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  • Writer's pictureKeith Wood

7 Things that Must Be in Your Lease Agreement

To stay in compliance and legal as a landlord, you’re required to disclose certain things in writing to your tenant. Most of the information is needed before they move in, but they need some information while they live in the property and when they move out.

The easiest way to make sure you’ve complied with the law and given your tenants what they need is to include it in the lease agreement. While there are several things you need to include in your lease, here are a few that absolutely must be there.

Security Deposit Information

Beyond the amount a tenant pays for their security deposit, you must share other important details with them. This includes how you’ll use their security deposit and when and how it will be returned. You have to follow the law on the timelines, but you also need to disclose what those timelines are to your tenants. You must also tell them where the deposit will be kept and what, if any, interest rate will be paid. If you charge non-refundable fees as part of the rental process, you must outline these fees and what they’re used for.

Move-In and Move-Out Inspections

As part of the move-in process, you should have a document that shows what existing damage -- big and small -- exists in and on your property before the tenants arrive. They should also be able to go through the property and document anything they see. Your tenants also have the right to have copies of those documents. Your lease should also include the disclosure that tenants have the right to attend the move-out inspection.

Who’s Legally Responsible

Your lease agreement must include your name and information as the landlord and the identity of anyone who is allowed to receive legal documents and manage your rental. This may include a business partner and/or your property manager. All parties who have these responsibilities must be included in the lease.

Rental Policies

Your smoking policy is required to be in writing, but all others should be as well. Including them all in the lease agreement means a tenant can’t argue that they didn’t know. Put in your pet policy, your rules about making changes to the property from painting walls to landscaping, how it should be handled, and what you will and won’t allow.

Shared Utility Arrangements

While this may be rare, if your property is part of a shared utility arrangement, it must be disclosed in writing. This might be for electricity, gas, or water services. For example, your tenant may have to pay a portion of a master metered utility as part of a larger complex -- condo, duplex, etc.

List of Other Required Disclosures

Some disclosures are information-based instead of specific rules and regulations. You may have a brochure or pamphlet you provide to new tenants to comply with disclosure requirements. It’s a good idea to include a list of the disclosures you provide in your lease.

● Smoke detectors and alarms

● The presence of potential health and environmental hazards like lead, mold, etc.

● Availability of fire protection

● Rights of domestic abuse victims

● Details on specific rules like local rental control, sexual offender database, previous flooding in the property, and previous use of the rental as a meth lab.

Violations of Lease Agreement and Termination

You must have a section explaining what constitutes a violation of the lease agreement. This also includes what happens when the rules are broken and how the lease can and will be terminated. Outline, in detail, what a tenant can expect if the lease is terminated due to a violation. You need a way to get out of a lease if a tenant breaks the rules or violates policy, but you also have to inform them of what to expect before it happens.

These things aren’t the only items to include in your lease agreement, but they are the things you must include. If you ever need to evict a tenant or terminate the lease agreement, what you have written in your lease agreement will determine how successful you are at getting them out.

If it sounds complicated and like a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be. A lease agreement that you buy from an office supply store or a blank template online won’t be enough. Get help with your lease and your tenants and managing your property. At ERA American Real Estate, we’ve written thousands of lease agreements that keep landlords legal and tenants informed. Contact us today!

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