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Standard Lease Provisions

Residential lease agreements are essential to renting an apartment or a house. These agreements protect the landlord and the renter alike. While a standard lease agreement is a binding contract between tenant and landlord, templates cannot replace a document that a real estate attorney drafted.

Lease agreements help to avoid or settle legal disputes during the tenancy period. There are no restrictions on the length of time a lease may cover. Short-term tenancies and long-term tenancies need leases.

This article provides a snapshot of standard lease provisions and some unenforceable lease provisions if you're renting out your property.

Understanding Residential Lease Agreements

Once you approve your prospective tenant's rental application, the next step in the leasing process is to sign a residential lease agreement. Lease agreements outline the rights and responsibilities of all parties to the lease. For example, the tenant must pay rent, and the landlord must maintain common areas and make necessary repairs.

Many landlords have a standard lease. You should review your lease structure to ensure it follows federal law, state law, and local ordinances. For example, under federal law, landlords must disclose the use of lead-based paint in buildings constructed before 1978.

Common Lease Provisions

Standard lease provisions that set forth landlord and tenant rights and obligations include the following clauses:

  • The parties' names: Include occupancy restrictions, and identify all parties to the lease. This includes contact information for the landlord and tenant and emergency contacts for the tenant.
  • A description of the rental property: Include the property address and whether the rental includes amenities such as a parking space.
  • The term of the lease: Identify the length of time for which the lease is in effect. What is the start date and end date? Is there a lease renewal provision? Does it include a rent increase? Without this information, the term can revert to a month-to-month lease. Month-to-month leases offer no obligation for a fixed period.
  • Move-in and move-out: Specify when the tenant may move in and when they must move out. Typically, the move-out date coincides with the end of the lease.
  • The amount of rent: State in writing the amount of rent per month for the rental property.
  • The due date for rent payments: Again, all parties should be clear on the rent amount, when the monthly rent is due, and how much time may pass before assessing a late fee. Many leases identify the day of the month to pay rent.
  • Security deposit: Tenants should know the deposit amount before signing the lease.
  • Whether the tenant is subject to late fees: If it's not in the contract, the landlord can't charge a late fee.
  • Maintenance responsibilities: Property managers often clarify what they will and won't fix and the procedure for getting something fixed.
  • Termination notice requirements: If either party needs to terminate the lease, have a procedure in place ahead of time. Most procedures require written notice with a time provision and an early termination fee before the tenant or landlord can terminate the lease. Some courts may include attorney fees if the landlord prevails in court.
  • When the landlord may enter the rental propertyWhile landlords can enter the rental property under limited conditions, they must respect the lessee's privacy.
  • Rules concerning pets: Outline the rules about pets in the lease agreement. This includes any additional rent for pets and breed restrictions.
  • Subleasing: Identify whether the tenant can sublet the rental property.

There is no written requirement for rental agreements. Written agreements are easier to enforce and provide clarity for all parties. A mutually agreed upon lease amendment can be made to include any changes to the lease that may come up after signing the lease agreement.

Unenforceable Lease Clauses

Some clauses appearing in a written lease or rental agreement are not enforceable. These include:

  • Repossession of the rental if the tenant doesn't pay rent: Landlords have no right to self-help. This includes removing the tenant's personal property. A landlord must follow the local eviction procedure if they want to evict.
  • Allowing the landlord to enter the rental unit without notice: This violates the tenant's right to privacy. Landlords should provide reasonable times to enter the rental unit to the tenant.

Get Help

Lease agreements are binding, so both parties must understand them. Template language may include the lease terms and late fees, among others.

Before you sign, consider speaking to an attorney well-versed in landlord-tenant law. These attorneys understand local laws, rules, and regulations and can provide sound advice before you sign.

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