How much detail should my lease include on the rental unit itself?

Basic information to include in your lease on rental unit address, furnishings, and use.

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Lease and rental agreements typically include a clause called something like “Identification of Premises” that specifies the street address of the rental property being rented (known as “the premises”). To avoid any misunderstandings with tenants, it’s a good idea to provide more than the street address. Many landlords specify what appliances, furnishings and extras, such as a parking or storage space, are included in the rental premises. If the rental unit is fully furnished, landlords may prepare a detailed Landlord-Tenant Checklist.  In some circumstances, landlords go further and elaborate what the premises do not include—such as use of a garage or of a gardening shed in the backyard of a rental house.

An “Identification of Premises” clause in your lease or rental agreement often states that the premises are to be used “for residential purposes” only; this is to prevent your tenant from using your rental property to conduct a business that might affect your insurance, violate local zoning laws, or annoy other tenants or neighbors (for example, if a tenant has regular business clients or deliveries who block parking spaces). Be aware that, depending on your location, you may not be able to forbid a tenant from running all businesses in the rental unit—for example, laws in California and New York restrict landlords’ ability to prohibit day care operations in rental units. Nolo’s book The California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities provides details on California law regarding tenant operation of family day care homes in rental units, and how to investigate before letting a tenant run a home business.

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