Requirements of a Valid Lease for Real Estate

A signed lease makes rental terms enforceable

Couple signing property contract with real-estate agent
Getty Image/kokouu

Landlord-tenant laws are governed by states, and as such, leases vary. In general, however, a lease spells out a landlord's and tenant's obligations, which helps both parties avoid lawsuits. Rental leases must contain the following elements to be considered valid.

Real Estate Lease Validity

Most, but not all states, require leases to be in writing to be considered valid. Among the states that require written leases, valid ones must include a description of the property.

The property's physical address is considered a valid description. Leases must include starting and ending dates. Additionally, a lease must include the amount of rent that is due, when it is due and how it should be paid. So, a lease must spell out the exact date the tenant must deliver the rent, any grace periods offered by the landlord and where the tenant must deliver the payment -- for example, by check to the landlord's office or electronically to her bank account. Valid leases must also follow federal Fair Housing Laws.

Further Validity

In addition to the basic conditions, leases that require tenants to waive their rights to their security deposit or to sue the landlord are considered invalid and unenforceable. Leases also must not contain language that absolve the landlord from her obligation to keep the property habitable.

Common Lease Provisions

Leases should be as detailed as possible.

Common lease provisions include, but are not limited to, security deposit amounts, utility obligations and pet deposits -- when pets are allowed. Leases also parking rules, which parties are responsible for general interior and exterior maintenance of a rental unit and the landlords obligations to keep the property habitable.

It is not uncommon for leases to include provisions regarding renter's insurance, the number of guests that can stay with the tenant and whether the tenant can sublease the premises.

Associated Legal Terms

Capacity to contract

The parties to the real estate lease contract must have the legal capacity to enter into the agreement. Age, mental competency and other issues are considered. A minor, which is a person considered 18 years old or younger, could not enter into a lease. Also, if a person with documented mental competency issues enters into a lease, it would be considered invalid.

Legal objectives

The purposes of the lease must be legal. If the property to be leased is to be used for illegal purposes, the lease would be invalid.

Offer and acceptance

All terms of the contract must be agreed upon by both parties. The owner or landlord would offer these terms to the tenant and the tenant would accept them, signified by their signatures to the lease.

Consideration

Normally, consideration for a valid lease contract is in the form of rental payment(s). However, it could be in some other form, such as a trade of labor or property improvements for tenancy. Rent is normally fixed for the life of the lease and cannot be changed unless agreed to in writing by both parties.