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Real Estate Basics – What Must Be Included In A Lease Or Rental Agreement

By Andrew Anderson

The landlord and tenant relationship is often fraught with turmoil, especially when one violates the lease or rental agreement. In order to help manage expectations in the event of a default by either party, make sure you are familiar with the following terminology.

Term of Agreement:

The term of the agreement will delineate the length of time that the landlord and tenant are obligated under the terms of the lease or rental agreement. Many leases are enforceable for a definite period of time, usually six or twelve months. Still other leases are renewable on a month-to-month basis, meaning that either party may terminate the lease at the end of any month, with proper notice to the other. What type of lease is best will depend on the specific situation of the parties.

Deposit on Security:

The deposit on security, also known as a security deposit, protects the landlord in the event that the tenant does something damaging to the property. Generally, if the tenant takes good care of the property, and the only damage is normal wear-and-tear, the tenant will get the security deposit back at the end of the agreement’s term. Many leases contain a provision whereby the security deposit is forfeited upon default by the tenant.


Rent is the reason landlords purchase the property in the first place. The paragraph that outlines the rent should include the amount of the rent, the manner in which the rent is supposed to be paid, the date by which the rent is to be paid, any grace period, and the amount of any late fee.


Someone has to pay for the electric, gas, and water bills. The lease or rental agreement needs to specifically state who is responsible for these utilities. Most agreements contain a provision whereby the landlord or the tenant is responsible for all utilities. But some agreements divide them in half, or state that one party is responsible for a specific utility. But this is an important provision, since utilities can often be several hundred or even thousands of dollars per month.

Terms of Use:

The tenant can’t have free reign to do with the property what he or she wishes. The agreement should expressly state any restrictions on the use or occupancy of the premises. For example, if only one person can reside there, the lease should state that. If a certain type of television network or cable company must be used, then that should be outlined in the agreement. The point is not to leave any questions as to what can and can’t be done, within reason. Both parties will be better off with a more specific provision on the terms of use.

Right to Entry:

In certain instances, the landlord will have the right to enter the property. Often times, with notice, the landlord will have the right to inspect the property or show the property to potential tenants. This provision should state the rights and obligations of both the landlord and the tenant in this regard.

Maintenance Obligations:

Who will maintain the premises? This can be a blanket statement that the landlord or tenant is obligated to repair things when they break down. Or it could be specific (for example, the landlord repairs any appliances, but the tenant repairs any aesthetics). In any event, maintenance can become quite expensive, especially in older buildings, so be sure each party’s obligations are specifically enumerated.

Remedies upon Default:

What constitutes default? What happens in the event of default? How much and what type of notice does the landlord have to give to the tenant in the event of default before initiating proceedings in court? What are the tenant’s rights in the event of the landlord fails in his or her obligations? These are questions that must be answered in the default and remedies sections of the lease agreement.

Generally speaking, the above provisions must be included in every lease or rental agreement. However, they aren’t the only provisions that must be included in the agreement. What each agreement contains will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular parties and the property in question, but it is important to know the basics of where to start.

Landlord-tenant laws are both complex and specific to each State. If you need a Maryland real estate attorney or Virginia real estate attorney, we are here to help.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Anderson, Andrew "Real Estate Basics – What Must Be Included In A Lease Or Rental Agreement." Real Estate Basics – What Must Be Included In A Lease Or Rental Agreement. 4 Jul. 2010. 27 Nov 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Anderson, A (2010, July 4). Real Estate Basics – What Must Be Included In A Lease Or Rental Agreement. Retrieved November 27, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Anderson, Andrew "Real Estate Basics – What Must Be Included In A Lease Or Rental Agreement"

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