Residential Lease Agreements are vital legal contracts for managing real estate. Create a comprehensive agreement between landlords and tenants today with our step-by-step survey and templates.
Last Update August 3rd, 2021
What Is a Lease
A residential lease is a contract between a tenant and landlord that allows the tenant to take temporary ownership of the property in exchange for regular rental payments. Around 100 million Americans live in rental properties and many of these people have entered into residential lease agreements.
For rolling month-by-month contracts a rental agreement will normally be used. It is a more flexible and short term contract that could potentially be modified for each continuous rental term.
Leases on the other hand are usually longer-term contracts covering many months or years. They have set terms that do not change as frequently or as flexibly as is the case for a rental contract.
Standard Lease Agreement
A standard lease agreement is a landlord-tenant contract that typically has a duration of at least a year. It includes various standard sections as well as specific provisions which depend on the property, state, and type of lease in question.
Once the agreement has been signed, it becomes legally binding.This means that if any of the conditions are broken by either party, specific legal actions will be applied. These vary from state to state, so it’s necessary to familiarize yourself with the laws of the state in which the property is located.
However, any type of lease agreement, where it’s standard or not, will have certain legal repercussions if the conditions are broken by one of the two parties.
What Does a Residential Lease Agreement Include
As a binding legal contract between the landlord and the tenant, there are many key pieces of information that must appear in the final signed lease agreement document. Most residential lease agreement templates must include the following details:
The names and addresses of the landlord, property manager (if applicable), and tenant(s).
The location and description of the residential premises that is to be leased.
The duration of the lease.
How often rent must be paid.
The amount of rent that must be paid for each new rental term.
Details on how much must be paid for the security deposit.
The key terms outlining how the property may and may not be used e.g. whether pets can be kept.
Information on which party is responsible for repairs and maintenance.
Any additional fees or service payments that the tenant must pay on a regular basis.
The rules on how either party must act if the agreement ends early. For example, if an eviction notice is served.
How to Write a Residential Lease Agreement
A residential lease agreement can potentially run for many months or years. Therefore it is important that the final document covers all the right bases and accurately describes the premises, its location, and the proposed conditions of the agreement.
Most of the details listed in the section above need to find their way onto the finalized contract. To establish this information you must first talk with the prospective tenant to decide on terms that are favorable to both parties.
Once the agreement terms are decided in principle and the tenant is sure that they want to commit to the contract, the landlord should then gather the details of the potential lessee to complete the draft document. This will also be used to screen the tenant’s credit history and criminal record prior to presenting and signing the lease agreement.
After reviewing the tenant’s circumstances the landlord can decide whether to proceed further with the process. If everything checks out ok, the landlord or property manager and tenant can meet and sign the contract. From there, keys can be exchanged and the tenant can be granted access to the rental premises.
Remember, a rental or lease agreement must conform to the property laws in your state. When filling out the template remember to keep this in mind.
Using LawDistrict’s step-by-step template customization tools you can easily select the correct form for your state. This will guide you through all the key considerations you’ll need to cover in the final contract so that no key details are missed.
Parties in a Lease Agreement
There are usually two key parties bound by a lease agreement contract. The landlord and the tenant. However, there are occasionally other stakeholders who might need to be factored in.
One such example is a property manager or rental agent. Landlords with multiple properties or rental units will often entrust the administration of their portfolio to a third party. These professionals act as an intermediary between the landlord and the tenant.
In some cases, if the property is managed by an agency or hired employee of the landlord, it will also be necessary to include them on the lease agreement. They will often sign the contract on behalf of the landlord if they have been authorized to do so.
Security Deposit Laws (by State)
Most rental properties are secured by a monetary deposit made by the tenant at the start of the agreement. Each state has its own rules on what landlords may and may not charge for this security payment.
Below you’ll find information on how much a landlord can legally demand for a deposit and how quickly they must return the downpayment once the agreement reaches its natural end or is terminated by agreement.
|State||Maximum Deposit Amount||Return Time|
- 2 months' rent if unfurnished
- 3 months' rent if furnished
|60 days after the move-out date|
- 30 days if deductions are made
- 15 days if no deductions are made
|Georgia||No limit||30 days after the contract termination date|
- 30 days if deductions are made
- 45 days if no deductions are made
|Michigan||1,5 months' rent||30 days after occupancy has ended|
|New Jersey||1,5 months' rent||30 days after the contract termination date|
|New York||1 months' rent||14 days after the tenant has vacated the property|
- 1 months' rent with a written contract
- 1,5 months' rent without a written contract
- 60 days if deductions are made
- 30 days if no deductions are made
|Ohio||No limit||30 days after the contract termination date|
|Pennsylvania||2 months' rent||30 days after the contract termination date|
|Texas||No limit||30 days after the tenant has vacated the property|
|Virginia||2 months' rent||45 days after the contract termination date|
Violation of a Lease Agreement
If a lease agreement is violated by a tenant the landlord may have the right to terminate the contract with the resident and to serve an eviction notice. If this happens, most contracts and state laws require the landlord to serve a “cure or quit” notice which requires the tenant to correct the violation or leave within a set time period.
However, in some states more serious violations involving property damage and illegal activity on the property could lead to the instant termination of a contract. It is therefore important to review your local property legal codes to determine what situations you are entitled to cancel the contract immediately or when a notice period must be given.
Lease Termination Letter
When the lease comes to its natural end or the tenant violates the lease agreement the landlord can send a lease termination letter. This indicates their intention not to renew the contract.
In most cases, these documents are used to inform renters with periodic tenancy which are renewed on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis that the landlord wishes to longer rent their property to them. This is often done if they wish to sell the property being rented.
However, a lease termination letter can also be written by the tenant asking to be released from the contract. If this happens, it will usually be at the owner or property manager’s discretion to end the lease early depending on how the original contract is written to cover this situation.
Lease Agreement Sample
When you prepare your own residential lease agreement it can be hard to know where to begin if you don’t have a clear idea of what the final document will look like. If you need a little extra guidance on how your final contract will appear simply review our lease agreement sample below.
Lease Agreement FAQs
Residential lease agreements contain many intricate details and must be written with care. If you’re still unsure of what steps you may need to take to complete your document or what info you need to get down on paper read our FAQs below for more information.
What Is the Difference Between a Lease and a Rental Agreement?
The biggest difference between a lease agreement and a rental agreement is the length of the contract. In most cases a lease allows the tenant to live in a property with the conditions set for a number of months. A rental agreement on the other hand is a rolling contract that is renewed after each rental term has lapsed.
Do I Need to Notarize My Residential Lease Agreement?
Usually, a residential lease agreement doesn’t need to be notarized or witnessed according to most state and federal laws. Yet, it is still recommended as a means of combatting fraud.
Signing a residential lease agreement in front of witnesses or a notary public ensures that all parties are seen to be fully aware of the terms of the contract being signed. Furthermore, it ensures that both the tenant and landlord are who they say they are and also makes the document and signatures harder to falsify.
What Happens When a Residential Lease Ends?
When a residential lease ends the landlord and tenant have the option to either continue with their current agreement or to end it permanently.
In most situations, the landlord may adjust some of the contract conditions such as the amount of rent that’s paid during each rental term. The tenant then has the option to accept the new contract or leave the property within a certain amount of time.
However, sometimes this is not an option as the landlord may no longer wish to rent the property to the tenant. If this occurs a lease termination eviction notice will usually be served.
Yet be aware, if a landlord continues to collect rent for rental terms after the contract has ended you will enter a lease holdover situation and not have the right to evict the tenant legally. You will instead have to wait until the rental term that has been paid for has ended.
How To Write a Lease Termination Letter?
If you are a landlord and you wish to end your rental contract with a tenant you should first send the renter a lease termination letter. This clearly states your desire to end the tenancy.
The letter must contain the following information:
The start date and the termination date of the contract
How many days’ notice is being given of the lease termination
The reason that the contract will not be continued
Where the security deposit can be paid (if a tenant is ending the tenancy)
Either a landlord or tenant can write this letter to indicate a desire to end a residential lease agreement or a rental agreement. However, if the renter wishes to end the contract early the landlord may still hold them to the full term unless there are clear early termination clauses that allow the agreement to be ended early.
Where Can I Get a Lease Agreement Form?
A lease agreement form can be created, customized, and completed online using LawDistrict’s step-by-step legal document making tools. All you need to do is follow the state-specific guided instructions and enter the precise information for your rental property and prospective tenant.