How to Read a Residential Lease Agreement: Tips for Tenants

Updated May 31, 2022.

The rental lease agreement is the backbone of the landlord-tenant relationship. It governs everything from the amount and when to pay rent to who is responsible for light bulb replacement. As a landlord, you should know what's in the lease and what each specific term means. However, it's equally important for your tenant to understand the lease, as well! 

As the property owner, it's always smart to sit down with your new resident and walk through the rental agreement. This blog will explain how to help your tenant understand the basic lease agreement, including which sections pertain specifically to tenant rules and responsibilities. If we can help you review the lease with a resident before signing, reach out to our Boston rental management company!

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Can I Write My Lease Agreement?

While it may be tempting to write your rental agreements or use a lease agreement template, property managers recommend against it without additional oversight from your attorney. The rental industry is governed by a complex set of local, Massachusetts state, and federal laws that apply specifically to the rental transaction between landlord and tenant. Your lease must comply with the laws to protect your properties and income.

We recommend contacting a real estate attorney or a property management company to help draft an ironclad rental lease agreement to avoid any legal problems. A property manager can also help you work through the lease from a resident's perspective and coach you through what they need to understand.

What Should a Rental Lease Include for Tenants?

Each lease is different depending on the location, type of house, property owner preferences, and other particulars that make them original. However, there are a few items that most standard lease agreements should contain. These elements should be crystal clear to help renters understand the house rules and their responsibilities. 

The Property's Description

Beware of taking the accuracy of essential information for granted! Is the address right? Ensure the tenant knows the address for legal purposes and to have mail forwarded to their new home.

Specify by name who manages the residential property and their appropriate contact information. The tenant should know who to call (like a property manager) and how to get a hold of someone if a problem should arise. Finally, the lease should describe the property (single-family home with garage, etc.) any appliances installed in the unit, such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher.

Rental Payment Details

While the entire lease is important, the rental payment details could be some of the most important aspects of the agreement! Include the monthly rent amount, due date, and associated fees or penalties for late payments. Also, note when payments should begin and when the lease ends. 

If the tenant decides to stay for extra time after the lease ends, include provisions for a month-to-month lease agreement and any extra monthly rent amount. Don't forget deposit amounts, whether it's a security deposit or a pet fee, if applicable.

Any Restrictions

Do you allow pets or smoking? Be sure to include whether these things are permitted in the lease. The agreement should also include information about a pet security deposit and restrictions, such as breed, weight restriction, and the number of allowed pets. Talk to a Boston property management professional about whether you should allow pets in your rental property. 

Tenant Responsibilities

Make sure there's no room for misunderstanding about your tenant's responsibilities in the home. Note that the landlord is responsible for completing and paying for repairs. However, the lease should also note if the tenant can make any changes to the premises, such as changing paint colors. The move-out procedure should be explained so that the tenant knows who is responsible for restoring the unit to its move-in condition.

Subletting the Home

This section should let the tenant know if they can (or can't) sublet the rental property for any reason. It should also reflect whether the tenant or the property management company is responsible for finding a tenant to sublet.

The Neighborhood Rules 

This section should contain the standards and regulations for guests, amenities (if applicable), and what happens in the event of a long-term tenant absence. Also, explain any storage areas, the maximum number of people who can live on the property, and if you require a tenant to carry renters insurance.

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Make Sure Everyone Is On the Same Page

A lease is a binding contract, so make sure everyone is on the same page before all parties sign the document. A thorough lease doesn't allow any "gray" areas of the contract or "gray areas" of understanding when the lease begins!

A Boston Property Manager Helps Tenants Understand the Lease Agreement

It's essential to make sure your lease contains all necessary information and that tenants understand what they can and cannot do on the property. CHARLESGATE Property Management has the experience you need to put together custom lease agreements for landlords! We're happy to help ensure your rental lease agreement is ready for signatures. 

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