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A rental agreement is a legally binding contract that requires tenants and landlords to perform certain duties and refrain from particular behaviors. Thus, it is critical to understand the terms of the lease and alter them if needed to better protect your interests.

Generally, you want your lease terms to be clear, which will help prevent everyone from misunderstanding their rights or responsibilities, and you need to understand your state’s rental laws to make sure you don’t include conditions in the lease that the state does not allow.


Here is a breakdown of specific provisions that you should pay close attention to (although you should read every word of the lease carefully as well):

1. Security Deposit

If you want tenants to pay a security deposit, make sure you explain, with examples, exactly what sort damage would revoke their deposit. Also, you can require a smaller cleaning deposit instead.

2. Pet Policy

Be clear as to whether you prohibit animals on the property, how many are allowed, what size the pets may be, and whether you require a pet deposit.

3. Rent Payment

State exactly how much rent is due each month, as well as the date it’s due and whom to give the payment to. Also, include what the penalty is for paying late and whether there will be a grace period.

4. Repairs

Lessors should specify what types of repairs they will be responsible for, such as repairing windows, doors, etc. and which repairs they will not perform. You can also require the tenant to clean the property or hire cleaners yourself and use part of the tenant’s rental payment to pay the cleaners.

5. Prohibitions

Here, you should state that only the parties who signed the lease (and perhaps their minor children) are allowed to occupy it. Otherwise, people you have not vetted might reside there. Prohibiting drug activity such as drug use, manufacture, and selling is also highly recommended as these can facilitate property destruction and violence. A broader prohibition against all illegal activity would work for this purpose as well. Also, note what sort of additions the tenant may make or may not make to the property, such as adding a dishwasher.

6. Duration

Next, you want to focus on how long the lease is for. Specify whether it is a month-to-month lease, a yearlong lease, or another duration. This is important because eviction laws vary by state according to whether the lease is month-to-month or longer than one year.

7. Parking

Parking conditions are especially important for multi-unit rentals. It is a huge inconvenience when someone’s car is trapped in a driveway behind another tenant’s car. Specify exactly which tenants may park where on the property to avoid this.

Considering all of these terms of the lease will allow you to tailor it to protect your interests and pursue the right legal recourse if needed. Also, be sure to consult your state’s laws regarding discrimination, health and safety, tenant rights, and related issues.

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