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What is a Rental Agreement?

A Rental Agreement is basically a contract between a tenant and landlord that governs the terms of use and possession of rental property.  Written rental agreements can be temporary, usually lasting for a period of 30 days.  Some “month-to-month” rental agreements are subject to automatic renewal at the end of the 30 day period. 

If a rental agreement is subject to automatic renewal, the tenant needs to give the landlord 30 days advance notice if they wish to terminate the agreement.  The laws governing rental agreements can vary widely by state or region.

What is Usually Contained in a Rental Agreement?

Rental agreements are usually provided by the landlord or the property owner.  They can be customized to suit the individual needs renters.  Some property owners such as apartment associations provide a standardized rental agreement form. 

The terms of rental payments are the focus of rental agreements, but the agreement can address other matters as well.  Most rental agreements will address the following matters:

  • Duration of rental term (i.e., whether for one month, month-to-month, or year-to-year, etc.)
  • Names and background information of occupants
  • Price of monthly rent payments
  • Terms of utilities costs
  • Instructions regarding liability for property damage
  • Provisions regarding deposits (such as landlord deposits, security deposits, etc.)
  • Any other special instructions

In some cases the terms of a rental agreement can be modified or renegotiated periodically.  However, once the parties sign a rental agreement, the terms are binding under property and contract laws.

What Happens if a Tenant Breaches a Rental Agreement?

If your tenant has breached any of the terms of a rental agreement, you may be entitled to recover losses in a court of law.  The most common disputes with rental agreements are, of course, disputes over late or missing rent payments.  Once the rental agreement is signed, the renter has an obligation to pay rent on time according to the terms in the contract.

Breaches of rental agreements may occur in other areas as well, such as:

  • Property damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Improper use of property
  • Violations of sub-lease terms
  • Failure to pay deposits as required

As a landlord, you may wish to gather evidence that will help to prove the breach in a court of law.  This may include photographs, receipts, insurance statements, repair bills, and any other important documents (including the rental agreement itself).  For example, it is helpful to gather payment logs and accounts if your tenant has not paid the rent on time or has not paid at all. 

How Can a Lawyer Help with a Rental Agreement?

Rental agreements are vital to any property owner who seeks to lease or rent their property.  A lawyer can be of great assistance and can help you to draft and review a rental agreement that suits your business needs.  Also, if any disputes arise over a rental agreement, your attorney can help you recover damages in a court of law.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 10-11-2017 11:44 PM PDT

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