Making a Solid Lease Agreement

A lease agreement is a contractual agreement between a landlord and a tenant. It highlights each party's rights and responsibilities. It also goes without saying that it runs for a certain period of time, usually one year.

As a landlord, it's crucial that you create a solid lease agreement. A solid lease agreement is one that is as comprehensive as possible, and includes terms such as pet rules, lease term, rent terms, subleasing, and occupancy limits.

If you are looking to make a solid lease agreement for your rental property, here are some things you should include.

1. Lease Term

Although it may seem rather obvious, you may be surprised by the number of landlords who forget to mention the lease term in their agreement. Failing to mention the term of the lease means you risk having to deal with a "holdover tenant."

A holdover tenant is one who refuses to leave the rental after their lease has expired. And as you probably know, evicting a tenant is a laborious process. So, to avoid such issues, make sure you state the exact date the lease starts and ends in the lease agreement.

Depending on your needs, you can have short-term or long-term lease agreements.

2. Tenants Names

You must also list the names of all adult occupants living in the rental property.

Some landlords only include the name of the individual signing the lease, but this can be a huge mistake. For instance, say you're dealing with a case of nonpayment of rent. If you only include one name in the lease, you wouldn't be able to demand rent from the other occupants.


3. Occupancy Limits

Do you permit subletting of your rental property? If you do, then make sure to have a policy that states rules, such as:

  • The landlord reserves the right to accept or reject the sublet.
  • The sublet must undergo the same qualifying standards as other tenants.

If you don't allow subletting, make sure you mention that as well. Let your tenants know the potential consequences of subletting without your knowledge.

4. Pet Rules

As a landlord, you reserve the right to either accept or reject pets. Just like subletting, if you permit animals in your rental property, then make sure to have a policy in place. This will go a long way in helping minimize confusion and misunderstandings later on.

You'll also want to require all tenants to sign the pet agreement, even those who don't own one yet. This way, if they get a pet later, they will already have familiarized themselves with the rules.

In your lease agreement, include the following pet-related terms:

  • State the type of pets allowed.
  • Require that all tenants get your approval for any pet they keep in your rental premises. Use that opportunity to ask the tenant some questions regarding their pet's behavior.
  • Require pets to have proper identification, licenses and vaccinations.
  • Charge a pet fee. The fee should go towards cushioning you against any damage the pet might cause to the property.

Please note that the aforementioned rules will not apply to tenants with service pets, as per Fair Housing Rules.


5. Security Deposit Laws

Security deposits can often cause problems between landlords and tenants. A tenant may think that they have returned the property in good condition, but the landlord may hold a different view.

To minimize issues, ensure that your lease states some important information regarding the tenant's security deposit.

For instance, you should include:

  • The security deposit amount
  • The conditions the tenant must meet in order to get a full refund
  • Your right to use part or all of the deposit under certain conditions

Make sure to check Washington security deposit laws to ensure you conform to them. Here's a comprehensive guide to get you started.

6. Rent Rules

Besides stating the amount of rent the tenant has to pay per month, you'll also want to mention other rent-related details.

Here are some things you should include:

  • When rent is due. For example, on the 1st of every month.
  • The amount of late fees or grace period, if applicable.
  • Charges on bounced rent checks.
  • Acceptable methods of payment.

signing a lease agreement

7. Landlord Entry Rules

Tenants have a right to the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their rented premises. This means that you cannot enter the tenant's unit as you please.

That said, you have a right to enter your tenant's premises under certain conditions.

You may enter the rented premises for the following reasons:

  • Inspect the unit.
  • Show the unit to prospective lenders, tenants or buyers.
  • Under the orders of the court.
  • If you have reasons to believe the tenant has abandoned the unit.

Prior to entering, you must notify your tenant. According to Washington statutes, you must provide your tenant with a notice of at least 48 hours.

Finally, needless to say, you must enter the unit at a reasonable time, such as between 8AM and 5PM.

Bottom Line

A lease agreement is meant to protect both parties – the landlord and the tenant.

A solid lease agreement will ensure that conflicts are kept to a minimum and ensure that both parties are aware of their obligations.

As an overview, here are some things you should include in your lease agreement:

  • Lease Term
  • Tenant Names
  • Occupancy Limits
  • Pet Rules
  • Security Deposit Rules
  • Rent Rules
  • Landlord Entry Rules

If you need help crafting your lease agreement, or have any further questions, feel free to reach out to Windermere Property Management today.