What Is a Lease?

A lease is an agreement to rent a house or apartment made between a tenant and a landlord.  A lease is both a contract (an agreement between two or more parties) and a conveyance (a transfer of a property interest). A lease can be oral (spoken) or written.  A lease term (length) can last for any period of time, including month-to-month, year-to-year, or a definite period of time (e.g., one year).  A lease for more than one year must be in writing.  

A tenant should carefully read a lease before signing it.  If you have a problem with any part of the lease, discuss your concerns with the landlord to see if changes can be made. Get the changes in writing.

What information should be in a Lease?

Most leases contain the following information:

  1.  Names of the landlord and tenant;
  1.  Address of property;
  1.  The date the lease begins and ends;
  1.  The amount of rent;
  1.  The date the rent is due;
  1.  Where the rent payment is made;
  1.  The amount of security deposit;
  1.  Who pays each utility (gas, electric, water, sewer, trash);
  1.  Who makes which repairs and who pays for those repairs;
  1.  Who is allowed to live in the property;
  1.  Whether the landlord will provide appliances, and who is responsible for repair; and
  1.  The phone number and address for the landlord.

Prepared by Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Inc. (LSEM).  LSEM provides this educational information as a public service.  It is not legal advice.  Sometimes the laws change.  Always consult a lawyer, if you can, before taking legal action.  The mission of LSEM is to provide high-quality civil legal assistance and equal access to justice for low-income people in Eastern Missouri. 

Last updated:  June 2014.