenance and Repair – Right of Entry: Consistent with applicable laws, reserve the right to enter the rental property to inspect it and perform maintenance and repairs with adequate notice. Tenants should agree to maintain the property in good and clean condition and to alert the landlord immediately if something breaks, is defective, or if a dangerous condition exists. Clearly spell out restrictions on altering the property, such as painting or creating built-in shelving.
- Restrictions: Be clear about prohibiting subleasing, including restrictions on short-term stays through programs such as Airbnb. State if you prohibit pets (other than service animals, which aren’t really pets) or smoking. Additionally, define the maximum number of people who may occupy the unit. You may think it goes without saying that illegal and disruptive activities are against the rules but specify it anyway and define the consequences of violations.
- Contact: Finally, identify how tenants should contact the landlord. Think about requiring tenants to request repairs or give important notices (like the intention to move out) in writing, with dates. Good recordkeeping is part of a landlord’s responsibility and could protect all parties in the event of a dispute.
Beware of “cookie-cutter” or form leases; each property lease may have individual considerations. There are knowledgeable residential property management companies such as Excalibur Homes in Atlanta you may consult. Also, check with your real estate attorney to review the lease you intend to use for your property. They’ll make sure you covered all your bases and comply with applicable state, local, and federal laws.