A Guide to Lease Addendums

A residential lease is the central governing document in the landlord/tenant relationship. This agreement spells out each party’s rights and obligations during the lease term. But sometimes additional terms or agreements need to be added to the lease. When these new terms do not change any of the other terms in the lease, they can be added with a lease addendum.

This blog post is offered for general information purposes only. It does not constitute, and is not a substitute for, legal advice.

What is a lease addendum?

A lease addendum is a document that is added to an existing lease agreement to introduce additional terms, conditions, or provisions without altering the original lease terms. It serves as a way to modify or supplement the existing lease agreement to address specific issues or requirements that were not covered in the initial lease.

A lease addendum is signed by both the landlord and the tenant, indicating their agreement to the additional terms. It is important to note that lease addendums are legally binding, so it is essential for both parties to thoroughly review and understand the content before signing. Lease addendums help ensure that all parties are aware of and in compliance with the specific conditions related to the rental arrangement.

In cases where updates need to be made to terms that have already been established in the lease, landlords can use a lease amendment. This type of document does not add anything new to the lease, it simply updates existing terms or conditions. 

Lease addendums vs. lease clauses

It's essential to distinguish between lease clauses and lease addendums. Lease clauses are integral components embedded within the primary lease agreement, addressing fundamental terms such as rent, maintenance, security deposits, and late fees. Clauses are typically non-negotiable and are the cornerstone of the rental contract, governed by local rental laws.

In contrast, lease addendums serve to address specific, often situational concerns that may arise during the tenancy. They are separate documents attached to the original lease, allowing for customized adjustments. Lease addendums deal with issues like pet policies, subletting, smoking regulations, renewal options, and unique property rules.

The key distinction lies in flexibility: lease clauses are universally applicable and form the core terms, while lease addendums provide a tailored approach for handling additional, specific matters. Understanding this difference empowers both landlords and tenants to maintain a balanced rental relationship.

When should landlords use a lease addendum?

A rental agreement typically covers the entirety of the landlord’s and tenant’s rights and responsibilities. A lease addendum is only necessary when a landlord needs to add a new term or condition to a specific lease that is not already included in the original document.

Common instances for using a lease amendment include: 

Introducing new rules or policies

When you need to establish new rules, policies, or regulations not originally covered in the lease, it's essential to create a lease addendum. For example, creating a new, unit-specific pet policy in response to changing circumstances or to maintain a harmonious living environment would be addressed with a lease addendum. This approach helps ensure that both tenants and landlords are aware of and agree to the new requirements.

Property-specific features

Properties with unique amenities or features, such as a swimming pool, gym, or rooftop terrace, may require specific terms outlined in an addendum. These terms can detail access, usage guidelines, hours of operation, safety procedures, and responsibilities for maintenance. By using an addendum, the landlord can use a uniform lease across all properties while ensuring that tenants of each specific property understand the rules and expectations for enjoying their respective amenities.

New fees or charges

A lease amendment can be used to introduce new fees or charges, such as parking fees, utility cost adjustments, or fees for additional services that were not originally addressed in the lease. Using a lease addendum allows you to codify the specifics of these charges, when they apply, how they are calculated, and how they should be paid within a legally binding document. This helps to prevent misunderstandings and disputes between landlord and tenant.

Temporary changes

Sometimes, temporary changes or conditions are necessary, such as implementing quiet hours for a special event, setting restrictions during renovations, or imposing guest policies for a limited period. Lease addendums allow for the introduction of these short-term rules while preserving the original lease terms. They provide clarity and avoid potential conflicts that may arise during temporary situations.

Specific tenant requests

When tenants make specific requests that are tailored to their unique needs, like installing disability-related features, an addendum can be used to outline these accommodations. This ensures that both parties understand the agreed-upon terms, responsibilities, and any associated costs. It also serves to legally protect the tenant's rights and the landlord's responsibilities in accommodating these requests.

Key elements of a lease addendum

While each addendum will be specific to the circumstances, most lease addendums share a set of common features. These features include:

  • Title and introduction. A clear title that identifies the purpose of the addendum (e.g., "Pet Policy Addendum" or "Sublease Agreement Addendum"). An introductory paragraph should briefly explain the reason for the addendum.
  • Reference to the original lease. Include a reference to the original lease agreement by specifying the date it was signed and providing a brief description of its terms and conditions. This context helps establish the relationship between the addendum and the primary lease.
  • Contact information. Include the contact information of both the landlord and the tenant(s) for reference.
  • Detailed description of updates. Clearly and specifically outline the new terms, provisions, or rules that the addendum introduces. Use straightforward language to avoid any ambiguity. It should be evident what is being added or modified and which responsibilities fall to which parties.
  • Effective date. Specify when the new terms outlined in the addendum will take effect. This may be immediate, on a future date, or retroactive, depending on the nature of the changes.
  • Signatures. Both the landlord and the tenant(s) involved in the lease must sign and date the addendum to indicate their agreement to the additional terms. These signatures make the addendum legally binding.
  • Notarization (if required). Depending on local or state requirements, the lease addendum may need to be notarized. Check with your local jurisdiction to ensure you are following all necessary steps.
  • Witnesses (if necessary). In some cases, you may need or want to have witnesses sign the addendum to further establish its legality and authenticity.
  • Severability clause. This clause stipulates that if any part of the addendum is found to be unenforceable or invalid, the remainder of the addendum will remain in effect. This helps protect the integrity of the addendum.
  • Integration clause. This clause states that the addendum is an integral part of the lease agreement and supersedes any conflicting terms within the original lease, ensuring that the addendum's terms take precedence.

Generate lease agreements with Docusign

Docusign makes it easy to generate lease agreements with premade contract templates. All you have to do is create the document, add in the details for that particular agreement, and send it for signature. When everyone has signed, the final copy is distributed to all parties and saved to your Docusign account.

To learn more about how Docusign helps real estate professionals, read our guide: eSignature for home rental agreements.

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