A lease is a contract between the landlord and tenant that gives the tenant the right to possession of the landlord’s property under certain terms and conditions. The lease may be verbal, particularly if it is for a short period of time; however, the law requires a written lease if the tenancy is for a year or more. Whether required or not, a written lease is always best. If the lease is written, you should never sign it before you have read and understood its contents. Do not sign a lease that is blank or has any blank spaces. The lease, once signed, is the contract between the landlord and the tenant. Verbal promises should not be relied on. You should obtain a fully completed and signed copy of the written lease.

In circumstances where the law requires a written lease, it usually requires that certain provisions be included in the lease, in addition to the address of the property being rented. The lease should at least contain the following information:

  • name and address of the landlord
  • name and address of the tenant
  • length of the lease
  • the amount of the rent
  • names of the persons who may occupy the unit
  • the amount and nature of deposits and conditions for the return of deposits
  • the dates that rent is due
  • the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant for maintenance and utilities
  • conditions that will permit the landlord or tenant to terminate the lease before the end of the lease term

Sometimes federal law as well as state and local law may require additional provisions to appear in a lease. If you have questions about a lease, consult an attorney.