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Standard Residential Lease Agreement

A standard residential lease agreement is a fixed-term rental contract between a landlord and a tenant who pays monthly rent for the use of the property. The term is most commonly for one year. The tenant must pay the first month's rent, security deposit, and any other fees when executing the lease.
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In a 2022 housing study, 68.2% of leases were fixed-term (standard).[1]

By State

How to Write a Standard Lease (11 steps)

Rental Application – Before writing a lease, verifying a tenant’s employment and creditworthiness is recommended.

1. Enter the Parties’ Details

landlord filling out party information on residential lease agreement

The names and addresses of both the landlord and tenant should be entered. The landlord is required (in most States) to enter their name and address as a contact for the tenant.

Property Manager – Any individual authorized to enter the premises should be disclosed to the tenant.

2. Describe the Property

landlord filling out property information on residential lease agreement

Write an accurate property description. This can be as simple as writing the property address while also including other details such as the number (#) of bedrooms, the number (#) of bathrooms, and the square footage.

Amenities – Such as parking, swimming pool, fitness room, and other common areas or features should be included.

3. Rent Amount ($)

landlord filling out rent information on residential lease agreement

The payment obligations of the tenant should include:

  • Monthly rent amount
  • Due date (1st of the month)
  • Payment instructions
  • Late fees
  • Non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee
Grace Period – Some States allow the tenant to pay late rent without a penalty. In New York[2] for example, a landlord cannot charge a late fee until after the 5th day.

4. Utilities & Services

laptop screen showing utility section of residential lease agreement

The utilities and services paid by the landlord should be listed in the lease. All others should be the tenant’s responsibility.

Utilities & Services

  • Cable (TV)
  • Electricity
  • Heat (gas, oil, etc.)
  • Internet
  • Lawn service
  • Snow removal
  • Trash removal
  • Water and sewer

5. Appliances & Furnishings

landlord filling out furnishings information in residential lease agreement

If the property includes furnishings or appliances, they should be listed in the lease. This way, if any items are missing or damaged at the end of the lease term, they can be properly accounted for.

Appliances & Furnishings

  • Air conditioner
  • Dishwasher
  • Fans
  • Microwave
  • Oven/stove
  • Refrigerator
  • Washer/dryer (for laundry)

6. Lease Term

landlord filling out residential lease agreement on laptop

A 12-month lease is the most common. However, the landlord and tenant can agree to any term allowed under the law.

If longer than 12 months, there may be special conditions such as in Florida, a lease is required to be signed by both the landlord and tenant with two witnesses present.[3]

Breakdown of Fixed-Term Leases[4]

  • 87.68% are for 12 months.
  • 3.77% are for 24 months.
  • 1.86% are for 13 months.
  • 1.56% are for 6 months.
  • 5.42% are for other periods.

7. Security Deposit

landlord filling out security deposit information on residential lease agreement

A security deposit is a sum of money that is paid at lease signing and is refundable at termination if no damages are found on the premises. It is most common for the landlord to accept one month’s rent as the security deposit.

Security Deposit Laws – View the maximum allowable amounts by State.

8. Smoking Policy

landlord filling out smoking policy section of residential lease agreement

The smoking policy on the premises should be disclosed in the lease. In California[5] and New York City,[6] it is required to reference a smoking policy to tenants (under specific conditions).

9. Pet Rules

landlord filling out pet section of residential lease agreement

The rules regarding pets should be included. If pets are not allowed, a tenant can still be legally eligible if it qualifies as a service or emotional support animal.

In addition to the security deposit, in most States a landlord can collect a separate deposit for potential damages caused by a pet.

Americans Living with Pets – Approximately 66% of U.S. households own at least 1 pet[7], and more than 80% of renters consider a pet-friendly policy a major factor in their housing decisions.[8]

10. Additional Attachments

landlord completing lead-based paint disclosure on lease agreement

Depending on the property and its location, the landlord may be required to disclose certain aspects about the property to the tenant.

Common Attachments (5)

1.) Lead-Based Paint Disclosure – For housing built prior to January 1, 1978.[9] It discloses if the landlord is aware of lead-based paint on the premises or any potential hazards.

2.) “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home” Brochure – Provided by the EPA that must be given to tenants as an informational brochure regarding lead-based paint.

3.) Move-in Inspection Form – To enter the property’s condition on move-in and disclose any existing damage or repairs needed.

4.) Security Deposit Receipt – To inform the tenant where their deposit is located.

5.) Personal Guaranty – For tenants who are a credit risk, it is common for the landlord to require an additional person to co-sign the lease to guarantee its performance.