Landlord 101: What You Need to Know About Rental Agreements (Part 5)
Once you’ve located the ideal tenant, you’ll need them to sign on the dotted line before they move in. Leases and rental agreements outline the rent tenants must pay and the key rules and guidelines they must follow in exchange for the right to use your property. It gives both sides a written record of their rights and responsibilities. A well-written lease will help protect you in case of disagreements or lawsuits.
Elements of a Lease
What’s included in leases varies somewhat depending on where the property is located. But there are some basics you’ll find in almost every lease.
- Names and dated signatures of the landlord and all adults who will be living in the home
- The address of the property
- The beginning and end dates of the lease
- The rent terms, including amount, date due, and late fees
- The amount of the security deposit, and when and under what conditions it will be returned
- Policies about parking, pets, overnight guests, subletting, etc.
- Responsibility for utilities
- Notice and other requirements for terminating the lease
- Notice that violation of lease terms is grounds for eviction
Some websites, such as Nolo, offer standard or customizable lease forms for purchase. But as the site cautions, make sure any form you use is up-to-date and follows any applicable state-specific laws. You may prefer to hire an attorney to ensure you develop a lease that will adequately protect your specific interests as the property owner and will comply with all local laws, which vary by state and locality.
Most people either choose to sign a lease for a specific term, often one year or a month-to-month rental agreement. For information on which is better in your situation, this Nolo article discusses the pros and cons of each.
In Washington D.C., landlords need to know that tenants can continue on a month-to-month basis indefinitely after the initial lease term expires, barring a legitimate reason to evict. The original lease terms remain in effect, aside from allowable rent increases. Essentially, tenants can stay as long as they’d like if they’re paying the rent and following the rules in the lease. In addition, tenants in D.C. can only be evicted for one of ten reasons. So having a strong lease in the district is critical.
In DC, you don’t have to have a written lease in order to establish a tenancy, though it is always the best idea. If there is a written agreement, the landlord must provide the tenant with a copy. In addition, landlords must provide copies of specific landlord-tenant laws and regulations, along with a copy of the DC Tenant Bill of Rights. Learn more about becoming a landlord and the potential challenges in Washington DC.
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