A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee (user) to pay the lessor (owner) for use of an asset. Broadly put, a lease agreement is a contract between two parties, the lessor and the lessee. The lessor is the legal owner of the asset; the lessee obtains the right to use the asset in return for regular rental payments. The lessee also agrees to abide by various conditions regarding their use of the property.
A rental agreement is often called a lease. Real estate rentals are initiated by a rental application which is used to build the terms of the lease. In addition to the basics of a rental (who, what, when, how much), a real estate rental may go into much more detail on these and other issues. The real estate may be rented for housing, parking a vehicle(s), storage, business, agricultural, institutional, or government use, or other reasons.
The parties involved in the contract, the lessor (sometimes called the owner or landlord) and the lessee (sometimes called the renter or tenant) are identified in the contract. A housing lease may specify whether the renter is living alone, with family, children, room-mate, visitors. A rental may delineate the rights and obligations of each of these. For example, a “sub-let” to a stranger might not be permitted without permission of the landlord. This also applies to whether or not pets may be kept by the renter. On the other hand, the renter may also have specific rights against intrusions by the landlord (or other tenants), except under emergency circumstances. A renter is in possession of the property, and a landlord would be trespassing upon the renter’s rights if entry is made without proper notice and authority (e.g., 24 hours’ notice, daytime, knock first, except for emergency repairs, in case of fire, flood, etc.).
Rented real estate may include all or part of almost any real property, such as an apartment, house, building, business office(s) or suite, land, farm, or merely an inside or outside space to park a vehicle, or store things. The premises rented may include not only specific rooms, but also access to other common areas such as off-street parking, basement or attic storage, laundry facility, pool, roof-deck, balconies, etc. The agreement may specify how and when these places may be used, and by whom. There may be detailed description of the current condition of the premises, for comparison with the condition at the time the premises are surrendered.
The term of the rental may be for a night (e.g., a hotel room), weeks, months, or years. There may be statutory provisions requiring registration of any rental that could extend for more than a specified number of years (e.g., seven) in order to be enforceable against a new landlord.
A typical rental is either annual or month-to-month, and the amount of rent may be different for long-term renters (because of lower turnover costs). Leaving a long-term lease before its expiration could result in penalties, or even the cost of the entire agreed period (if the landlord is unable to find a suitable replacement tenant, after diligent pursuit). If a tenant stays beyond the end of a lease for a term of years (one or more), then the parties may agree that the lease will be automatically renewed, or it may simply convert to a tenancy at will (month-to-month) at the pro-rated monthly cost of the previous annual lease. If a tenant at will is given notice to quit the premises, and refuses to do so, the landlord then begins eviction proceedings. In many places it is completely illegal to change locks on doors, or remove personal belongings, let alone forcibly eject a person, without a court order of eviction. There may be strict rules of procedure, and stiff penalties (triple damages, plus attorneys’ fees) for violations.
Rent may be payable monthly, annually, or in advance, or as otherwise agreed. A typical arrangement for tenancy at will is “first and last month’s rent” plus a security deposit. The “last month’s rent” is rent that has yet to be earned by the landlord.
The security deposit is often handled as an escrow deposit, owned by the tenant, but held by the landlord until the premises are surrendered in good condition (ordinary wear and tear excepted). In some states, the landlord must provide the tenant with the name and account number of the bank where the security deposit is held, and pay annual interest to the tenant. Other regulations may require the landlord to submit a list of pre-existing damage to the property, or forfeit the security deposit immediately (because there is no way to determine whether a prior tenant was responsible).
In order to rent (alternatively called lease) in many apartment buildings, a renter (lessee) is often required to provide proof of renters insurance before signing the rental agreement. There is a special type of the homeowners insurance in the United States specifically for renters — HO-4. This is commonly referred to as renter’s insurance or renter’s coverage. Similar to condominium coverage, referred to as a HO-6 policy, a renter’s insurance policy covers those aspects of the apartment and its contents not specifically covered in the blanket policy written for the complex. This policy can also cover liabilities arising from accidents and intentional injuries for guests as well as passers-by up to 150′ of the domicile. Renter’s policies provide “named peril” coverage, meaning the policy states specifically what you are insured against. Common coverage areas are:
- Accidental Discharge of Water
- Fire or Lightning
- Vandalism or Malicious Mischief
Additional events including riot, aircraft, explosion, hail, falling objects, volcanic eruption, snow, sleet, and weight of ice may also be covered.
In real estate law, sublease (or, less formally, sublet) is the name given to an arrangement in which the lessee (e.g. tenant) in a lease assigns the lease to a third party, thereby making the old lessee the sublessor, and the new lessee the sublessee, or subtenant. This means they are not only leasing the property, but also subleasing it simultaneously. For example, if a company leases an office space directly from a landlord, the lessor, and subsequently outgrows the office, then the company can sublease the smaller office space to another company, the subtenant, and enter into a new lease for a larger office space, thereby hedging their real estate exposure.
The sublessor remains liable to the original lessor in accordance with the initial lease, including all remaining rent payments, including operating expenses and all other original lease terms. In a down-market, the original lessee may require a lower rent payment from the sublessee than what he or she may have originally paid, leaving the remaining rent owed to the lessor to be paid by the original lessee. However, if market prices have increased since the original lease was signed, the sublessor might be able to secure a higher rent price than what is owed the original lessor. However, many commercial leases stipulate that any overages in rent be shared with the landlord, the lessor.