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What is a Standard Rental Agreement?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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A standard rental agreement usually refers to month-to-month rental agreements as entered into by a tenant and a renter. They’re often contrasted to lease agreements that have a set period of time, usually a year or six months at least, when a person agrees to rent property. The term standard is a little misleading because it suggests that all rental agreements are the same. This isn’t the case and they can differ by permissions given to the renter or landlord, and by regional laws determining legal rights of renters and property owners.

In a month-to-month standard rental agreement, each party to the agreement can elect to change status at the end of each month, and if no changes are made the agreement simply renews each month. On the other hand, if someone decides to move, he or she could simply inform the landlord of this decision, though within the agreement there may be contractual obligation to give a certain amount of notice, like 30 days notice prior to vacating. That doesn’t mean the renter can’t move sooner, but he’d be obligated to pay 30 days' rent from the time of notice. Landlords may also be able to change terms, but some regions have laws requiring lengthier notice, like two months notice, for raising the rent, even if a standard rental agreement is in place.

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Some things people are likely to encounter in a standard rental agreement are statements that the agreement is month-to-month. They may also find terms about whether pets are allowed on the property, limits on the number of people that can live in the rented property, and a definition of the landlord’s responsibility or lack thereof for paying for things like utilities or personal injuries to renters or their property. An agreement should have information about who to contact when damage to property occurs, where to send payments, and what fines or fees could result from late payment. Each contract could be slightly different and might specify other duties or responsibilities for landlord or renter.

Both landlord and tenant are aided by a clear standard rental agreement. Even if renting to a trusted friend or relative, a landlord should have one of these in place. Many multiple property owners use property companies or lawyers to craft these agreements. There are also plenty of “canned” agreements available on the Internet and in books on property rental.

The canned or sample agreements may be fine to use, but people should check regional laws to determine if they differ from any example agreements. Advice from a real estate lawyer or property management company could still be useful to avoid creating terms that cannot be legally enforced. If this too expensive, using reputable legal self-help materials, like those created by Nolo Press® is advised to craft a solid standard rental agreement.

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