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What Is a Lease Agreement?

A lease agreement is a legal document outlining the rental terms for either a commercial or residential property between the property owner, also known as the landlord or lessor, and the renter, also known as the tenant or lessee. These documents may also be called apartment leases or lease forms, though the lease agreements are not limited to apartments.

Creating a thorough and effective lease agreement is very important as it protects all parties involved throughout the length of the lease. While many landlords begin with boilerplate lease agreements, the language and terms are negotiable by all parties until signed, at which point the lease agreement becomes a legally binding document.

Types of Leases

People can lease all manner of property, including items like cars and boats. Most frequently, however, lease agreements are used for real estate, both residential and commercial. A few of the most common types of leases include:

  • Commercial lease: Commercial property like offices.
  • Condominium lease: A residential property that shares some building amenities with other tenants.
  • Family member lease: For family members leasing property.
  • Hunting lease: To use private property for hunting.
  • Lease-to-own lease: Provides the option to purchase the property from the landlord.
  • Month-to-month lease: A type of short-term lease agreement.
  • Parking space lease: To use for parking a vehicle on private property.
  • Room lease: Leasing a single room within a home.
  • Standard lease: Used for single-family homes, apartments, and other residential properties.
  • Sublet lease: A lease created by the renter for adding a renter to the lease.
  • Short-term lease: Used for short-term leases of unusual periods.
  • Weekly lease: Used often for vacation properties.

Elements of a Lease Agreement

Lease agreement terms can differ greatly depending on the type of lease and the specific needs of the renter and landlord. However, basic elements include:

  • Contact information: Include information for the landlord and all adults who will live at the property.
  • Property details: Describe the property with its address, square footage, amenities, and other important identifiers.
  • Lease specifics: Explain the type of lease, such as residential, and the terms, such as the end date.
  • Rent details: List the monthly rent amount and the date it's due each month.
  • Rights and obligations: Provide the rights for the landlord and tenants, such as entry or giving notices.
  • Dispute resolution: Outline the steps to resolve any disputes over the property or lease agreement.
  • Deposit and fees: List the amount of any security or other deposits or additional fees.
  • Occupancy limits: Provide specifics for how many people and who specifically can reside at the property.
  • Restrictions: List any restrictions, like installing additional appliances or making changes to permanent fixtures.
  • Pets: Describe whether or not pets are allowed and the specifics related to pets on the property.
  • Maintenance and repairs: List what maintenance and repairs are provided by the landlord.
  • Utilities: Explain who is responsible for paying which utilities.

Lease Agreement Templates

Purchase and download templates drafted by lawyers in our network that match your needs.
Month-to-Month Lease
For monthly residential leases.
Lease Addendum
For updating a current lease.
Room Rental
For residential room rentals.
Roommate Agreement
For agreement among roommates.
Lease Termination
For terminating a current lease.
Standard Lease
For annual residential leases.
*By purchasing a template, you acknowledge that you have read and understood ContractsCounsel's Terms of Use.

Addendum, Disclosures, and Notices

Some leases require additional documentation in the form of addenda, disclosures, and notices. Usually, disclosures are included with the initial lease, while addenda and notices can be added to the lease later.

  • Addendum: An addendum is an addition to the lease. Common examples include adding pet terms to a lease or documenting a change in one of the renters.
  • Disclosures: Disclosures are often legally required to ensure renters understand all aspects of the property they're renting. An example might be the possible existence of old lead paint in a home built prior to a certain date.
  • Notices: Notices are official announcements. For example, a renter might give notice that they don't intend to renew their lease for another year.

Lease Agreement End Dates

Leases generally have two possible end dates — either fixed term or automatic renewal. Fixed-term end dates provide a specific time frame in which the lease is active. At the end of the lease, both parties must agree to renew and either include an addendum to the lease extending its length or write up a new lease. An automatic renewal continues indefinitely unless either the landlord or the renter provides notice dissolving the lease.

Lease agreement

Image via Unsplash by Sebastian Herrmann

Lease Agreement vs. Rental Agreement

Often, the terms "lease agreement" and "rental agreement" are used interchangeably. However, some people do use them to mean specific things, so it's essential that you clarify with the other parties involved in a lease agreement what the terms of the contract are.

Generally, lease agreements refer to long-term property contracts, usually over 30 days. Lease agreements also tend to have fixed-term end dates. Rental agreements, by contrast, refer to short-term property contracts, usually under 30 days. A new agreement is generally required to renew.

What Is a Rent-to-Own Lease Agreement?

Rent-to-own lease agreements, also called option-to-purchase or lease-to-own agreements, give the renter the option to buy the property at a predetermined price or the option to apply a portion of the rent towards the purchase price if the tenant decides to buy the property in the future. In most cases, the renter pays an option fee to the landlord for the right to purchase the property later. If the renter decides not to go through with the purchase, then the landlord keeps the option fee.

See Lease Agreement Pricing by State

Lease Agreement Laws

Every state in the country has its own laws and regulations regarding leasing and renting property. If you're a landlord, it's vital you understand the laws for your state to ensure your lease agreement properly accounts for all the legal necessities for you and your tenants. Most states have laws outlining:

  • General landlord and tenant rights.
  • Security deposits.
  • Landlord's access to the property once the tenant takes up residence.
  • Late rent payments.
  • Lease agreement violations.

How to Create a Lease Agreement

Landlords have a couple of options when writing a lease agreement. You can create your own by using a standard template and adjusting it to meet the needs of your tenants. However, if you're not well-versed in the landlord and tenant laws that govern your state, you may not adequately cover all the necessary terms in your lease. It's often better to consult a contract attorney who can help you draft a lease agreement that protects both you and your tenant while meeting all state legal obligations.

Important Terms

When writing or reviewing a lease, you'll probably come across some industry terms. These are the most common and important to understand:

  • Alterations: Changes to the property,  such as paint or fixtures.
  • Appliances: Items like ranges and refrigerators that are included with the property.
  • Cosigner: A third-party who helps the primary tenant pay the rent.
  • Furnishings: A list of all included furniture like tables, couches, and beds.
  • Guarantor: A third-party who will pay the rent if the primary tenant cannot.
  • Governing law: Reference to the state laws that govern the lease.
  • Guests: The number of people who can visit the property at one time.
  • House rules: Agreed-upon rules like quiet hours.
  • Insurance: Disclosure of any landlord-provided insurance protection for the tenants.
  • Late charges: The amount of money the tenant will have to pay in addition to their rent if payment is late.
  • Monthly rent: The amount of money due each month.
  • Parking: Explanation of whether parking is included, where, and for how many vehicles.
  • Receipt of agreement: All parties must have a copy of the signed lease for it to be valid.
  • Renewal option: An explanation of the terms and conditions related to renewing the lease.
  • Security deposit: The amount of the security deposit and the terms for the tenant to get it back at the end of the lease.
  • Subletting: An explanation of whether subletting is allowed and the specifics for adding a subletter.
  • Termination: Specifics for early termination of the lease and any monetary penalties associated.
  • Utilities: A description of which party is responsible for which utilities.

Lease agreements are legally binding agreements, so the language within the lease must be clear and comprehensive. Consider using the expertise of a contract lawyer to help you craft an effective lease agreement that protects everyone involved.

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Namrita N. on ContractsCounsel
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Attorney at Law
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Plano, TX
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Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Retired Dentist transitioned to Law, with a special interest in Commercial Real Estate, Startup businesses, Asset Purchase Agreements, and Employment Contracts. I love to help dentists and physicians with legal issues pertaining to licensing, credentialing, employment, and general business-legal questions.

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Arlington, VA
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Licensed in DC, IL, VA
Loyola University Chicago

15 years for legal experience; expertise in contracts, healthcare, ERISA, physicians, financial services, commercial contracts, employment agreements, etc. I am adept at all contracts and can provide you with efficient and quality services. I have worked at a law firm, financial services company, consulting ,and non-profit.

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Miami/Coral Gables, FL
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Lawrence A. “Larry” Saichek is an AV rated attorney and a CPA focusing on business and real estate transactions, corporate law and alternative dispute resolution. With a background including five years of public accounting and six years as “in house” counsel to a national real estate investment company, Larry brings a unique perspective to his clients – as attorney, accountant and businessman. Many clients think of Larry as their outside “in house” counsel and a valued member of their team. Larry is also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator and a qualified arbitrator with over 25 years of ADR experience.

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Melissa Taylor, the President and founding partner of Maurer Taylor Law, specializes in business contract review and drafting and is a second-generation attorney with private firm, in-house counsel, governmental, entrepreneurial, and solo practitioner experience. Melissa has a strong legal background, a dedication to customer service, is friendly, warm and communicative, and is particularly skilled at explaining complex legal matters in a way that's easy to understand. Melissa personally handles all client matters from start to finish to ensure client satisfaction.

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Aaron focuses his practice on entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies, providing general counsel services for companies from formation through exit. Aaron frequently advises clients in connection with routine and unique legal, business, and strategic decisions, including corporate, business and technology transactions, angel and venture financings, mergers and acquisitions, protection of intellectual property, and information privacy and data security.

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Landlord Tenant

Lease Agreement

New York

Asked on Mar 21, 2023

Can the tenant use the property for storage?

As a business owner, I am looking to rent a commercial property to use for storage purposes. However, I am unsure if the property's lease agreement allows for such use or if there are any restrictions in place. Therefore, I am seeking legal advice on whether I can use the property for storage and if there are any legal implications I should be aware of.

Donya G.

Answered Mar 24, 2023

In order to advise you on the lease, you would have to have the lease reviewed so that the purposes for the lease can be established and discussed with you. I can help to review your lease and advise you on you can and cannot do based on the lease. You can connect with me via the website to engage my services Donya Gordon

Read 1 attorney answer>

Tenant

Lease Agreement

New York

Asked on Jan 3, 2022

Charged for not giving a 60-day notice

My rental agreement says nothing about and automatic renewal clause not 60 day notice. I signed a deposit slip after I put down money on the places that says 60 day notice must be given before moving out even at end of lease. Is this legally binding since it is not in the lease? It seems like they are trying to through a lease clause on a deposit slip.

Jane C.

Answered Jan 7, 2022

The terms of the lease control. Please read this guide to tenants rights. https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/tenants_rights.pdf

Read 1 attorney answer>

Real Estate

Lease Agreement

Arizona

Asked on Feb 15, 2023

In a lease purchase agreement, is the purchase price agreed upon initially and if so, how do you calculate a purchase price for 3 years into the future?

I am looking to start a RE development company that offers Lease Purchase agreements. Before entering into such a contract, I need to run the numbers to see if this is a profitable business. The purchase price is a key factor.

Jane C.

Answered Mar 17, 2023

I suggest you consult with your accountant. Also look at the assignment provision in the lease to see if there are any restrictions.

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Landlord Tenant

Lease Agreement

Kentucky

Asked on Feb 16, 2022

I was working in Califonia and my spouse working in Edgewood, KY. We were living in Fort Thomas. Now my job is changed to lexington KY.

Should Lessee's present employer transfer Lessee's place of employment outside the immediate area (fifty mile radius) Lesse may terminate this Lease upon thiry (30) days written notics and payment of an additional sum equal to one (1) month;s rent. Lessee must present written notics from his employer to lessor. If lessee is inducted, recalled, trasnferred or discharged from military service, Lessee may terminate this lease uopn thirty (30) days written notics and payment of additional sum equal to one (1) month;s rent. Lesse must present o Lessor a copy of his/her military orders.

Nichole C.

Answered Mar 18, 2022

It is unclear what your exact question is. Unless illegal or unconconscionable, anything can be agreed to in a contract. Enforcing the agreement may require litigation. If you are asking if the clause is a valid one, it could be. If you are asking what to do if the landlord did not honor it, you may need to sue. If you are asking if this is standard and was not in the contract, the answer is no. You cannot assume it is. Hope this helps some. Contact me if you would like a consultation specifically on this issue.

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Car Dealership

Lease Agreement

New York

Asked on Feb 17, 2022

Can I change my lease agreement with the dealer after purchase since they seemed to cheat

I just lease a new car. I went to the dealer 2 weeks ago, met with a lease specialist and signed a sketch lease agreement and paid $300 for deposit. The important thing is that we agreed on 0 down payment and $253 monthly payment. So on the lease agreement, the item "down payment" was written as "taxes + fees", but not specified how much will be charged. After 2 weeks, the car arrived and I went to pick it up. The original lease specialist was not there and another person took care of my lease. I trusted them and paid as they said, though more than I expected. However after I carefully read the new lease agreement later, I found that the down payment was not set to be 0, while the monthly payment remained the same. Besides taxes & fees totaling to $910, they set up "capitalized cost reduction" $2819, minus some rebates $1175, and charged me $910 + $2819 - $1175 = $2554. Later I called the dealer for an explanation but they said yes this is just 0 down payment, the amount I paid was due to blablabla. I don't believe them now - that $2819 "capitalized cost reduction" is used to calculate the residual value of the car at the end of lease. Doesn't that just mean down payment? I wonder if I can argue with the dealer and get my money back, add it to the residual value of the car. I have both copies of the lease agreement. Maybe I need the help of an attorney.

Jane C.

Answered Mar 4, 2022

It seems that you paid the capitalized cost reduction to reduce you monthly payments.

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