Leases and Rental Agreements: The Basics

Posted by Teresa on September 18, 2009 under Landlord Paperwork and Forms, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

landlord tenant law on tenant screening blogThe relationship between landlord and tenant should be strictly a business one. Landlords must abide by a variety of federal, state, and local laws designed to protect tenants. Breaking a law, even unintentionally, can spell big trouble to a landlord. And rental property is too valuable to allow tenants to occupy it without the full protection of a legally binding agreement. It’s a mistake to let property without a proper rental agreement or lease. To do so opens a landlord to a great deal of risk, possible financial loss, and even litigation.

Lease or Rental Agreement?

A rental agreement allows a tenant to occupy property for a short period, often 30 days. And, it allows the landlord to increase the rent, change the terms, or terminate it altogether with a short written notice (usually 30 days, but that depends on each state’s laws). This type of agreement renews automatically at the end of the 30 days, unless the tenant or landlord gives written notice that it will end. This is a typical month-to-month type of rental situation.

A lease obligates both parties to a set of conditions and terms for a set period of time, usually one year. During the term of the lease, the landlord cannot raise the rent, and the tenant cannot move out, unless each party operates within terms of the lease that cover these areas. Landlords cannot ask tenants to move out until the lease expires. Either party can decide to not renew the lease with proper notification. Breach of the lease terms can result in eviction of the tenant by the landlord, or litigation between the parties.

Typically, the lease covers areas such as rent amount, term, rent due date, parking regulations, property care and maintenance, landlord entrance, pet policy, and other legal matters.

Rental agreements are more common in areas with high turnover, or where rents are increasing and rentals are in short supply. Leases are preferred by landlords where vacancy rates are higher or where tenants are harder to find.

Whether you decide to use a rental agreement or lease, the important thing is to make certain you are fully protected under a solid and binding legal document.

Remember, you are within your rights when screening tenants prior to leasing. For more landlord resources, including forms and information on tenant screening, turn to You’ll know that you have the best possible tenants when you prescreen tenants.