An apartment lease agreement is a rental contract designed specifically for renting out single units within a larger apartment building. A property manager or landlord will use the same rental agreement for all tenants, with slight modifications made depending on the unit, length of stay, and the terms negotiated.
Follow the steps below to form a binding lease contract with one (1) or more tenant(s) over the renting of an apartment unit:
When a landlord sits down to complete the agreement, the first step includes identifying who the parties are – namely the landlord and tenant(s). The landlord will also need to write their mailing address after their name. This is the address the tenant will use to mail any notices, rent payments, fees, and more.
In addition to the parties, the landlord will need to enter the full address of the apartment (including the unit number). This is where all notices and other documents should be sent (unless the tenant specifies otherwise in step 3).
Arguably, the two most important sections in a rental agreement are the rent the tenant(s) will pay on a regular basis and the term of the agreement. The landlord has two (2) options when it comes to the lease term:
- Fixed-term lease: This is the most common type of apartment lease. The landlord specifies a start and end date to the contract, and the tenant cannot end the lease without consequences. If the landlord checks the box corresponding to a fixed-term lease, they will have the additional options of either 1) having the agreement continue on a month-to-month basis at the end of the lease, or 2) requiring the tenant to move out (the most common option).
- Month-to-month (periodic) lease: A more relaxed agreement that does not specify an exact end date. Instead, the agreement continuously renews on a monthly basis. To end the contract, either party has to notify the other in advance of the next rental payment (typically 30 days).
In regards to the rent payments and other fees, the landlord will need to enter the following:
- The amount ($) of monthly rent;
- What day it is due (per month); and
- How the tenant should go about paying it.
- Late Charges (leave blank if no late fee)
- How many days the rent can be before the landlord charges a late fee; and
- The amount ($) of the late fee.
- If the tenant is moving in prior to the start date of the lease, check the first box. Then enter the date in which they are moving in followed by the amount of rent they are required to pay for the proration period; OR
- Check the second box.
- Insufficient Funds
- Enter the amount ($) that will be charged as a fee to the tenant if they pay rent with a check that bounces due to inadequate funds.
- Security Deposits
- This is the amount the tenant will be required to pay alongside the first months’ rent. It is reimbursed to the tenant so long they leave the rental damage-free, make all payments, and don’t breach the agreement. Check the first box if a security deposit will be required, followed by the amount ($) the tenant will have to pay. In the second field, specify the number (#) of days the landlord has to return the deposit. If a deposit won’t be collected, the second box should be checked.
In addition to the basic information covered above, the landlord will need to cover the specifics of the contract, which includes:
- Utilities / Services
- Any utilities the tenant will be responsible for paying should be listed on the lines provided.
- Check the first box if there will be people/kids staying in the rental other than those written on the lease. If it will just be the tenant(s), check the second box.
- If the landlord opted to have the agreement function as a month-to-month agreement after the lease terminates, enter the amount of monthly rent they will be required to pay for each month they reside in the apartment after the lease ends. Otherwise, the field can be left blank.
- Extended Absences
- To avoid the landlord considering the property abandoned, they typically require the tenant to notify them if they will be leaving the premises for an extended period of time. Enter the number (#) of consecutive days the tenant must be absent in order to qualify to have to notify the landlord.
- Write the number (#) of apartment keys and mailbox keys the tenant will be given. Write the amount ($) the tenant will be charged if they don’t return all of the keys originally given to them.
- Smoking is typically off-limits in residential housing. If it is permitted in a certain area (or areas), check the first box and list all spaces tenants can smoke. If smoking is forbidden on all of the landlord’s property, the second box should be selected.
- If the tenants will be limited to street parking, check the second box. Check the first box otherwise, and write the number (#) of parking space(s) they will have access to, and check whether the parking space(s) are free-of-charge or come at an expense. Enter the additional monthly charge for each space if applicable.
- If the tenant can have pets in the apartment, the landlord will need to:
- Check the second box;
- Enter the number (#) of pets they can have;
- The type(s) of pets;
- Check whether an additional charge will be required AND if it is refundable or not; and
- Enter the additional payment the tenant will be required to pay each month to the landlord (if any).
- If the tenant can have pets in the apartment, the landlord will need to:
- Although this was already entered in the first section, the landlord should write their mailing address that all notices should be sent to. This field occurs twice because it is very important the tenant understands where they can make contact with the landlord.
- For the tenant, either check the box that says their notice address is the address of the apartment, or check the “other” box and enter the mailing address notices should be sent to.
- Right of Entry
- Enter the number of hours the landlord must provide to the tenant before entering. The standard length of time is twenty-four (24) hours, although certain states require different notice periods.
The section titled “additional terms and conditions” gives the landlord the option to enter any rules or notes that aren’t already included in the lease. This can include guidelines on using a certain amenity (such as a shared pool), restrictions on cannabis or other substances, or instructions on moving in or out. So long the landlord doesn’t include anything that can be deemed as discrimination (or anything that breaks the state’s landlord-tenant laws), it can be included.
This step can be performed in one of 2 ways:
- The landlord can print the completed agreement and have all parties sign the form with a pen; or
- The landlord can upload the completed document to eSign, mark where the tenant(s) have to sign, and send it to them. Once all signatures have been received, the parties will have a signed and completed lease agreement emailed to them automatically.
The average (and recommended) length of time to rent out an apartment is one (1) year. However, the term can be as long as the parties wish. Anywhere from a six (6) month lease term to a two (2) to three (3) year lease term can be negotiated.
For tenants that sign fixed-term apartment leases, they are giving their legally binding promise to pay rent until the termination date. In other words, the renter is agreeing to pay the full rent owed, and the landlord permits the renter to pay it in monthly increments. The best thing a renter can do is:
- Try and find a new renter (and sign a sublease agreement);
- Pay rent until the landlord finds a new renter; or
- Talk with the landlord and try to come to a fair resolution.
To rent out an apartment, the landlord should have the following paperwork ready:
- A state-specific rental application;
- A ready-to-fill-in lease agreement; and
- Eviction/termination forms ready (although one hope’s to never need them).
They will then need to receive or create the following from applying tenants:
- Paystubs/proof of income;
- Reference letters;
- Photo identification;
- Tax return; and
- Bank statements.