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Help Guide

Review this guide for an overview of the main terms of a month-to-month residential rental agreement, including:

  • fixed and periodic tenancies,
  • rent concessions,
  • fees and deposits,
  • parking,
  • subletting,
  • rent cost adjustments,
  • indemnification,
  • furnishings provided,
  • lead paint disclosure,
  • move-in/move-out inspection checklist, and
  • other common protections.

Fixed-Term vs. Periodic Tenancy

A fixed-term tenancy is one that has a fixed termination date. However, a month-to-month rental agreement is a periodic tenancy, meaning that the term continues to automatically renew until one or both of the parties chooses to end the tenancy. This means that either the tenant or the landlord can end the tenancy by providing at least 30 days’ notice. In the event that a tenant has not vacated the unit after receiving this notice, the landlord must serve an eviction notice in order to formally demand that the tenant leave.

Rental Payments

The tenant is required to pay rent each month at the time and place designated by the landlord. For instance, the agreement might require that rent be paid by the first day of every month by check, cash, direct deposit, wire transfer, credit card/debit card, money order, cashier's check, online, or a combination of these payment methods. If the landlord provides an online payment portal, you should include the web address.

Signing Incentives

Landlords often offer special deals to encourage tenants to agree to favorable terms. Include a brief explanation of any signing incentive being applied to the lease. For example, the landlord might offer free rent for the first and last month.

Fees and Deposits

Optionally include the fee amounts for late rental payments, dishonored payments (i.e. bounced checks due to non-sufficient funds), lost keys, and more. By including these fees or deposits, your agreement will contain standard language enforcing the landlord’s right to collect them.

Security Deposit

While collecting a security deposit is optional in most states, it is usually recommended that landlords do so. This will make it easier to repair damages to the unit after the tenant vacates. However, if the security deposit is not enough to cover the damages, then the tenant will still be responsible for covering the cost of repairs. It also helps avoid expensive court fees that would be required to recover money from the tenant if the tenant fails to pay for the required repairs.

Keep in mind that all states have their own rules regarding security deposits, including refund time frames, the maximum amount that landlords may collect, and what to do with any accrued interest on deposits. The following FAQs provide state-by-state rules:

The security deposit may be used to repair any damage to the unit beyond “normal wear and tear.” This includes damage that the tenant causes or allows beyond normal use of the premises.

Lastly, the agreement requires that all of the following occur for the security deposit to be returned:

  • The full term of the agreement has ended or the agreement has been properly terminated according to its terms
  • All rent and outstanding fees or charges have been paid by the tenant
  • All utility bills are paid in full
  • All keys and other items belonging to the landlord have been returned
  • All of the tenant's personal property has been removed
  • The unit has been thoroughly cleaned

Substitute Tenants

The landlord may allow the tenant to get out of the lease if an acceptable substitute tenant is available. However, whether the landlord will accept a potential substitute tenant will remain at the landlord’s discretion. If accepted, the substitute tenant will be responsible for fulfilling the original tenant’s obligations and is usually required to sign a new lease with the landlord.


The lease prohibits the tenant from subletting the unit to other occupants without first obtaining the landlord’s prior written consent. Violating this rule is cause for terminating the lease and evicting the tenant.

Move-In/Move-Out Inspection Checklists

Attached to your LegalNature lease agreement will be an inspection checklist that should be used to document any damage present in the unit. Completing the inspection checklist will help avoid unnecessary disputes and facilitate the return of any security deposit to the tenant following the occupancy. While it is recommended that landlords complete the inspection checklist at move-in and move-out regardless of your state, the following states have laws that require landlords to complete a move-in inspection checklist:

  • Arizona – Tenants also have the right to be present at a move-out inspection (Arizona Revised Statute 33-1321(c)).
  • Georgia – Only required if the property is managed by a third party such as a property management service or if the landlord owns 10 or more rental units (O.C.G.A. 44-7-36). Prior to tendering a security deposit, the tenant shall be presented with a comprehensive list of any existing damage to the premises, which shall be for the tenant's permanent retention. The tenant shall have the right to inspect the premises to ascertain the accuracy of the list prior to taking occupancy. The landlord and the tenant shall sign the list and this shall be conclusive evidence of the accuracy of the list but shall not be conclusive as to latent defects. If the tenant refuses to sign the list, the tenant shall state specifically in writing the items on the list to which he or she dissents and shall sign such statement of dissent (O.C.G.A. 44-7-33a).
  • Hawaii – Tenants also have the right to be present at a move-out inspection (HRS S. 521-42(6)).
  • Kansas – Completed jointly within five days of initial occupancy or delivery of possession (Kann Stat. Ann. 58-2548).
  • Kentucky – Tenant has the right to separately inspect the premises in order to ascertain the accuracy of the landlord's list of damages (Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann 383.580(2)).
  • Maryland – Only required if the landlord collects a security deposit (Md. Code Ann. S. 8-203.1(a)(1)).
  • Massachusetts – Only required if the landlord collects a security deposit (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Cha. 186, Section 15B(1)(b)(iii)).
  • Michigan – Leases must include a checklist with the following 12-point boldface type at the top of the first page: "You should complete this checklist, noting the condition of the rental property, and return it to the landlord within 7 days after obtaining possession of the rental unit. You are also entitled to request and receive a copy of the last termination inventory checklist which shows what claims were chargeable to the last prior tenants." (Mich Comp Law 554.608(4)). The seven-day return timeframe may be shortened in the lease (Mich Comp Law 554.608(3)).
  • Montana – Only required if the landlord collects a security deposit (MCA 70-25-206).
  • Nevada – NRS 118A.200(3)(k)
  • New Hampshire – N.H. Rev. Stat 540-A:6(I)(b)&(c)
  • North Dakota – Must be signed by the landlord (ND Century Code 47-16-07.2).
  • Utah – Utah Code Ann 57-22-4(3)
  • Virginia – Completed within five days of move-in by the landlord or tenant or both together, and the landlord must disclose within this report the known presence of mold (VA Code 55-248.11:1–2).
  • Washington – Only required if the landlord collects a security deposit. Both the landlord and tenant must sign, and the tenant must receive a copy.
  • Wisconsin – Only required if the landlord collects a security deposit (Wis. Stat. 704.08). The tenant has a right to inspect the rental unit, give the landlord a list of defects, and receive a list of damages charged to the prior tenant (Wis. Admin Code DATCP 134.06(1)).

Lead-Based Paint Disclosures

Federal law mandates that landlords and tenants sign a "Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint" if the rental unit was constructed prior to 1978. Landlords must store their copy for at least three years in their records. Tenants in these properties must also receive the lead hazard pamphlet "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home" or a similar pamphlet approved by the state Environmental Protection Agency.

Maryland properties built before 1978 must be registered with the state and receive an inspection prior to each occupancy. For more information, visit the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) website.

Vermont landlords are required to provide the federal pamphlet stated above and post an approved notice requesting that tenants report any chipped or damaged paint and attend an annual lead paint class. Page 65 of this Vermont Rental Guide provides an example notice.

State and Local Disclosure Requirements

City or county law may impose additional disclosure requirements on landlords. Landlords are responsible for staying familiar with these requirements. For example, landlords may need to disclose serious problems affecting the rental unit’s habitability, housing code violations, mold or flood zone warnings, radon warnings, bed bugs, carbon monoxide, asbestos, or other matters. When in doubt, landlords should err on the side of over-disclosing any issues they know or have reason to know regarding the rental unit and premises. Properties covered by rent control ordinances often have their own additional requirements. You can locate these by visiting your city or county website, contacting a city information agent or administrator, or speaking with a locally licensed attorney.

In Wisconsin, landlords must disclose any nonstandard rental provisions that are present in the agreement in a separate document titled “NONSTANDARD RENTAL PROVISIONS," which should be provided to the tenant (see Wis. Admin. Code ATCP 134.06).

Final Steps

After finishing our questionnaire, thoroughly review it to ensure that it is free of errors and will meet your needs. You may make any desired textual edits by downloading the document in .docx format and opening it in a word processor such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. The landlord and tenant must sign the agreement. Each party should receive a copy of the fully executed agreement and store their copy in a safe location. Also, make a digital copy as an additional backup.

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