What to Look for in a Lease Agreement

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A lease agreement is an agreement between a landlord and a tenant for rental of commercial or residential space. The laws of various jurisdictions contain special provisions designed to protect residential tenants from overreaching by landlords; nevertheless, landlord-tenant statutes also contain protections for landlords. Tenancy agreements should cover all major issues and comply with local law.

Security Deposits

The landlord uses a tenant's security deposit for two purposes -- to repair damage to the property and to pay unpaid bills such as utility and telephone charges. A landlord may not retain any portion of the security deposit to compensate for normal wear and tear. The landlord should have the duty to return the security deposit within a certain time after the tenant moves out, minus any appropriate charges. During the term of the lease, the security deposit should be held in an escrow account.


The lease should state the amount of the rental fee, the frequency of payment and the amount of any late charges. It should also state the due date for the rental fee and list any extra charges such as fees for the maintenance of common areas. Many leases also specify a particular means of payment -- by bank transfer to a particular account, for example.

Utilities and Maintenance

Normally, the tenant pays for utility charges, but some agreements require the tenant to pay a portion of the utility bills used for common areas such as a clubhouse or common hallways. Many jurisdictions require the landlord to bear responsibility for the maintenance of residential property and common areas. Nevertheless, it is acceptable to require the tenant to undertake minor repairs, such as changing a fuse or a light bulb, at his own expense. Commercial landlords have more latitude to shift responsibility for repairs to the tenant.

Restrictions and Evictions

Any restrictions should be clearly listed in the lease, preferably in bold type and particularly if violation justifies eviction. Many residential landlords forbid the keeping of pets, for example. Another common restriction is a prohibition against subleasing the property to a third party.The lease should also clarify the point at which late payment of rent justifies eviction, as well as the process of eviction. Since eviction is heavily regulated in most jurisdictions, landlords should carefully research local legal requirements before drafting eviction provisions.


About the Author

David Carnes has been a full-time writer since 1998 and has published two full-length novels. He spends much of his time in various Asian countries and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

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