When a property owner decides to let another individual or individuals live in her property for a fee, the owner becomes a landlord, and the person paying the fee becomes the tenant. The agreement the landlord and tenant strike is the lease agreement. Once both parties sign a standard lease agreement, they must abide by certain laws. Even if some laws are not specified in the lease agreement, landlords and tenants must still abide by them.
State and Federal Law
A landlord must provide a property that has an implied warranty of habitability, which means the property must have heat, water, plumbing and structural integrity. In other words, the property must be fit to live in. State laws govern how the landlord handles the security deposit, require the lease to be in plain English as opposed to legalese, set rules on damages the tenant is responsible for and establish termination rights for both parties.
Standard Lease Example
While there is no such thing as a standard lease agreement, a lease agreement can have standard items in it. A typical rental agreement contains the names of the landlord and tenant, the address of the property, the rent amount, when the rent is due, who the rent is paid to, when the rent is considered late, what the late fees are, what the returned check fees are and the amount of the security deposit. The rental agreement can also state whether pets are allowed and, if so, how many; how many people can live on the property; who is responsible for utilities; whether the tenant is responsible for lawn and yard maintenance and whether the tenant can sublet the property.
In the rental agreement, landlords should disclose any property defects. This protects the tenants from the landlord claiming the tenant caused the defect when it comes time to move out. How long the tenant is renting the property should be in the lease agreement. If it isn't, the state assumes the rental is month-to-month. Stating the length protects both parties. For example, if the tenant signs a one-year lease and wants to move out after only three months, that is breaking the lease, and depending on the state and the particular lease agreement, the tenant suffers some consequences, such as being responsible for the rent until the landlord can re-rent the property. Stating the length also protects the tenant from the landlord kicking him out without notice.
Read Before Signing
A tenant should always read the rental agreement before signing it to know what the terms are. This is the time for tenants to negotiate any terms that may be unfavorable. If a tenant breaks anything in the lease agreement, the landlord has grounds for eviction. If a tenant does negotiate a term different from the lease agreement, the landlord should note the change on the lease. This is either done by the landlord retyping and issuing a new lease or by crossing out or writing in handwriting any changes with both the tenant and the landlord initialing the change.