The rental agreement (or lease) governs the entire rental relationship from a financial and legal standpoint. This includes the amount of rent, when it’s due, and how to pay it; how many people can live in the apartment, including rules for subletting; what each party’s duties are, and what to do if either party fails to perform.
Common Lease Agreements
While leases occasionally are reached with a verbal agreement and a handshake, they more often involve a written lease agreement. Certain provisions, including the names of the two parties and the address of the rental unit, are standard. But lease agreements are all different, depending on the landlord’s wishes and the limits of the law.
Common provisions include, but are not limited to, the following:
Description of the rental property
Length (term) of the lease
Amount and due date of rent
Late fees (if applicable)
Rules for pets
Parameters for when landlord may enter the property
Security deposit amount
While verbal lease agreements may be considered valid, you should always insist that the terms are in writing in order to best protect your interests.
Illegal (Unenforceable) Lease Provisions
Just because it’s written in a lease agreement doesn’t mean it’s enforceable. Certain provisions violate federal law, such as requirements that a tenant be a certain gender or not be a certain race, color, or nationality.
Other issues that violate the law and are thus unenforceable include the following:
Agreements allowing the landlord to enter the property at any time, without warning
Agreements that tenant will pay for all damages, regardless of fault
Agreements that landlord can repossess property if tenant is late with the rent
Ending a Lease
When you sign a lease, you sign a legal agreement with the owner of a rental property. So it makes sense to get a complete understanding of what it is you’re agreeing to.