Tenant Rental Agreements and Landlord Rental Leases Accurate Credit Bureau

Both rental leases and rental agreements are legally enforceable agreements that establish the terms of your tenancy. They both cover basic issues such as the amount of rent, security deposits, and who can live in the rental unit. The primary difference between the two types of agreements is the length of the tenancy.

Before you get into the nuts and bolts of leases and rental agreements, it’s important that you understand the meaning of the word “term.” When you read a lease, rental agreement, or any other kind of contract, you’ll come across the word “term” used in two ways:

As a synonym for “rule” or “condition.” For example, you may see a sentence in a rental clause that reads: “The terms of the lease include $800 monthly rent, no pets, and a duty upon the tenant to shovel the sidewalk when it snows.” This means that you must pay this rent, not have a pet, and shovel that snow. If you don’t do these things, you will have broken (lawyers say “breached”) the agreement, and the landlord may be entitled to send you a termination notice.

As a way to describe the length (years or months) of the agreement. For example, a clause may say: “The term of the lease is one year.” This means that you must pay rent and abide by other rental rules for one year (and you get to live there for that length of time). 

Rental Agreements

A rental agreement establishes a tenancy for a short period of time, usually one month. A month-to-month rental agreement automatically renews each month unless you or your landlord gives the other the proper amount of notice (typically 30 days) to end the agreement. A landlord can change the terms of a rental agreement—for example, increase the rent (unless there’s rent control)—with proper written notice. In most states, this amount of notice is also 30 days.

A lease obligates both you and the landlord for a set period of time, usually a year. Your landlord can’t raise the rent or change other terms until the lease ends. And your landlord can’t force you to move out unless you breach an important term of the lease such as failing to pay the rent, or violate nuisance or other property laws by repeatedly making too much noise or damaging the rental unit. A landlord can’t kick you out simply because he feels like it or is annoyed with you because you complain too much about repairs or noisy neighbors.

At the end of the lease term, you or your landlord may decline to renew it or may negotiate to sign a new lease with the same or different terms. (Landlords subject to rent control, however, often have less flexibility when it comes to deciding not to renew a lease.) Often, especially when the landlord and tenant are content with the arrangement, nobody does anything formal and the tenant stays and continues to pay rent. When this happens, in most states the tenancy will continue on a month-to-month basis, subject to the same terms and conditions, in effect converting the lease to a rental agreement. For more information see Accurate Credit Bureau.

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