Chapter 3

Important Rental Lease Clauses, Addendums, and Disclosures

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The Complete Guide to Rental Leases

Important Lease Clauses

After researching your state and local landlord-tenant laws, the next step is adding important clauses, addendums, and disclosures to your lease. If you use our online rental lease agreement, these items are already included for you without doing any additional work.

In this chapter, we’ll go over important rental lease clauses, disclosures, and addendums and explain what they mean in plain English.

What are Lease Clauses? 

Unlike lease rules that you decide, clauses are typically written specifically to comply with state and local landlord-tenant laws and are written in legal jargon. Below, we’ll go over important rental lease clauses that should be included in every lease.

10 Important Rental Lease Clauses

Our online rental lease agreement contains 29 clauses that are lawyer-reviewed and designed to protect the rights of both you and your tenants. We picked ten important clauses to review closely:

#1 Rent Liability

This clause states that tenants are jointly and severally liable for the full rent amount. This means that each tenant, individually, will be held responsible for the full rent amount, even if his or her roommates refuse to pay. It’s important tenants understand this so they live with roommates they feel certain will pay their share of the rent amount.

As a landlord, you don’t want to deal with one tenant who pays his or her share of rent, while another tenant doesn’t pay. Be sure to remember that technically each tenant is responsible for the full amount.

#2 Severability Clause

This clause states that if one portion of the lease is ruled invalid in court, the rest of the lease is still upheld. In some legal cases, the court will void a clause because it contradicts a state law. If this happens to you, you want to make sure the rest of your lease is still valid.

#3 Access to Premises

Access to Rental Property

This clause makes your tenants aware that you are allowed to access the premises as long as it’s during reasonable hours and with proper notice of entry. In the case of an emergency, you are allowed to enter the unit without notice. It’s considered an emergency if:

  • You have good reason to believe there’s a fire
  • There’s an urgent maintenance problem that can severely damage the property (such as a pipe bursting)

This clause balances the landlord’s right to access the property and the tenant’s right to privacy. As a landlord, you can access the property in order to:

  • Inspect the property
  • Make necessary repairs or improvements
  • Supply necessary or agreed upon services
  • Make sure the tenant is complying with the lease

#4 Use of Premises 

The “Use of Premises” clause states a few rules about how the property is used. For one, it says the property should be for “residential purposes only” and not for an at-home business. There may be exceptions to this rule with the landlord’s permission, but generally landlords don’t want the property to be used as a business because of the added liability and risk. For example, guests or customers in the building can bring additional noise and foot traffic, more delivery personnel, parking problems, and disturbance to neighbors.

In addition, this clause states the property should only be occupied by people listed on the lease and who submitted an application for the property. The tenant should take care of the property by not leaving trash in common areas, hanging objects out of windows, placing objects on ledges where they could fall and injure someone, etc. It also states the tenant cannot leave personal belongings in common areas, such as leaving a bicycle on the porch. If your property has a deck or balcony, it prohibits the tenant from having too many people on the deck or balcony beyond the amount that is reasonably safe.

By advising tenants how they can use the property and that they are liable for maintaining a safe environment, you are protecting yourself and your tenants.

#5 Holding Over 

If a tenant stays in the unit past the move-out date, this clause states that, legally, the lease is still valid on a month-to-month basis and the tenant still owes rent. Without this clause, the lease becomes void at the lease end date. This clause helps you:

  • In case you want to renew with a tenant, but haven’t come up with a new lease in time
  • Legally collect rent from a tenant who does not move-out
  • Encourage tenants to leave if they are staying past their welcome

Some landlords customize this clause to state that rent will be double the previous price if the tenant stays past the move-out date.

#6 Sublet Rules

This clause simply states that the landlord’s permission is required before a sublet occurs. And the landlord cannot say “no” if the sublet request is reasonable.

To create a sublease agreement with a tenant, take advantage of Rocket Lawyer’s free trial. You can create a free sublet agreement here.

#7 Disturbance Clause

The tenant is expected to not disturb neighbors. The volume of televisions, speakers, radios, and musical instruments should all be reasonable. And during the hours from 10pm to 7am, volume should be set so that neighbors can’t hear any noise.

#8 Lessee to Maintain

The tenant is expected to take care of the property, the fixtures, and appliances. The unit should be clean and in good working order. If there’s any damage at the end of the lease, the tenant is liable to pay for damages, with the exception of reasonable wear and tear. Tenants are also expected to keep the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in good condition and to properly use all utilities.

#9 Automatic Lease Renewal 

This clause automatically renews your lease. It’s optional, so you don’t have to include this clause if you don’t want to. Instead of having to sign a new lease, it is understood that the lease will automatically renew for the same rental term, whether it’s six months, one year, etc.

If you include this clause, be sure to make this clear to your tenants. We recommend reminding tenants 90 days before the automatic renewal that the lease will renew. This gives tenants the opportunity to say they don’t want to renew.

#10 Buy-Out Clause

Another optional clause that is useful is the buy-out clause. It allows either you or the tenant to break the lease without penalty as long as 60 days’ notice is provided and a penalty fee is paid to the other party. There are several reasons why a tenant may need to break a rental lease, including moving for a new job.

There is one exception to this rule: if a tenant is called to military service during his or her tenancy, you must comply with a lease termination within 30 days, as long as the tenant provides a written order as proof. In the case of being deployed for military duty or a permanent change of station (PCS), you can’t charge a penalty fee.

Tenants’ Rights 

Your lease should protect tenants’ rights. Tenants have a right to:

  • A safe and habitable space
  • Privacy and reasonable notice of entry
  • Not be discriminated against
  • Not be charged for unreasonable rent prices, security deposits, or fees

Remember, these two important rules:

  1. It’s illegal to add a clause into your rental agreement that negates a state or federal law. Any clause that tries to negate a law is considered void and won’t be upheld in court.
  2. Your clauses cannot discriminate against tenants, according to Fair Housing Laws. You cannot discriminate who can and cannot live in your property based on age, gender, race, etc. For example, your lease can’t say ‘no children.’

For more, check out 5 Ways to Improve Your Rental Lease.

What are Rental Lease Addendums? 

Addendums are added to written documents to support or add to the document.

Common Types of Rental Addendums:

  • Pet addendum
  • Smoking addendum
  • Renovation addendum
  • Bed bug brochure
  • Lead paint pamphlet

Addendums can be created by the tenant or the landlord, but both parties have to agree to them being included in the lease. Signing the lease means you are agreeing to all attachments or addendums. Our online rental agreement makes it easy for you to include addendums- you simply upload attachments to your lease.

A pet addendum usually specifies the pet’s specific breed, color, weight. It should list the amount of the pet deposit and pet rent. Some landlords ask for a photo of the pet to verify they are allowing a particular pet and to verify the pet’s size and breed.

A renovation addendum is helpful if the property is undergoing renovations. If the tenant is signing the lease before seeing the updated unit, then he or she might ask for an addendum that states what renovations will occur. This ensures the landlord follows through on promises for certain renovations, such as including a stainless steel refrigerator, etc.

Addendums can also be required educational brochures. The lead paint pamphlet (below) is a nationally required addendum. The EPA provides a link to the lead paint pamphlet here.

Lead Paint Disclosure

Some cities and states may require additional addendums that aim to educate tenants. Chicago, for example, requires a bed bug addendum that educates tenants on how to prevent bed bugs, the health risk bed bugs pose, and protocol for reporting and handling bed bugs. Here is a breakdown of which states require the bed bug addendum.

What are Rental Lease Disclosures? 

Lease disclosures are statements on the lease that disclose information. They are usually state-mandated. For example, the bed bug disclosure states whether or not the property has ever had a bed bug infestation. Similarly, asbestos, mold, and radon disclosures inform tenants if there has ever been mold, asbestos, or radon on the property. If you use our online rental agreement, the correct disclosures are already in your lease:

  • Bed bug
  • Mold
  • Lead-based paint
  • Asbestos
  • Radon

Lease Notices 

Our rental lease includes two notices. The Notice of Habitability states whether there are known conditions that affect the tenant’s ability to safely live in the unit. If there are any code violations, this is where the landlord would notify the tenant. The Notice of Foreclosure tells tenants if the property is subject to foreclosure proceedings.

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Next Steps 

Now that we’ve reviewed important rental lease clauses, addendums, and disclosures, the next step is writing custom rules into your lease. We’ll review important rules to include, such as whether you allow smoking, if you require renters insurance, and more.

Continue reading to learn how to customize rules in your rental lease.

Or sign up now to have access to our lawyer-reviewed, state-specific rental lease agreement.


Also published on Medium.

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