Lease vs. Rental Agreement: Which One Do You Need?

Landlord/Tenant - July 8, 2024
Lawyer explaining a lease vs rental agreement to a mature couple in a living room.

Let’s say you are moving into an apartment and the landlord asks you to sign a document agreeing to certain terms and conditions for living in that apartment, for a certain number of months, specified in the contract. This document is known as a lease agreement.

Now instead, imagine you are a contract worker who is staying in a new part of the country for only a few weeks. You may prefer to sign a contract that lets you commit to only 30 days of before you move away again. This is a rental agreement.

Lease Agreement with ink writing pen/

Chances are, you have heard both of these terms used interchangeably, but are these two things truly the same? While similar, leases and rental agreements have a few key differences that are essential to know.

What is a lease agreement?

What is a lease, anyway? When moving into a new property as a tenant, the landlord may require you to sign a lease agreement before you can move in. This lease agreement is a legally binding contract that includes details of how long you’ll live there, what your obligations will be, and what the landlord will be required to do. A lease is usually for 6 to 12 months of residency.

You’ll want to make sure your lease agreement includes clear terms and conditions. How much will rent cost each month? Does that cost include utility bills or will the landlord cover those? What are the terms related to having pets in the house? Who is responsible for repairing leaky pipes? You’ll save yourself and your landlord a huge headache by laying these terms out carefully in the lease before you sign the agreement and move in.

What is a rental agreement?

A rental agreement contains the same type of details as a lease agreement. You’ll still want to lay out rent costs, bills, responsibilities, and all the other important aspects of renting a property to live in.

Perhaps your job requires you to live in a different state for three months. This isn’t long enough to warrant a leased apartment, a month-to-month rental agreement may be better for this situation. You can live in a house or apartment, but your agreement will be for a shorter time.

Coulple in kitchen with lawyer discussing the difference between a lease and a rental agreement.

How can legal guidance help with leases and rental agreements?

It’s important for you to know whether you would benefit more from a lease or from a rental agreement. Carefully consider your specific renting situation, speak with your landlord, and consider getting legal help from a LegalShield Membership. We put you in contact with a dedicated provider law firm in your state. Our provider lawyers can give you advice, answers to legal questions, document review, and other essential legal services related to your renting situation.

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