In Missouri, a rental agreement is a legally binding contract. It sets out the rules and responsibilities tenants and landlords must follow in their rental relationship.
Whether typed or handwritten, as short as one page or longer than five, the lease or rental agreement must cover certain basics. They are as follows:
1. Tenants’ Names
Your rental agreement must include the names of every adult residing in the property. This includes couples who are either married or unmarried.
By doing so, you make each adult tenant legally responsible for all lease terms, including the use of the property and payment of rent.
What this implies is that you can ask the full rent amount from any one of them should others fail to pay. In addition, it implies that you can evict them from your property should any of the tenant violate any lease term.
2. Occupancy Limits
As every Missouri landlord knows, subletting can be a big headache. More so, if a renter does so without your permission or knowledge. This is why defining occupancy limits on your rental property lease agreement so important.
Your rental agreement should plainly stipulate who the residents are. That is people that you have screened and approved to stay in the property.
This, therefore, gives you grounds to evict anyone who lives in the property without your approval. Good examples of subletting are relatives, friends, and lovers.
3. Lease Term
This is the period in which the lease is in force. Lease terms can be short-term or long-term. Short-term leases usually run month-to-month whereas long-term leases typically last a year.
Your choice should depend on the individual circumstances. If you are a vacation rental company, you’ll most likely need short-term leases that run for days, weeks, or a month.
If you are a single-family home, you’ll need a long-term lease. Unlike short-term leases, long-term leases provide less hassle in terms of finding new tenants and provide for greater security of income.
Rent is the bread and butter for your rental agreement. It’s also the number one cause of evictions in Missouri. To avoid misunderstanding and to ward off disputes with tenants, you should spell out all the important details in your lease agreement.
Such details include the rent amount, acceptable payment methods, late fee amount, and bounced-check fees.
5. Deposits and Fees
Security deposits help cushion the landlord in the event of excessive property damage by the tenant. Most standard rental or lease agreements require them at the start of a lease term and they are refundable once the term ends.
Your lease or rental agreement should be clear on:
- The security deposit amount. In setting the amount, make sure you comply with Missouri security deposit laws. That is the equivalent of two months’ rent.
- Instances when it may be used. For example, to cover damage exceeding normal wear and tear.
- When it will be returned. In Missouri, you must return the security deposit thirty days after a tenant moves out.
Keep in mind that security deposits in the state of Missouri are the renter’s property. So, if you ask for pet or cleaning deposits as well, make sure to return them at the end of the lease term.
6. Repairs and Maintenance
Clearly stating yours and your tenant’s responsibilities for repair and maintenance in your rental property’s agreement is your best defense against rent-withholding hassles.
You could, for instance, mention that renters:
- Must keep the premises clean and sanitary.
- Pay for any damage exceeding normal wear and tear. Examples outside the normal wear and tear include a broken toilet seat and a smashed bathroom mirror.
- Should alert you to dangerous or defective conditions in the rental premises.
- Should seek your permission whenever they need to make any alterations or repairs. Examples include painting walls and installing a burglar system.
7. Landlord’s Entry
In the state of Missouri, tenants are entitled to reasonable peace, comfort, privacy and full use of their premises. This means that tenants are entitled to:
- Use of common areas for lawful and reasonable purposes
- Exclusive use of their rental premises
- Freedom from unreasonable disturbances
- Reasonable privacy
To avoid violation of this right or illegal entry, clarify your legal rights to access the property in the rental contract. For example, the right to inspect the property. In addition, state the amount of notice you’ll provide them before entering the property.
8. Early Lease Termination
Many renters who sign a Missouri lease plan to stay for the entire lease term. But despite the good intention, certain circumstances may force them to break their lease.
For example, they may be a victim of domestic violence. Or perhaps, they are in the military and may have received a change of station orders. Sometimes, they may want to move in with their partner.
These are all good reasons to include an early lease termination clause when drafting your lease or rental agreement. When establishing it, consider the following things:
- What will the renter be responsible for?
- Will you allow subleasing? If so, do the new renters require screening as well?
- Amount of fees to market the property again?
According to the 2017/2018 National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet.
With such a huge population of pet owners, it’s important to have a detailed pet policy in place. Importantly, define what pets you allow in terms of weight, breed, number, and type. You could also require that tenants pay a refundable pet deposit as well.
If you choose not to allow pets, ensure to state that you’ll consider it a breach of contract if your tenant keeps one. The only exception should be if the tenant keeps a service animal.
10. Additional Restrictions
Ensure that the lease complies with all relevant laws including anti-discriminatory laws, habitability codes, and rent control ordinances. Missouri landlord-tenant laws are especially important when it comes to notice requirements, security deposit limits and landlord entry rules.
These are the 10 important things that every Missouri landlord should include in their rental agreement. If you need help drafting one, please hire professional services.