The Latin word “addendum” appeared more than 230 years ago to define “something added.” Here we are in the early 21st century, and no one on Earth speaks Latin as his or her native language.
Yet, that word, addendum, is still in heavy use to describe something added to a book, to a magazine, to a yearbook, and, yes, to a lease agreement.
Even if you are in that small minority of folks who still remember a few words from long-ago Latin lessons, the use of lease addenda (that’s plural for addendum) may still stump you. So here’s the 411 on that important form.
- A lease addendum is usually a page or two long, and often uses simple language.
- A lease addendum typically addresses just one topic.
- A lease addendum can be used even if you already have a comprehensive lease agreement.
- A lease addendum is as important as the rest of the lease.
- Rules in a lease addendum aren’t optional; they must be followed by tenants.
When do you use a lease addendum?
There are common misconceptions about using lease addenda. Among them is the belief that an addendum is drawn up after a lease has been signed, in order to change some existing term. However, the more common tool used to make changes after a rental lease is signed is the lease amendment.
Another myth is that a solid lease shouldn’t need addenda; after all, the thinking goes, any rental property rule should be listed in the rental lease. That may be true for rules that can be explained in a sentence or two. However, some lease rules need more explanation, extra details and a separate signature or place for a tenant to add their initials.
These are a few examples of rules that may not need an addendum, followed by examples of rules which probably need to be explained in an addendum:
Addenda typically not needed when including these rules:
- No pets are allowed.
- Subleasing is not permitted.
- Bedbug or other pest problems must be reported to the landlord.
- No landscaping is permitted without the landlord’s written permission.
- Smoking prohibited on the leased premises or rental property common areas.
Addenda recommended for these rules:
- Tenant has the option to purchase the leased property.
- Pets are permitted but tenant must follow certain rules and pay a pet deposit.
- Tenant’s guests may visit for no more than a specified number of days in a row.
- Tenants who move out before a lease expires must pay a specified early termination fee.
- Installing a satellite or antenna must be done according to the landlord’s guidelines.
What are the advantages to using addenda with your lease?
The primary purposes of a written lease agreement are to have a document that outlines the parties’ rights and responsibilities, and to remove any doubt about terms and rules. It plays a critical role in minimizing potential misunderstandings and disputes.
It’s common for questions to come up throughout the time a tenant has possession of your rental property. A comprehensive lease with necessary addenda anticipates the questions that may arise, and spells out the answers in advance. This makes the lease the most important go-to source for both tenant and landlord.
The length of the lease will depend in great part on the number of addenda and disclosures (both optional and required by law) that are included. Obviously, addenda will make a lease agreement longer, but they offer the benefit of breaking a long document into sections that make the lease easier to read and refer to.
Addenda also come in very handy when terms that are in the basic lease don’t need to be changed with every new tenant. The landlord can retain rules that will apply to every new tenant – and then select addenda that may address a specific tenant’s needs.
The pet addendum is a good example of this. If an incoming tenant has no pets, the lease can simply state that there will be no pets. There is no need for a pet addenda that is typically used to spell out how many pets will be living in the rental property.
Likewise, a roommate addendum may have been used in the past but, if the new tenant lives alone, there is no need to include a roommate addendum.
Can I write my own addendum?
To apply our earlier Latin lesson, a lease “addendum” simply means information that is added to a lease. Since every leasing situation is a little different, it makes perfect sense to craft your own lease addendum to address unique terms. If you can’t find an addendum that applies to your special situation, create your own.
Type in terms on a computer rather than handwriting them. Give your addendum a title that includes “addendum.” Enter a date, the rental property address, and the parties’ names, just as they appear in other addenda. A blank addendum template has those fields and allows the landlord to enter just the information on the specific rule to be addressed.
Whether using a template or starting from scratch, use clear language to define the rule and list guidelines and fees, if appropriate. Explain how the tenant must report any problems or issues that could be encountered with the rule.
Addenda that you create on your own must comply with Landlord Tenant laws, so be sure that your addendum is not violating those rules.
Don’t be concerned if addenda make your lease agreement longer than you expected. Veteran landlords know that the more information a tenant has, the better the tenant can follow your expectations.