Mitigating Disputes: Essential Clauses to Include in a Residential Lease

As a landlord, it is crucial to protect yourself from negligent or malicious tenant behavior. A thorough and legally enforceable lease should be your top priority when bringing in a new tenant, whether it’s your first property or your fiftieth. In addition to checking your lease for all of the important clauses, consider consulting a real estate lawyer in Annapolis. They can ensure that your lease will hold up in court, helping you prevent potential tenant disputes. Keep reading for some important clauses to include in your residential lease.

Grounds for Eviction

A lease should clearly and explicitly outline the circumstances under which you can evict a tenant. These circumstances include non-payment of rent, violations of the lease, damage to the property, safety violations, allowing unapproved tenants to live in the unit, and causing disruptions to other tenants. If you fail to outline appropriate and reasonable grounds for eviction, a tenant could claim unlawful eviction if you move to evict them.

Repairs and Maintenance

This section of a lease often varies from landlord to landlord. In some cases, landlords leave much of the maintenance up to tenants and compensate them later; in most cases, landlords are responsible for all repairs and maintenance. Some leases include specific requirements for lawn maintenance and snow removal. Regardless of how much responsibility you take on and how you want tenants to report issues to you, make sure it is clearly outlined in the lease.

Terms for Breaking the Lease

Circumstances may change, and a tenant may find themselves needing to break the lease early. It’s crucial to detail the specific fees that they will be charged for breaking a lease early and the amount of notice they must give if they plan on terminating the lease early. You may also include circumstances under which a tenant can break a lease without penalty, such as military service or job relocation. 

Remember that as a landlord, you are required to take reasonable steps to limit your losses—that means you can’t leave a unit empty for the rest of a tenant’s lease period and require them to pay. You must make a good-faith effort to find a new tenant.

Joint and Several Liability

This is crucial for leases with multiple individuals. When tenants are jointly and severally liable, they are all liable for the rent together and separately. This protects you from being left in the lurch by an unreliable tenant—if one tenant stops paying their share of the rent, the other tenants will be required to make up the difference, at which point they can choose to sue the other tenant for their losses. 

Without this clause, you could be forced to take a non-paying tenant to court, and that cuts into your profits and time. This term also ensures that all tenants are expected to ensure that their roommates uphold the terms of the lease—they can’t get out of eviction simply by shifting the blame to another tenant in their unit.

Severability Clause

If your lease ends up in front of a judge, there is a possibility that a clause may be found unenforceable or invalid. This clause ensures that should that happen, the rest of your lease remains in effect.

Right to Entry

There will be times you need to enter the unit to show it, conduct repairs, or ensure the habitability of the unit. Your lease should include the circumstances under which you or your representatives can enter the unit. 


Subletting is a hot topic among residential landlords, and you want to address it in your lease. Determine whether or not you want to allow subletting at all. If you do, outline the conditions that must be met before a subletter is approved. You likely have stringent screening requirements for your tenants, and you don’t want a tenant to sneak in someone who would never make it through your screening process by subletting to them.