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Description of the Rental Property - Not only should the lease agreement note the physical address of the property, but it also should list any non-fixed items, including refrigerator, range/oven, dishwasher, microwave, washer, dryer and water-filtration system. Doing so protects the landlord come move-out day and the tenant if an appliance should require repair; if the lease lists it, the landlord must keep it in working order.

Names of Tenants - The rental lease agreement should include the name and signature of every adult who will live at the property, and it should be updated as necessary. This makes each tenant responsible for the terms of the lease. Such a setup allows a landlord to expect full rent each month no matter the turnover in roommates. It also encourages tenants to police each other when it comes to rules and regulations, as a violation by one can result in termination of the lease agreement for all.

Duration of Lease - Whether month-to-month, annual or another length of time, lease agreements should specify their duration.

Renewal Process - A month-to-month lease typically self-renews until either the landlord or tenant gives notice of non-renewal. Annual or longer rental lease agreements usually switch to month-to-month status at the end of the initial term. Either way, the lease should include the process for non-renewal, including how much time either the landlord or tenant must provide, typically 30 or 60 days.

Security Deposits, Fees and Rent Payments - All required monies should be noted in the residential lease agreement, including security deposits due upon signing and any nonrefundable cleaning, redecorating and pet fees.

The amount of rent and how, when and where payment must be made each month also should be included, as should information about any late fees or penalties for failed electronic payments and bounced checks. Procedure for holding, use and return of security deposits should be included in leases, as well.

Utilities - The rental lease agreement should specify who pays for each of the available utilities, including electricity, water/sewer, gas, oil, cable, Internet and garbage pickup.

HOA Fees - The landlord typically rolls any homeowners' association (HOA) fees into the total rent amount to have more control over their payment. Non-payment of HOA fees may result in hefty fines and even liens on the rental property. The lease agreement should note who pays the fees either way.

Use and Subletting - A lease should specify that the rental property only be used as a residence, unless the landlord agrees that the tenant may operate a business out of the property. Whether or not the tenant may sublet, and the process for subletting if allowed, also should be noted.

Right to Entry - While the tenant has a right to privacy, the landlord may need to enter the premises to make repairs or perform inspections from time to time. The residential lease agreement should include the notice, typically 24 hours, to be given before entry.

Repairs and Maintenance - The landlord legally must provide major repairs, but the landlord may assign responsibility for minor repairs on a case-by-case basis to the tenant per the lease agreement. If the tenant holds responsibility for regular maintenance, such as mowing a lawn or treating a pool, the lease should specify such expectations.

Rules and Regulations - Rental lease agreements should include, whether listed in the lease or provided as a separate document, any rules and regulations the tenant must follow.

Pets - Number of pets and type and breeds allowed should be specified in the lease agreement, as should whether or not the tenant must purchase special liability insurance to cover any pet-related issues, including damage done by the pet to the rental property and medical bills resulting from the pet biting someone on the property.

Most landlords start with a standard rental lease agreement then customize it to suit state and city laws, and particular rental situations if necessary. No matter the situation, and whether you are a landlord or tenant, read the lease agreement word for word before signing to help avoid frustration during its term.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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