Renting out a home or multifamily unit can be a great way to make money. Thanks to technology, you can do most landlord-related business on your own, which saves you the trouble of hiring an attorney and paying a high hourly rate. But even if you use paperwork like a rental agreement form that you get online, it could pay off to have an attorney review your documentation before giving your tenant the go-ahead to move in.
Finding an Online Lease Agreement
You can easily find a rental agreement form, but it’s important to make sure it’s legal. A site like Nolo or RocketLawyer can have that backing that you’ll need to move forward comfortably. Make sure you outline the full terms of your agreement, including the date the lease begins and ends. Your agreement should also include the expected rent amount and the date it will be due each month, along with the consequences of it not being received by that date.
Your rental contract should also cover any deposits you require, along with the terms required for refundable deposits to be returned. Include limits on residents and pets, rules on subletting and restrictions on making changes to the structure or its internal contents, including flooring and appliances. Lastly, you should outline what’s required to end the lease ahead of the original end date and terms under which you can terminate the lease. Once you find a document that covers all of these things, you should be able to download it and print it to sign.
Lease Versus Rental Agreement
The terms rental contract and lease agreement can be used interchangeably, since they refer to the same thing. You may choose to call yours a contract in order to emphasize the legalities involved. Even if you aren’t getting an attorney involved, having the verbiage on your paperwork could give the illusion that one was. But renters are used to the term “lease” when they sign paperwork for a new apartment or rental home, so they’ll understand it’s official if you choose that term.
Whether you get an online lease agreement and sign it or you have paperwork issued by your attorney, your agreement should be enforceable as long as it is in writing, signed by both parties and covers whatever issues arise. If, for instance, you’ve left out that tenants must give notice and your tenant chooses to move out, you’ll likely have difficulty enforcing any late fees. This is where it can be helpful to have an attorney review your document before you use it to make sure it includes everything.
Signing an Online Lease Agreement
At one time, a rental contract or lease agreement was paper-based, but increasingly, landlords and real estate agents are using electronic signing. You can use a service like DocuSign to upload your PDF and request signatures from renters, saving you the time and trouble of printing everything out and having copies made. Once all parties have signed the agreement, a copy will be emailed to each of them.
Thanks to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, an electronically signed rental agreement form is just as legal as a paper-based signature, as long as it meets the requirements under the law. As with paper documents, all parties must have had full intent to sign the agreement, all parties must agree to do business electronically, the software capturing the signatures must have a record of the steps all parties went through before signing and records must be retained in accordance with the law. If you go with a reputable electronic document signing service, your agreement will hold up in a court of law, but as with the contents of your contract, it can never hurt to do a quick check with your attorney.
- Consider hiring a lawyer to ensure that the lease complies with the rules and regulations of your state. Though the lawyer charges a fee to perform this service, it can protect you from any legal issues down the road.
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.