Lease Agreements and Policies
The lease agreement is the contract between the tenant and the landlord that sets out the duties and rights of each party. For example, the tenant has the duty to pay the rent on time, and the landlord has the right to enter the premises for repair. Typically, tenants renting units in apartment complexes sign a standard lease form used by landlords in that state. A condominium complex or homeowner who is leasing will probably use a different form. A private landlord may use his own form or the standard form.
Some states have adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA), which covers many issues in lease agreements as well as tenant rights and landlord remedies in lease disputes. A lease agreement may incorporate URLTA's provisions. For example, if the lease agreement states that return of security deposits is governed by URLTA, the landlord must follow those requirements.
Lease agreements that are less than a year in length do not have to be written. An oral agreement between the landlord and tenant is binding. In this situation, state law rather than a written agreement covers the duties and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant. Oral lease agreements are not recommended.
TIP: Always get a copy of the lease agreement after it is completed and signed by all the parties.
Do I need a written lease agreement if I am renting from a good friend?
It depends. Without an agreement, certain laws covering the rental and leasing of property apply rather than the terms you and your friend agreed to. Many states have laws that favor the tenant. For example, without an agreement, the law provides that you are in a month-to-month lease. The advantage is that you can move out with a month's notice. The disadvantage is your friend only has to give you a month's notice to end the lease.