7 Extraordinary Lease Clauses That I Can’t Live Without

Written on August 3, 2015 by , updated on August 4, 2015

7 Extraordinary Lease ClausesMost standard leases will include basic information about the agreement, such as property address, dates, names of tenants, rent amount, security deposits, etc. However, the Devil is in the details.

Most experienced landlords will tell you that the Devil is in the details.

The real headaches come when a situation arises that is not addressed in the lease. By that point, the landlord is emotionally involved in the issue, and can’t truly be objective in his/her decision on how to handle it.

To help you prevent some headaches, I’ve listed seven of my favorite (and useful) lease clauses in the section below. 

These clauses have saved me dozens of hours of correspondence, and thousands of dollars in legal drama, simply because I put them in the lease.

With that said, I am not a lawyer so you should consult with a licensed local attorney before using these in your own leases. You are responsible for performing your own research and complying with all applicable laws in regards to your unique situation.

1. Severability

Though a legal precaution, this is perhaps one of the most important clauses in a lease. This clause states that if one aspect of the lease is found to be illegal, the rest of the agreement will still be legally binding.

Without this clause, a judge who has found one small clause to be illegal, even if accidentally so, might consider the entire lease to be void. No matter how rock-solid your lease is, you should include this clause in your lease.

2. Late Fees and Allocations

Though I’ve never had a late rent payment since I started using Cozy to collect rent, I always include this clause – just in case my tenant turns rebellious.

Further, if you don’t specify a late fee in your lease, it will be nearly impossible to charge a late fee after-the-fact.

Please check your state laws because some have statutes that require a specific “grace period” and limit the amount you can charge.

Regardless, this clause should specify the exact amount of the fee, the time at which it will be assigned, and if there are any additional, daily late fees for nonpayment.

The last sentence in this clauses ensures that all fees are paid first with whatever money the tenants choose to give me. The reason I allocate payments first to fees is because it’s much easier to sue a tenant for “unpaid rent” than it is for an “unpaid late fee.”

3. Subleasing

If you don’t outlaw subleasing, your tenants will do it when you’re not looking. Worse, you can’t penalize them for it.

You might be able to terminate the lease, but that’s not always preferable because then you have to find new tenants.

I always prefer to allow subleasing, for a price. I give my tenants the option to sublease, but they have to pay a one-time fee. Further, the sublessee has to submit an application and is subject to my normal screening process and subsequent approval, only to eventually sign a subleasing agreement.

Subleasing is common with my group houses. Many times, three of the five tenants will travel home for the summer and ask to sublet their room.

The answer is always “yes” and then almost instantly, my wallet feels $900 heavier. To help with the subleasing fee, many of the tenants increase the cost of their room, thereby offsetting the fee (which I’m fine with).

Related: The Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Screening

4. Joint and Several Liability

In respect to a residential lease, joint and several liability means that each tenant is jointly AND individually responsible for the entire rent amount and for any damages.

It allows you to consider all tenants as a single entity, for the purposes of giving notice, serving court documents, collecting rent or suing for damages.

Related: What is “Joint and Several Liability” and Why You Need It

5. Default

Many states have a set list of landlord and tenant obligations, in which either party can terminate the agreement if the other doesn’t fulfill his or her duties – with proper notice.

I go a step further and actually list the triggers for default in the lease, so that the tenant is aware of them. The logic is that if I ever have to terminate the lease for a violation, the lease should back me up.

As you may have noticed, upon default, I force the compiling of rent for the remainder of the lease term. Meaning, if my tenants start selling drugs from my rental in month three of a 12-month lease, I can still hold them responsible for the other nine months of rent (or until I find a replacement if I’m forced to mitigate damages).

Related: Landlord-Tenant State Laws and Regulations. Your state will have their own rules about how many days are required before you can terminate the lease after nonpayment or a lease violation.

6. Renewal

Lease renewal is a tricky thing. Some landlords prefer an automatic renewal approach, however, I prefer not to be tied down like that.

All of my fixed-term leases don’t automatically renew, however I still require a tenant to give me 60 days notice of their intent to move out at the end of the lease. Meaning, the assumption is that they will be renewing (assuming the rent doesn’t go up too much), even though the lease doesn’t automatically renew.

It just means that we need to sign a new lease if they want to stay.

The reason for this clause is that it guarantees that I have 60 days notice to try to find a new tenant. If they fail to provide 60 days notice of non-renewal, they are still held responsible for 60 days of rent, unless I can find a replacement sooner.

I usually set a Google calendar reminder, and I try to notify my tenants of their responsibility at 70-75 days from the end of the lease – so that they can start thinking about their options.

7. Use of Premises

Though I can’t discriminate based on familial status, I can restrict the number of people based on the number of people in the initial group of tenants. Meaning, if a family of four moves in, the lease should restrict usage to only those four people.

This clause keeps existing tenants from moving in unapproved “family” (yeah right), and keeps unemployed boyfriends or girlfriends from becoming rogue tenants.

BONUS: Surrender of Premises

Last but not least, this clause saves the day every time I have a tenant moving out.

A few weeks before they plan to move out, I simply remind them of this lease clause and send them the “move-out cleaning instructions,” which details my expectations and suggestions to ensure they get their full deposit back.

Where can I get a Full Lease?

Though I think these clauses are helpful, they are not a complete lease.

There only four websites that I recommend for premium, state-specific leases.

I, nor Cozy, are NOT affiliated with any of these companies. I just think they have excellent state-specific residential lease templates. You can read more about them on the Landlord Directory page.

Pay it Forward

Congratulations on reading the whole article! At 2,472 words, it’s about 4 times longer than my normal.

I’m curious to hear your stories. What are your personal or favorite lease clauses and how have they helped you with your rentals?

Let me know in the comments section below.

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135 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Marianne

    I have a tenant (Illinois) who has had their rent check bounce so we hired a process server to serve a 5 day notice and she is avoiding that. My lease has a Notice provison for emailing faxing of a notice – would that work in addition to affidavits received from process server so we can fil for eviction? How long can someone stay in a house without accepting service. And what are our options. I woule like to file and show all our effort for service but not sure the case will be accepted.

    • Alan Williams

      One option is to offer $3000 to move out – Predicated on the requirement that all personal items are gone by a certain date –
      Once they move out – Search the property for any personal belongings – Even a pen or a hair clip on the carpet. Those items will negate the agreement, and you won’t have to pay.

      If you think that is mean or sly, I suggest wondering who is taking who to the cleaners…

  • Tony Rossi

    I rented my house to my brother (no lease). He didn’t pay the first 6 months he lived in my house. He has two kids part time. Middle of summer he moves his girlfriend who also has a kid. (Ages: 10/14/16 respectively). His GF and him finally started to pay me like 5 months ago. The electric bills ranged from 350.00-500.00 per month. At one point it got shut off because I could not pay everything. He’s trashed the place and I am trying to evict him. He is fighting the eviction and I feel like there’s nothing I can do and may have to pay him to move out. What can I do?

    • Jim

      Hi. You have the right idea. Either pay him enough $ to get him to move out or hire an attorney.

      Let this be a lesson to you. It is not good business to rent to a friend or relative. In the end, you are going to be the AH. You are better off renting to a stranger and using some of that rent $ to assist your family or friend.

      My honest opinion is that you try the $ and if it’s not accepted, hire an attorney. Do not try to do the eviction yourself because if you miss just one important detail on the service and/or filing, you risk having to pay his atty and court costs and have to start all over from square one.

      Good Luck

      • Lucy

        I suffered the same consequences with the exception that my niece paid the bills even though they were always late. She skipped without paying the last months utilities and water/sewer bills. Like you, I didn’t have her sign a lease. I found out she repeatedly lied to me to get the apartment. You expect family to respect their agreements. Never rent to family or friends! That’s the lesson I lived by and I broke my own rule.

        In your case, I would use a “scare tactic” that I have used many times to get problem tenants to move out on their own. I simply tell them that they “are under eviction and my attorney will be handling the case”. If your brother and others still refuse to move out, contact your attorney and file for eviction.

      • Edmund Chambers

        Exactly. It is not good business practice to rent to a friend, friend’s friend or family member because of this exact situation. As suggested, the easiest way I found to get anyone, (family, friend or not), is to offer them money. The magic number I came upon was $2,000.00. However, if they agree, they do not get it until they have fully moved out. Do not give them any monies up front or they will have your money and you will still have an unwanted tenant!
        Come up with a written agreement and both sign it in front of a notary to make it a legal document. I have also, in lieu of money, offered to rent the truck and drive it myself as a way of evicting a tenant, it worked twice.

  • Mary J Ernst

    Had a dog and pony show every month with a tenant. When he didn’t pay his rent on time, AGAIN, I emailed an eviction notice, mailed one (registered mail), AND posted notice on the garage door, front door, and tree in front of house. Then I took pics. IDK if this would hold up in court, but he paid and moved out.

    • Jenn

      That’s it, you shame him — Well done!

    • Terri Pendi

      I did the same with regard to posting notices and taking pictures.
      Tenants moved and likely intended to come back to inflict MORE physical damage to the place. The home was 2,000 miles away so we only knew when utilities were put back in our name by gas company. Had a friend pass by and he saw it was empty from outside. I immediately created notices of trespass and asked him to post of all doors and tree in front of house; then took a flight over a couple days later. House was trashed; including feces put inside heat registers; kitty litter dumped in bath tub; all wall electrical plates removed and holes in every wall.

      Always insist on and follow up with inspections. Include limitations as to persons living there!

  • Michael

    Florida. Drawing up new 12 month lease. Can I put an excessive late clause in the lease agreement. Basicly saying if you are late on the rent a total of four time in the term of the lease , this gives cause for termination of the entire lease . Can deposit be retained if this is the case?

  • Marshall

    How about a lease clause allowing the landlord to break the lease (with notice) if he plans to sell or move in to the property?

  • Californian

    If you are in the USA, your only recourse is to go through the eviction (unlawful detainer) process. The process differs from state to state. No one in the USA can attach a lien to a car, garnish or attach a 401(k), any IRA (Roth), or anyone’s pay without a court order.


    can a letter of guaranty be used in a lease. like a bank,work vacation pay retirement plan of any KINDE

  • Susan

    What about a penalty clause with the tenant sneaks in a dog?

  • tonybernard

    checkout neatolandlordforms.com. they are a bestseller on amazon and they have been around for a long time.

  • Deborah Dannheim

    Does the clause about late fees and allocations have to be in the lease in order to have rent money allocated to other fees?

  • Andrea Wimer

    I have a deadbeat no pay tenant.second month he said he would be a week late then wrote bad check.it finally went through 3 weeks late.this month nothing.I posted a pay or quit on door.I put a clause in lease that I can change lock if with 30 day notice for rent payment issue.is this legal in Ohio? I’m having trouble getting this answered.he is not even seeming to stay there.I live on property.

  • Christine Battaglia

    Had a state program paying my tenants rent.We signed a simple 2 year lease. I allowed one dog. Within 9 months he had 3, 150 pound dogs living there and left them for days on end, the urine actually came through my garage ceiling. He never cleaned, he was a hoarder clogged both sink drains, caused cacaoroach and knat infestations.Paid thousands to have the apartment and my home bombed 4 times.He refused any entry to make repairs. He moved out without a word the day he kicked my bf in the chest and was arrested.The apartment was totaled.I mean mold growing up the walls and floors from dog urine and feces. I called the city agency that pays his rent, told them he destroyed my property and broke the 2 yr lease, and i wanted to be paid. NOTHIN

    • Jim

      Hire an attorney. Even government agencies perk up when they are contacted by an attorney.

      Start off by avoiding section 8 tenants. Most will trash your rental. It’s in their nature.

      Screen, screen, screen prospective tenants. Do a background check and DO NOT rent to friends, relatives or deadbeats. Make sure their income is at least 3X the monthly rent.

      Have a well-prepared agreement that will protect you in the event you must go to court. Purchase a lease agreement that has been prepared by an attorney versed in LL/T law in your jurisdiction. It is much more cost effective to pay up front than to pay on the backside.

      Good luck

  • Gary

    My tenants are on a month-to-month lease. In Wisconsin we have to give 28 days notice, I’m giving 49 days. In the termination, I want to add language that they must leave immediately if they use illegal drugs in the unit. They have been caught twice smoking pot in the unit. My daughter is in criminal justice studying to be a cop and my son is in the Army reserve, we don’t need their items smelling of pot, as that will get them both dismissed from their programs. I’ve come across some sample language from various municipal housing authorities across the country. Has anyone else put such language in a lease termination letter?

  • Dandelion

    As a previous tenant I want to say that I feel tenants don’t have fair rights in many cases. I feel landlords are given rights that proper laws should not allow. One of the biggest intrusions on the privacy of a tenant who pays good money to rent is the ability of a landlord to show a property they intend to re-rent or sell while a tenant is still in the lease period. In addition , any repairs/renovations made because of this situation, not out of necessity to the current tenant, is again an invasion of privacy and I can’t understand how this Bshit is legal. Of course there might be a small time frame in between tenants that the poor LL misses out on a few dollars. I’m sure he can easily make it back when he raises the next tenants rent.

    • Jeff

      You have the right to petition your state legislators and have them change/enact the LL/T laws to be in more favor of tenants such as yourself. Another alternative is to save YOUR money and buy your own house then you can treat it in any fashion you choose. It’s a good thing that most tenants don’t think like you and resent the fact that someone else has put up THEIR money to provide you a place to live. We go out of our way to avoid, at all cost, renting to malcontents such as yourself.

  • SFMarmot

    In San Francisco, if it’s a rent controlled building, some of these clauses are legally non-binding. You could be sued if you enforced some of these clauses and you will lose. Or worse, you could own tenant backpay for all those months and treble legal fees.

    Always consult a lawyer; landlord
    or tenant. Eviction IS a legal process.

  • Travis Harm

    Hello, I currently Live in a Mobile Home Park in Oregon, All Mobile Homes are Owned by the Renters (myself) and the property owners are trying to charge people Non compliance fees for various violations, my question is can they legally do that?.. we are not on a lease but we are on a month-to-month agreement that has not been renewed since i moved in about 5 years ago, and nowhere on our agreement did we agree to any non compliance fees, only fee that was agreed too was late rent.

  • Teresa Gabrielli

    Can I state on a vacation home agreement, no visitors?
    I know their paying for the home but I don’t want anyone spending the night.
    I also don’t want visitors there. The house is accommodating for ten people and they might ask them to stay the night. I’ve charged for 10 guests. I don’t feel anyone who hasn’t paid shouldn’t be there even for the day.

  • Ben Johnson

    I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect that this clause in particular could get you into trouble if any attempt were made to enforce it: “Tenant(s) will be in default if … Tenant(s), guests, or occupants violate … criminal laws, regardless of whether arrest or conviction occurs”. If you evict somebody on suspicion alone that a crime occurred (after all, you cannot be certain without a conviction), you could be sued, as that is a violation of one’s Human Rights in many countries, especially the United States. Even if a tenant is arrested, that is by no means proof of guilt. I would run that clause by your attorney!

  • K Halloran

    I like putting the tenant/s/ on written notice that it is their responsibility to change the batteries in the smoke detector and the air filter on the HVAC unit.


  • Kathleen

    Have the lease on my computer (not signed). Can’t find the signed lease and neither can the tenant. Will the unsigned lease be proof enough?

  • ryan mcgeehan

    Can Agreements of Sale in Pa be typed, as long as buyer signs by hand?

  • Melody Yao

    Is there a special clause to protect the landlord if the tenants have a 2-year-old child? such as child safety , etc.

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