Understanding the Importance of a Lease Addendum

March 27, 2019

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Why Are Lease Addendums Important?

Murphy’s Law has several subtle variations, but the general message is as follows: if something can go wrong, it will. Many landlords can vouch for this with their rental properties. The truth is that the longer you lease properties, the more problems you are likely to encounter. Your lease agreement is your strongest protection against any issues, but lease agreements aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Over time, you’ll need to adjust, refine, or add to your lease to mitigate any problems that arise – that’s where a lease addendum comes in. Lease addenda are among the best ways to keep your leases as efficient and airtight as possible. This article outlines what lease addenda are, the most commonly used addenda, and how to add them to your lease.

Lease addenda are among the best ways to keep your leases as efficient and airtight as possible.

What is a Lease Addendum?

Lease addenda are separate documents that landlords add to an initial lease agreement. Landlords use them to provide additional information that the original lease doesn’t cover. Be sure not to confuse addenda with lease amendments, which are changes made directly to the existing lease itself. While they serve a similar purpose, amendments are often used mistakenly to mean the same thing as addenda.

Some addenda may be required by law, such as the Lead Paint Disclosure rule, but most are created from experience. In other words, if landlords aren’t protected from a specific infraction on their current lease, they can create addenda to address that problem in the future. Let’s go over some specific examples to see which addenda can best “battle-proof” your lease.

Common Residential Lease Addenda

  • Pet Addendum: There’s a lot to consider when deciding whether to allow pets in your rental units. If you haven’t taken a stance on pets in your current residential lease agreements, adding an addendum would be the best way to go about it. At the very least, the addendum should specify the types or breeds of pets you allow (if any) and any fees or deposits associated with them. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, an addendum would help protect you should something happen.
  • Smoking Addendum: Smoking can be surprisingly damaging (and costly) to your property. As long as you state that smoking is prohibited in the lease, you are allowed to enforce a smoke-free environment in your unit. If the fees or consequences that you associate with smoking aren’t clearly mentioned in your current lease, you should outline them in an addendum.
  • Renovation/Landscaping Addenda: While renovating and landscaping are two distinct aspects of the lease, they both come with similar gray areas for landlords and tenants. The delegation of responsibility may not be clear, and tenants may think they have more freedom to make changes than the landlord actually allows. Addenda can help to dissolve these gray areas before it’s too late.
  • Occupancy/Guests Addenda: Remember that there will be guests and other individuals in your unit who aren’t your tenants. Limiting the amount of people that you allow in the unit at any time can protect the home from extra damage and help enforce any fire-hazard requirements. Addressing long-term guests in your rental are just as important. You can add language that specifies how long is too long for a guest to stay overnight. After all, lingering guests can lead to messy situations. You can sign these guests onto the original residential lease agreement via an addendum, but realistically, this won’t always be possible. It’s best to plan for a variety of situations ahead of time.
  • Legally Required Disclosures: Again, the HUD and the EPA require that landlords nationwide include the lead-based paint disclosure in their lease. Most likely, you have already included it in your original lease. If not, an addendum would suffice. Other necessary information may vary by city or state. In Chicago, for instance, the law requires landlords to provide bed-bug brochures to tenants. Mold and asbestos-related disclosures are among other disclosures of which you should be aware.

You can create addenda for just about anything your lease doesn’t already address. For instance, you may find it beneficial to include addenda for any of the following: appliance usage, changing locks, extended tenant absences, landlord entry, utilities (payment or usage), subletting, termination on sale of premises, etc. If your original lease already covers many of these issues, here some more specific examples of items you may want to address via an addendum (via EZ Landlord Forms):

  • Tenant has the option to purchase the leased property.
  • Tenants who move out before a lease expires must pay a specified early termination fee.
  • Satellite or antenna installation must be completed according to the landlord’s guidelines.

Adding an Addendum

An addendum must include the basic elements of any landlord-tenant agreement. You should include the date, the address of the rental property and the names of each party just as you would in the original lease. Each addendum you create should address a separate topic as a separate legal document, so title each accordingly, and include the word “addendum” in each to stay organized and avoid confusion. Addenda are typically no more than one to two pages in length and have just as much validity as the original contract.

Addenda usually address issues unique to your specific property, so it might make the most sense to create your own. If you choose to research templates online, make sure that they’re professional and that they cover everything you want to include. Of course, running any changes or additions past a lawyer is never a bad idea.

If an addendum is created after a lease term has begun, it can only go into effect if both the landlord and the tenant are in acceptance. Tenants have no obligation to sign addenda presented to them after signing the original lease. Let’s say the lease was signed in March, but the landlord creates an addendum in June. There are two scenarios that can occur:

  • The tenant chooses to sign the addendum as a legally binding document. It is then enforced, along with the original lease, for the remainder of the term.
  • The tenant chooses not to sign the addendum. The landlord has no means of enforcing it, so the landlord can only enforce the existing lease as he or she originally wrote it. After the term expires, the landlord can require tenants to sign any addenda before a rental agreement is valid.

If an addendum is created after a lease term has begun, it can only go into effect if both parties are in acceptance.

The Benefits of Adding Addenda

Addenda are extremely useful in protecting landlords. They mitigate specific risks that a general lease may not cover. Misunderstandings are inevitable, so minimizing them where you can goes a long way in helping you prevent inconvenience.

Addenda also give your lease agreements flexibility. Since addenda are separate documents from the original lease contract itself, you can choose to use or disregard them for certain units. For instance, specific landscaping details for one rental property may not apply to another. Instead of changing the body of each lease to address these details, you can just tack on the appropriate addenda instead. In this case, the lease itself remains the same, so you aren’t bombarding other tenants with unnecessary details.

Everything about your lease agreement comes down to protection. Leases with more pages do not necessarily equate to “better” leases, but the more elements you can account for in advance, the more prepared you’ll be should something go awry.

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17 thoughts on “Understanding the Importance of a Lease Addendum

  1. If your orig lease does not have an addendum and one is later added, does apartment landlord have right to keep your deposit

    1. I signed a lease and an addendum the same day. Does the addendum have to be dated after the lease (such as the next day or later)? Lease was for a property in FL.

    2. My lease has gone up 246 in the last 6 months. My question is can an addendum be used to increase rent for the company that owns the property to pay their property taxes and I said pay their property taxes that they have not paid and possibly water the lawn. I would appreciate a return comment as soon as you’re available because we are all on Social Security and by years end I’ll have less than $500 to live off and I don’t know where to go. That’s without a rent increase and you no we all know that they will raise it again and not keep the properties. They’re very outdated there’s problems

  2. Hey Secured1, it depends on a lot of factors. Did your landlord give you a reason for keeping the deposit? And what did the addendum include?

  3. My landlord stuck an additional fee notice deep within pages and pages of addendums. This was in addition to them listing the rent due on the first page of the lease. When I questioned why they did that, they said they had sent out a notice ahead of time warning tenants of this additional fee, which I never got. When I asked them to send me a copy of the notice I received a memo dated three months after I signed the lease. What can I do?

    1. Hey Bonnie, I would suggest having a lawyer take a quick look at it. These kinds of things can get a bit tricky and in large part, they depend on local laws. I wish I had a better, clearer answer for you, but I think you’ll be best served to speak with a local professional! Good luck.

  4. If a landlord threatens eviction if a tenant does not sign an addendum is this legal and if not what recourse does the tenant have to get out of the contract?

    1. Hey Jockdude! Unfortunately, I don’t have a quick, simple answer for you. It really depends on where you’re located and the lease agreement you’ve already signed. I would suggest reaching out to a lawyer or a local tenant advocacy group. Good luck!

  5. If I have a corporate lease Addendum that states that I can have others stay in the unit and the way to go about it , via Id required etc. But I’m the pton original lease it a odviously says I can’t have anyone stay not on the lease and no subletting and 3rd party. Doesn’t the addendums language serve as a stronger override of the original ?

  6. In the State of Washington where I rent an apartment, we got an Lease Addendum that says the effective date is June 1, 2021. We just received it on February 24, 2022. I don’t understand why they don’t put February 1, 2022. Do they benefit from this some how. I’ve lived here for almost 16 yrs and always with backdating….

  7. hey! I was giving a addendum at the end of my last 6weeks of my move out date do know why they would do that?

  8. I’m in FL. Original lease was signed approx 2017. I’ve renewed several times since. I originally signed the addendum for the 2-month early termination and chose option one for owing the early termination amount. Whenever I have renewed it has been electronic and that page has continued to get signed as part of the electronic renewal but the checkboxes have remained empty. Now that it has been a few years if I were to need that option one would it default to that if the boxes have not been checked because it’s just been auto-renewed or would that mean that it defaulted to option two since none of the boxes have been checked in the renewals?

  9. can a landlord evict you using a addendum if you signed it, instead of a eviction notice from the court

  10. Landlord here. I gave tenants a lease addendum to sign so they can start paying there own gas bill. They are month to month. If they don’t sign can I send a 30 day eviction notice

  11. Can an addendum change the rent prices when signed at the same time as the lease? For example, the front page of the lease agreement states rent is “$1000” per month which includes trash and cable. Then, a generic addendum appears during the same time and states “Rent is $1000, trash is $40, cable is $50 totaling $1090” this was signed. Four pages later a Utilities Addendum appears stating trash is $30 and cable is $40 so different pricing than the other.
    What can they rightfully charge you?
    If the addendum supercedes the lease, then does the last addendum with the lesser amounts superceed the other because it was signed last?
    Any hypothetical advice is really appreciated with this confusing matter.

  12. I have been removed off a joint lease. I had a roommate and we both agreed to sign me off the lease. I think that was an amendment. Rent is due on Nov 1st. But I was amended on Oct 27. Am I obligated to pay the rent?

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