What is a Rental Lease Agreement?

A rental lease is a legal contract between the landlord and a tenant.  It allows the tenant to occupy space/property in exchange for rent.  A rental lease outlines the terms and conditions under which the tenant rents the specified space/property.

Before authorizing a rental lease, a landlord may be obligated to run a background and credit check on the proposed tenants. It allows the landlord to know if the tenant can be able to afford the rent.  A lease is important for legal protection regardless of the type of lease agreement in case problems arises during the tenancy.

State-specific Rental Lease Agreements


Types of lease agreements

Month-to-Month Rental Agreement– A flexible lease that lasts for a month-long. It has an automatic lease renewal and continues when either party, (Landlord or tenant) issues a notice to terminate the tenancy.

Standard Lease Agreement – is the most common type of agreement for residential properties. The agreement lasts for a fixed period of one year or as agreed between the parties on renewal.

Commercial Lease Agreement – A lease that is used for renting out retail space, offices, industrial facility space, restaurants, or any other property/space for commercial/business operations.

Sublease Agreement– It is used when an existing tenant rents out a property or a room. It is applicable in cases where the tenants want to end their lease but cannot break the lease, thus subletting. It is also used when a tenant wants to remain in the dwelling unit while subletting a room.

Room Rental Agreement– It outlines the rules and boundaries when renting a room in a property or among sharing roommates/ roommates and the landlord. Examples are rent division, utility payments, visitors, and others.

One Page (Simple) Agreement– It is used for a fixed term and contains basic details binding the landlord and the tenant.

Short-Term (Vacation) Agreement – An agreement whose tenancy lasts for a few days. It is mostly applied to homeowners, condominiums, apartments, or any other type of residence as agreed between the parties.

Rent to Own Agreement– An agreement that contains provisions giving a tenant an option to purchase the property at the end of the lease. It includes rent payments and down payments for the property if the tenant chooses that.

What a General Lease Agreement should contain

There are primary details that every lease agreement should have regardless of the type. They are:

  • Date of the agreement entered between the landlord and the tenant
  • Name and addresses of both parties (Landlord and tenant)
  • Description of the rental unit
  • Required rent and the terms of payments
  • Security deposit and terms surrounding it (amount, returning security deposits)
  • Term of occupancy

State-wise Security Deposit Limits

AlabamaOne month rent
AlaskaTwo month’s rent
ArizonaOne and half month’s rent
ArkansasTwo month’s rent
CaliforniaTwo month’s rent for the unfurnished and three month’s rent for the furnished property
ColoradoNo limit
ConnecticutFor 62 years and older, One month rent. Younger than that, two month’s rent
DelawareOne month’s rent for a yearly lease. There is no limit for the rest
FloridaNo limit
GeorgiaNo limit
HawaiiOne month’s rent
IdahoNo limit
IllinoisNo limit
IndianaNo limit
IowaTwo month’s rent
KansasOne month’s rent for unfurnished and one half month’s rent for the furnished
KentuckyNo limit
LouisianaNo limit
MaineTwo month’s rent
MarylandTwo month’s rent
MassachusettsOne month’s rent
MichiganOne and half month’s rent
MinnesotaNo limit
MississippiNo limit
MissouriTwo month’s rent
MontanaNo limits
NebraskaOne month’s rent
NevadaThree month’s rent
New Hampshire One month’s rent or $100, whichever is greater
New JerseyOne and half month’s rent
New MexicoOne month’s rent for one year lease and under. No limit for more than one year leases
New YorkOne month’s rent
North CarolinaTwo month’s rent. One and a half month’s for tenancy at will
North DakotaOne month’s rent. Two month’s rent if there are pets.
OhioNo limits
OklahomaNo limits
OregonNo limits
PennsylvaniaTwo month’s rent
Rhode IslandOne month’s rent
South CarolinaNo limit
South DakotaOne month’s rent
TennesseeNo limit
TexasNo limit
UtahNo limit
VermontNo limit
VirginiaTwo month’s rent
WashingtonNo limit
West VirginiaNo limit
WisconsinNo limit
WyomingNo limit

State-wise Security Deposit Return Deadline

Alabama60 days after termination of lease
Alaska14 days after termination of the lease
Arizona14 days after the tenant vacates
Arkansas60 days after termination of the agreement
California60 days after end of tenancy
ColoradoOne month if it was on the lease agreement, if not, two months
Connecticut30 days after the tenant moves out or 15 days from the time the landlord receives the tenant’s new address
Delaware20 days after tenancy termination
Florida15 days after termination. 30 days after termination if there are deductions to be done
GeorgiaOne month after termination date
Hawaii14 days after lease termination
Idaho21 days if not stated in the lease. 30 days if stated in the lease
Illinois30 days if there are deductions. 45 days if no deductions
Indiana45 days after tenancy termination
Iowa30 days after vacating the premises
Kansas30 days from termination date
Kentucky60 days from the termination of tenancy
LouisianaOne month form termination date
Maine30 days for fixed lease period. 21 days for month-month lease
Maryland45 days from termination date
Massachusetts30 days after the tenant vacates
Michigan30 days after tenancy expires
MinnesotaThree weeks from termination date
Mississippi45 days after tenancy expires
Missouri30 days after lease termination
Montana30 days if there are deductions. 10 days if there are no deductions.
Nebraska14 days after tenancy termination
Nevada30 days after tenancy ends
New Hampshire30 days. 20 days if the property is shared with the landlord
New Jersey30 days after the lease is terminated
New Mexico30 days after lease termination
New York14 days after the tenant vacates the premises
North Carolina30 days after termination. 60 days if there are deductions
North Dakota30 days after tenancy termination
Ohio30 days after termination of lease
Oklahoma45 days after termination of lease
Oregon31 days after tenancy termination
Pennsylvania30 days after lease termination
Rhode Island20 days after the lease ends
South Carolina30 days after termination
South Dakota14 days if no deductions. 45 days where there is deductions
Tennessee30 days from termination date
Texas30 days after the tenancy termination
Utah30 days after the lease expires
Vermont14 days. 60 days for seasonal property
Virginia45 days after termination of the lease
Washington21 days after the tenant vacates the premises
West Virginia60 days. For cases where the property is rented within 45 days, then the deposit is returned immediately
Wisconsin21 days after the tenant vacates the premises
Wyoming30 days after the lease expires or 15 days after receiving the tenant’s new address

Disclosures and Addendums

The required disclosures and addendums vary according to the state.  The disclosures may be written in the lease agreement and addendums may be attached in a separate sheet.

  1. Landlord’s Name and Address – The name and address of the landlord or any other person authorized to act on their behalf. It is important for deliveries of legal notices and demands when the need arises.
  2. Lead-Based Paint -The landlord should give notice of potential lead-based paint risks for the property built before 1978. A pamphlet with known hazards in the rental unit should be provided.
  3. Asbestos – The disclosure is required for properties built before 1981. The landlord informs the tenants of the asbestos situation and precautions to take to avoid messing with asbestos fibers.
  4. Mold Disclosure – current mold situation in the property to avoid future liability caused by mold damages.
  5. Bed-Bugs – Landlords provide information on how to deal with a bedbug infestation in buildings with a history of bed bug infestations. It outlines the tenants’ obligation to comply with bed bug prevention by informing the landlord of any signs.
  6. Move-in Checklist – An itemized list of damages in the property before a tenant occupies the property. A tenant is liable for any serious damage that occurs during the tenancy.
  7. Late and Returned Check Fees- The landlord should disclose if they intend to charge any late fees or returned check fees depending on the state requirements.
  8. Refundable and Non-Refundable Fees – The landlord discloses any non-refundable fees so that they are not subject to a refund when the lease agreement expires.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Lease Agreement a Legal Document?

Yes. The lease agreement is legally binding once it is signed by the landlord and the tenant.

Can One Negotiate Rental Lease Agreement?

Yes. It is possible to negotiate the rental contract depending on the status of the marketplace at the time.

What Happens When a Tenant violates a lease agreement?

The landlord may try to resolve the issue by allowing the tenant to fix it for issues like rent and utility payments.  The landlord can evict the tenant if they are not able to fix the problem. Major violations such as illegal drug use within the property can lead to eviction.

Should a Lease agreement be written?

Yes. Lease agreements should always be written for formality. In case of a dispute, the landlord and the tenant can go back to the written agreement and see who is on the wrong.

Can a Landlord use my Security Deposit?

Yes, a landlord can use the security deposit to cover unpaid rent, for excessive damage and repairs on the property.