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What is a Residential Lease Agreement?
A residential lease is a legally binding agreement between a landlord and a tenant who intends to rent a specific property. It is an all-inclusive document created to outline the expectations of both parties and address any special circumstances that may arise during the length of the agreement. It also clearly states the potential consequences for not adhering to the stated terms. For maximum legal credibility, it is critical that this document be produced in writing, reviewed and signed by both parties prior to occupancy.
Before reviewing and signing a residential lease agreement, a landlord will likely ask a potential tenant to complete an application form to begin a background and credit check. If these assessments are met with approval, then the process of renting the property may continue. Applicable rent, security deposits and fees will be paid by the tenant, and the residential lease will be signed by both parties. The tenant may take occupancy on the date indicated in the residential lease.
Residential Lease Agreement Elements
The sections that follow are necessary elements to a residential lease. Each section includes information that pertains specifically to lease agreements in New York. All rental properties are unique and it is important for the landlord to tailor their residential lease to the unit or property being rented. This guide lists various circumstances for landlords to consider as they are drafting a residential lease agreement. Landlords need to include the components listed here to be legally compliant in the state of New York.
Lease Introduction and Identification of Involved Parties
At the beginning of each lease agreement, there will be a need to state the name of the parties that are entering into the lease agreement as well as the address of the unit that is being considered for the agreement. This will typically look like this:
Address of the Property: ______________________________
Terms and Limits of Occupancy
The next sections that a landlord will want to place in the agreement is going to be the terms of the agreement as well as the amount of rent that is due each month. Landlords will also want to include the occupants that will be residing in the unit, and whether subletting the property is permitted. It should look like this:
Rental Amount: Starting on ________________________, 20___ the tenant listed above agrees to pay the landlord the amount of $______________each month before the ______ day of each calendar month. The rental payment amount should be delivered by the tenant to the landlord at the following location ________________________________________________. The rent must be received by the landlord to remain in compliance with the rental agreement.
Rental Term: The unit is being leased based on the following terms:
____ Month to Month
____ One Year
____ Two Years
____ Until ___________________, 20___
Occupants: This property cannot be occupied by any individual other than the tenant that is listed above in this document. The following named individuals can also be members of the household, which will give them full access to the premises at any time. ____________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________
Any additional persons who are permitted to occupy the unit based on this rental agreement will count as a resident of the unit. For each additional person who resides here, the rent shall be increased by $__________. Guests do not need written consent to stay in the unit. However, any person staying on the premise for a period of 14 days or more in a row will need to have written consent from the landlord. Without the written consent, they will be considered unauthorized tenants who are in violation of the rental agreement.
Subletting: This is what it is called when the tenant rents out the property that they are renting in this agreement. As the tenant, the agreement that is being made for the property is that you alone will reside in the unit, along with anyone else who is named in this lease. The tenant agrees that they will not sublet or assign the unit to anyone else who is not on the lease without obtaining written permission from the landlord before making the change. Anything that is going to make the tenant money by renting the property for a period of time is not allowed. This means that using the unit as an Airbnb is not allowed, and using the property this way would be in violation of the rental agreement. The unit cannot be rented out as a vacation unit either.
Late Charge: When a tenant is late with their agreed upon rental payment, a charge of _______ will be added to the amount of rent that is currently owed to the landlord. This charge will only be added if rent is not paid on the date that has been agreed upon in this rental agreement. If the landlord issues a notice to pay rent to the tenant, then the tenant will be required to pay with a cashier’s check or a bank check. If a check is not honored by the tenant’s financial institution , the tenant will be required to provide a cashier’s check or a bank check for all future payments that are to be made. This will be required until the landlord provides written consent stating that the tenant can use personal checks to pay the lease agreement once again. If a check has been dishonored, then the tenant will be responsible for covering the sum of $_______.
Security Deposits and Additional Fees in New York
The next section of the lease agreement will cover the security deposits as well as any other fees that will be required from the tenant before moving in:
Security Deposits: When the tenant agrees to the terms of this lease, they will be required to deposit a sum of $_________ to the landlord as a security deposit. This deposit is designed to secure the tenant’s performance when it comes to the terms of the lease. The limits of the security deposit do not allow it to exceed two times the sum of the monthly rent of the unit. When the tenant and all of the residents vacate the property, the landlord may choose to use the security deposit to clean the property, replace anything that is broken or damaged, or use it to cover the cost of any unpaid rent that is owed to the landlord.
The security deposit cannot be used to pay for back rent when in the terms of the lease. When the tenant vacates the property, the Landlord will have a period of 21 days in which they must provide a written statement to the tenant to let them know how much is being deducted from the security deposit and how much the remaining balance is that the tenant will receive. The tenant should provide the forwarding address to the landlord, but if this does not occur, the statement and the refund of the security deposit can be sent to the property’s address to be forwarded with the tenants name on the envelope.
Rent and Utilities in New York
The next section will lay out what is required of the tenant for the initial payment as well as what utilities they will be required to pay each month. Some properties include some utilities in the cost of the rent, so if that is the case, it will be covered in this section. If a specific parking space is provided for the tenants, all of this information should be included as well.
The Initial Payment: Before moving into the rental unit, the tenant will be required to pay a full first month’s rent in the amount of $________ and a security deposit, which comes to a total of $________. This comes to a total initial payment of $________, which can be transferred from the tenant to the landlord in the form of cash, check, or a cashier’s check. In order to be given the keys to the property, the initial payment needs to be paid in full.
Utilities: The tenant of the unit will be responsible for paying for the cost of all of the utilities that are used on the premise. This will also include any services that are designated to be used for the unit only; however, the following exceptions will be made and paid for by the landlord. _________ _________________________________________________________________________________
Parking: The tenant ___ is to be assigned or ____ is not to be assigned a designated parking space on the property. If a space is assigned to the tenant specifically, they should park in space number _______. Only the tenant’s vehicle has permission to park in the assigned spot. The vehicle must be registered in the tenant’s name, and the tenant may not lease or sublet the parking space to another individual. No other vehicle may be stored in this space without written consent. In addition, the tenant may not wash their vehicle, repair their vehicle, or paint their vehicle in the assigned space. If a vehicle is leaking any type of substance onto the ground, it will not be permitted to be parked anywhere on the property. Any tenant’s vehicle that is parked in a space must be registered as a vehicle in the state of New York. Trailers, campers, boats, buses, or other recreational vehicles cannot be parked on the premise. In addition, parking or driving on the grass around the buildings is not permitted either.
Maintenance, Alteration, and Repairs of Premises in New York
The next section of a rental agreement should cover the conditions of the unit and what occurs when maintenance needs to be done. It will also cover whether alterations can take place in the unit. In most rental agreements, this section could look like this:
Conditions of the Unit: The landlord has fully inspected the unit that the tenant is going to move into. The tenant knows and acknowledges that the unit has been inspected by the landlord. The tenant agrees that the premise has been cleaned properly before agreeing to the terms of the lease, and all of the appliances and fixtures are working like they are designed to. The tenant agrees to keep the unit neat and ensure that the space is sanitary. The tenant will be responsible for reimbursing the landlord for any repairs that they are forced to make on the property because of the negligence and the misuse of the tenants.
_____ The tenant will be responsible for cleaning and repairing any plumbing stoppages that may occur.
_____ The tenant will be responsible for repairing, replacing, or cleaning the garbage disposal because of a blockage in the drain that was caused by the tenant.
Repairs: Anything within the unit that needs to be repaired that is the responsibility of the landlord will be taken care of in a reasonable fashion when the tenant sends a written notice to the landlord requesting that the services or the repairs be done. The tenant must give the landlord sufficient time to complete the repairs. The tenant must agree that no rent will be withheld from the landlord without written notice being served to the landlord, which gives the landlord enough time to fix the said items under the Civil Code Section 1942.
Alterations: The tenant is not permitted to make any alterations or changes to the property without first obtaining written consent from the landlord giving the tenant permission to make the changes. This includes the changing things like the lighting fixtures, the dishwasher, the washing machine, the dryer, and other appliances that can be found in the unit. The tenant will not be permitted to change the locks on the unit or install additional locks without written consent. The walls within the unit may not be painted or have wallpaper applied to them. Signs in the windows for the general public to see are also not permitted to be in the unit.
Access to Property/Notice of Entry in New York
Next, you will have to consider who will have access to the property as well as a notice of entry for the landlord. This permits the landlord to enter the unit with very little notice when repairs and inspections need to take place. It should also cover the keys that are presented to the tenant when they move in as well as whether or not new locks can be added to the unit. This section on a typical lease agreement could look like this:
Right of Entry: During normal business hours, the landlord has the right to enter and inspect any unit on the premise with a prior notice of at least 24 hours to the tenant who resides there. Any alterations, repairs, or maintenance needs that the landlord determines needs to be done during this inspection will be scheduled for another time that fits the landlord and the tenant’s schedule. In addition, the landlord also has the right to decide whether the repairs will best be done without the tenant in the unit. This may require the tenant to temporarily vacate the unit for a period of time. The tenant should be served a seven-day notice from the landlord. The tenant will also agree to be compensated for the period of time that they were displaced from the unit by the landlord. Any maintenance or repair work that requires the tenant to perform any action must be requested in writing at least 24 hours ahead of the planned maintenance.
Keys or Locks: The tenant will receive ________ keys to the unit that is being rented in this agreement. They will also receive _________ keys to the mailbox that is designed to be used by tenants who reside in the unit. If the original keys are lost, more can be requested by the tenant. These new keys will require the tenant to pay $_________ for each additional key that is made. If any unit is rekeyed, it is required that the landlord receives a copy of the key to the new locks. If a tenant gets locked out of their apartment, there will be a charge that the tenant will need to pay in order to be let back into the unit. If the tenant needs to be let into the unit after hours, the fee for the tenant will be $_________________.
Tenants are not permitted to remove any locks that are on the unit that are already in place, even if they were installed by the tenant. Additional locks cannot be installed without written consent from the landlord.
Pets and Other Addendums in New York
Pets are another aspect that should be covered in this agreement. Many tenants may own pets, so they are likely to wonder about the ability to bring their pets with them when they move in.
Pets: No domestic pets or other animals may be kept on the property. This refers to dogs, cats, birds, fish, and other pets that the tenant may have in their household. In order to have one of these animals in the leased space, a landlord must give written consent that states that the animal is allowed to be positioned in the building.
______ One animal is permitted to live in the unit with the tenant.
______ Two animals are permitted to live in the unit with the tenant.
______ Three animals are permitted to live in the unit with the tenant.
Pets that are not domesticated are not allowed to be on the premise at all. The tenant will be responsible for any damage caused by the pets whether it is authorized to be in the unit or not. This includes any damage that is caused by the urination, defecation, pests, scratching, clawing, or biting of the pets who reside in the unit.
Disruptive Activities: Any tenant that moves onto the premise is also responsible for the actions of his or her guests. The tenant and their guests are not permitted to disturb, annoy, or endanger the other tenants in the building. In addition, the tenant shall not be permitted to keep anything on the premise that will block or obstruct the other units and the public spaces of the building. Loitering on or around the front steps of the building or in common hallways that other residents may need to use is not permitted. There is a designated time in which residents who live on the property must make an effort to keep noise at a respectable level so that other neighbors are not disturbed. In general, there will be no loud noises or domestic disturbances after ___________ each night.
Legal Restrictions in New York
The next section should cover any legal restrictions that the landlord has put upon the tenants in the unit as well as other rules that they must abide by. This can cover a variety of things, but some of addendums that you should consider include the following:
- Smoking: Smoking is not only bad for your health; it is also a habit that is extremely hazardous and deleterious to the property. Once the tenant moves out of the property, the smell of the smoke will remain difficult to get rid of for years. This can cause issues later with potential residents on the property because it can be something that turns away good tenants. If smoking in the unit is not preferred by the landlord, it will help keep the property as clean and pleasant for future tenants as possible.
- Furnishings: When a tenant is ready to add furniture to the unit, there are going to be certain restrictions that must be followed. No furniture that holds water or another liquid will be permitted on the premise. Waterbeds are permitted in the units for any building that was built after the year 1973, but the tenant must maintain waterbed insurance at a value of $100,000 or more. The tenant must provide the landlord with proof of this insurance. In addition, the tenant must comply with the load capacity that was set forth by the manufacturer. The washers, dryers, and dishwashers are also not permitted to be changed or installed in the unit without written consent from the landlord.
- Termination of the Lease Agreement: If the termination of this lease is based on an agreement that is a fixed amount of time, then the expiration of the agreement will move from a month to month arrangement. This must be approved by the landlord to remain in effect. A tenant that is living on a month to month agreement can continue until either party provides a 30-day written notice that the occupancy of the unit will be terminated.
- Possession: When the agreement is signed, the unit must be available to be moved into on the date that was agreed upon. If the premise that was promised to the tenant cannot be delivered on the day that the arrangement is set. Partial destruction of the property as well as a failure to vacate the previous tenants is also included in this clause. Either party can be found ready to terminate the body of the lease agreement, and no one shall have a liability in the agreement. If the tenant has paid funds to the landlord before the expected move-in date, those funds shall be refunded in full to the tenant.
- Notices: All notices that the landlord serves the tenant shall be served by first class mail. The mail must be addressed to the tenant. The envelope can also be hand-delivered to the unit personally by the landlord or a member of the management staff. The tenant does not need to be present at the time that the notice is delivered.
- Attorney Fees: If any action is brought forth by either party to enforce the terms of the agreement or to recover the possessions that were held inside of the unit, the party that wins the case will be responsible for the other party’s attorney fees. If the action ends up going to trial, a jury trial is going to raise the litigation cost between the parties by quite a bit. This type of trial will also take longer to settle in court. Because of this fact, all parties can waive the rights to have the matter settled by a jury trial.
- Hazardous Materials: The tenant is not permitted to keep any substance on the premise that is dangerous to be around, flammable, or hazardous to the other tenants. Any components that could increase the chance of fire of an explosion on the property would be included in this category.
- Lead-Based Paint Disclosure: Any property that was built before the year 1978 has the chance of containing lead-based paint. Lead paint, chips from the paint, and even dust can be harmful if it is not properly managed. It can be dangerous for small children living in the unit as well as for pregnant females. If lead-based paint is anywhere on the premise, the landlord must inform the tenant. They must also provide a federally-approved pamphlet on lead poison prevention.
Once all of the following subjects have been discussed, both parties should sign and date the agreement. The landlord will provide a copy of the agreement to the tenant. The signature section of the final document should look like this:
Agreement: This agreement, which includes any attachments that have been incorporated by reference, is the entire agreement between the two parties. It exceeds any written or oral agreement that has been made between the parties. The tenant enters into this agreement with the landlord willingly. The tenant has read and understood the agreement, and they have been given a duplicate of the original.
Tenant’s Signature _________________________________________________
Tenant’s Signature _________________________________________________