Whether you're a renter or a landlord, any rental agreement or lease you sign needs to be spelled out carefully and correctly, as it is a binding legal contract. It lays out the rights and responsibilities of both landlord and tenant, covering such issues as payments, length of the agreement and renewal, and proper use of the property. The rental agreement is intended to help protect the renter from excessive or illegal requirements of the landlord, and equally to protect the landlord from irresponsible tenants.
A lease document should include the names of all of the tenants, and any restrictions on the number of tenants allowed. The length of the tenancy should be stated, or how long the agreement is in force for, and when or how it can be renewed or changed. The contract should include the amount of the rent payment, when it needs to be paid, and how that is to be done (directly to the landlord, deposited in the bank, cash or check…). The amount required as a security deposit, and any other fees should also be mentioned. There should be details of the circumstances in which the security deposit will be used and what the responsibilities of the landlord are, for instance in terms of repairs.
The lease should discuss the landlord's rights, for instance access to the property, and the property's accepted code of conduct (are loud parties allowed?). It's important to clarify restrictions or regulations regarding pets. In addition there may be miscellaneous rules about the use of common areas, parking arrangements, laundry facilities and the like.
The more clearly the document is laid out, the less room there is for misunderstandings. If there are questions about the meaning of any of the items in the contract, it's best to clarify them before the document is signed. The area in which disagreements most often develop is in regards to use of the security deposit and what is considered normal wear and tear. A clearly worded contract can help reduce the possibility of lengthy (and costly) arguments.