Lease Agreement FAQ

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Q. How to do I know which terms and provisions to include in the lease agreement?

A. The best you can do is to ask a lawyer to help assist you in writing the lease agreement. Common terms are understandable, but there are some lease agreements out there that includes rules prohibited by law, so be sure to avoid items like that.

Q. Can we use oral agreement?

A. Yes, you can use oral agreement. A tenant will be responsible to pay rent even without written agreement. The terms of the agreement will be controlled by your state’s Civil Code.

Q. Which is better, an oral or written agreement?

A. For some cases, it can be advantageous for tenants to not have a written contract. At times of disputes, you will not be able to charge for attorney’s fee, should you win against your tenant. However, most of the time, it will be better for the both parties to have a written agreement of the lease to avoid potential conflicts. The lease agreement will act as a common ground for both the landlord and the tenant, as it states the rights and responsibilities of both parties. Both landlords and tenants should have a copy of their signed agreement.


Q. Can I change the terms of a rental agreement?

A. Yes, but only with a proper notice. You can change any of the terms in the rental agreement, such as addition or deletion of services, rent increase, security deposit increase, amenities and the termination of the tenancy.

Q. What is a proper notice?

A. A proper notice depends on the terms in the rental or leasing agreement. Most agreements will need 30 days written notice. Some agreements however, will allow for a shorter period of notice. However, the notice period should never be less than 7 days. Both parties must agree for a shorter notice period before the start of the agreement.


Q. Can a landlord change the terms of a lease?

A. No, the lease agreement is a contract with a fixed date. A change in any terms of the lease agreement will need approval of both parties (you and your tenant). Some lease agreements however, includes a clause that allows the landlord to change the terms during the period of tenancy, but this is usually not considered as a true lease. If your agreement has this clause, then either you or your tenant may change the terms with a given notice.


Q. Can I change the terms when the lease expires?

A. Yes, but as long as both parties have not entered a new lease yet. If the parties have not entered into a new lease agreement, the old lease will become month-to-month rental agreement and can be changed with given notice.


Q. Can a landlord or a tenant terminate a tenancy at any time without a reason?

A. It depends on the type of tenancy. Periodic tenancy (month-to-month) can be terminated with a proper notice at anytime, even without a reason. However, those in rent subsidy programs or in specific cities might need a cause. For fixed term tenancy, it will need a cause to terminate the tenancy within its fixed term. A fixed term lease doesn’t always renew; renewal depends on the terms of the lease and actions of each parties.


Q. What should a lease or rental agreement include?

A. The lease or rental agreement should include:

  1. Your name (landlord) and your tenant’s name and the description of the rental property unit subject to the lease. Also, include the names of other people who will occupy the rent with the tenant.

  2. The term of the lease; is it a month-to-month rental agreement, a 1-year lease agreement, a 5-year lease agreement, etc.

  3. The price of rent tenant must pay the landlord and the due of rent.

  4. Specific figures for security deposit, whether it is held with interest and when it will be returned to the tenant by the end of the lease.

  5. What will happen in the event of a “default” – the failure of either party to meet the terms of the agreement (such as landlord’s failure to keep the rental property in habitable condition, or failure of the tenant to pay the rent).

  6. Whether the tenant needs to pay his or her landlord a late fee for the rent not paid on time.

  7. Whether the tenant can operate a business out of the rental property (where the local zoning ordinance permits such activities).

  8. Whether the tenant will be subjected to default in the event that he or she disturbs other tenant’s “right of enjoyment”.

  9. The duties and responsibilities of both you as a landlord and your tenants, particularly about maintenance of the rental property unit.

  10. What will happen by the end of the term of the lease agreement (are there options to renew, conversion of lease agreement to a lesser term, notice of termination by the tenant to you).

  11. What conditions permits landlords to enter the occupied rental property unit.

  12. Whether it’s tenant’s responsibility to pay the cost of incurred lawsuit and attorney’s fee in the event you file a lawsuit against him and you win (and conversely, whether you’re responsible to pay for your tenant’s lawsuit costs and attorney’s fee should he or she win the lawsuit).

  13. Whether the tenant is allowed to have a pet, the type of pet, number of pets allowable and whether you ask for additional deposit for pets.

  14. What happens if either one of the party dies or sells the rental unit within the term of the tenancy.

Though there are pre-printed lease forms ready to be filled, it is best for both the landlord and the tenant to change the specifics of the terms and conditions rental agreement to their preferences and needs. Like other contracts, lease forms are always subject to negotiation between you and your prospective tenant.  For a free residential lease agreement, click here.