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Guide to Making a Solid Lease Agreement For Your Rental Property

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As a landlord, one of the most critical steps in managing a rental property is crafting a solid lease agreement. This document not only defines the relationship between you and your tenants but also protects your rights and outlines the obligations of all parties involved. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you create a robust and effective lease agreement.

1. Understand Local Laws and Regulations

Before you start drafting your lease agreement, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the local landlord-tenant laws in Chicago. These laws can vary significantly by state and sometimes by city, affecting what you can and cannot include in your lease.

Key areas to consider include regulations on security deposits, notice periods for ending leases, and any required disclosures about the property's condition or history.

2. Include Basic Information Clearly

A solid lease agreement should begin by clearly stating the basic information about the property and the parties involved. This includes:


  • The full names and contact information of the landlord and all tenants.
  • A detailed description of the rental property, including address and any specific unit designations.
  • The term of the lease, specifying start and end dates.
  • Rent details such as amount, due dates, and acceptable payment methods.

3. Define Security Deposits and Fees

Security deposits are a standard part of most lease agreements and serve as a financial safety net for landlords. Specify the amount of the security deposit, terms for its return, and conditions under which it can be withheld (e.g., damage to the property). Make sure these terms comply with local laws concerning maximum amounts and return timelines.


Additionally, outline any non-refundable fees, such as those for pet deposits or cleaning services, ensuring they are reasonable and justified.

4. Detail Property Maintenance and Repairs

Clarifying responsibilities for maintenance and repairs can prevent many common disputes between landlords and tenants. Specify what maintenance tasks are the tenant's responsibility and what falls to the landlord. Include how tenants should request repairs and the expected timeframe for addressing these issues.

5. Outline Rules and Policies

Your lease should lay out all rules and policies regarding the use of the property. These might include:

  • Policies on pets.
  • Noise regulations to prevent disturbances.
  • Parking rules if applicable.
  • Policies regarding smoking or the use of recreational drugs on the property.
  • Clear rules help ensure that all tenants have a common understanding of what is expected, reducing conflicts and confusion.

6. Incorporate Terms for Renewal and Termination

The lease should state how it will be renewed, whether automatically, through a new agreement, or not at all. Include any conditions under which either party can terminate the lease, such as violations of lease terms or other legal allowances. Also, specify the notice period required before termination to give both parties ample time to make alternative arrangements.

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7. Address Legal and Miscellaneous Items

Make sure to include clauses that protect you legally and clarify any other legal stipulations:

A severability clause ensures that if one part of the lease is found to be illegal or unenforceable, the rest of the agreement still stands.

A clause about adherence to state laws confirms that the lease respects local regulations.

Details on how disputes will be resolved, whether through mediation, arbitration, or court proceedings.

8. Encourage a Walk-Through Inspection

Before the tenants move in, conduct a walk-through inspection together and document the condition of the property. This inspection should be reflected in the lease agreement, with an attached form that both the landlord and tenant sign. This can help manage expectations and reduce disputes over security deposits when the lease ends.

9. Get Professional Advice

Given the complexities and legal implications of lease agreements, it’s wise to consult with a real estate attorney or a professional property manager well-versed in landlord-tenant law who can provide advice tailored to your situation and jurisdiction. They can help ensure that your lease agreement is comprehensive, legally sound, and fair to all parties involved.

How Can Property Managers Help?

Professional property managers can play a crucial role in enhancing the effectiveness and compliance of lease agreements for rental properties. Their expertise and services provide numerous benefits to landlords. 


Here are several ways in which professional property managers can assist with lease agreements:

Drafting Comprehensive Agreements

Professional property managers are well-versed in the nuances of rental agreements and can draft comprehensive leases that include all necessary legal clauses, terms, and conditions.

They stay informed about changes in rental laws and regulations, ensuring that the lease is compliant with current legislation. This can include specifics related to security deposits, maintenance obligations, eviction procedures, and more.

Customizing Lease Terms

Property managers can tailor lease agreements to meet the specific needs of the property and the landlord’s preferences. This customization can include specific rules about pets, subletting, renovations by tenants, or use of common areas. By addressing these details upfront, property managers help prevent future disputes and misunderstandings.

Screening Tenants

A key part of the leasing process is tenant screening, which includes checking credit scores, rental history, employment verification, and criminal background checks. Professional property managers handle this process, ensuring that the tenants are reliable and likely to comply with the terms of the lease.

Negotiating Lease Terms

Experienced property managers have the negotiation skills necessary to ensure that lease terms meet the best interests of the landlord while remaining fair and attractive to potential tenants. This balance can help maintain long-term occupancy and tenant satisfaction.=

Ensuring Legal Compliance

One of the most important aspects of managing lease agreements is ensuring they adhere to local, state, and federal laws. Property managers keep up-to-date with the legal landscape, during all processes of renting, such as property marketing and tenant screening.

This includes fair housing regulations and rent control laws, to protect landlords from potential lawsuits and legal challenges.

two people shaking hands

Managing Lease Renewals and Terminations

Property managers handle the administrative tasks associated with renewing leases, including negotiating new terms and updating the agreement to reflect any changes in the law or property rules.

They also manage lease terminations and ensure that all procedures are followed according to legal requirements, such as providing proper notices and handling security deposit returns.

Resolving Conflicts

In the event of disputes or conflicts between landlords and tenants, property managers can serve as mediators. They are skilled in conflict resolution strategies and can help resolve issues amicably and efficiently, often without the need for legal intervention.

Bottom Line

Creating a solid lease agreement is fundamental to protecting your investment and fostering a stable, profitable relationship with your tenants. By addressing all necessary details and ensuring compliance with the law, you can create a secure environment for both you and your tenants. Contact Domain Property Management for assistance.


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