Residential leases and rental agreements include key information such as the address of the unit, names of everyone who will be living there, and the amount of rent and when it is due, as well as important legal rules that the landlord and tenant must follow when it comes to things like repairs. The idea is simple enough: Tenants need to know exactly what they’re getting when they sign a lease.
Many states have laws that require leases to contain some things that are obvious, such as the identity of the landlord and the person authorized to receive legal papers. But many states (as well as the federal government) have laws that require landlords to make less obvious disclosures. The laws on lease notices and disclosures are designed to protect renters from various dangers that are in or near the premises being leased, such as toxic substances, and to highlight specific tenant rights, such as restrictions on the landlord’s use and return of security deposits.
Of course, each state has its own landlord-tenant laws and the notice and disclosure requirements can vary significantly from state to state. So, before you prepare or sign a lease, check the laws in your area, or get some help from an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer, to make sure the lease contains all necessary notices and disclosures.
Federal Landlord Disclosure Requirements
If the premises being leased were built before 1978, federal law requires the landlord to disclose to new and renewing tenants if there is lead-based paint or other lead-based paint hazards in the apartment or rental unit. Also, the landlord is required to give prospective tenants an EPA pamphlet, Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home, or a state-approved version of this pamphlet. Landlords who don’t follow the requirements of this federal law (the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, commonly known as Title X (Ten)) are subject to financial penalties and can be liable to the tenant for up to three times the amount of any damages suffered by the tenant as a result of lead-based paint. For more information, see the Nolo article Lead Disclosures for Rental Property FAQ and the lead section of the EPA website.
State Landlord Disclosure Requirements
Most states require landlords to make at least a few disclosures, such as the name of the owner and the person authorized to receive legal papers, such as the property manager (if any). Here are some of the common disclosures that state laws require landlords to make to tenants, typically as part of the lease or rental agreement, before the tenant moves in:
- details on security deposits, such as where the deposit will be held and how much interest it will earn (if any), as well as any nonrefundable fees (if allowed by law)
- existence of a statewide “Megan’s Law” database of the names of registered sexual offenders
- specific tenant rights as to the condition of the rental unit at move-in and/or at move-out (such as a tenant’s right to be present at a move-out inspection)
- availability of safety features, such as smoke detectors, in the rental unit
- any shared utility arrangements (where a tenant pays part of others’ utilities, such as electricity)
- presence of environmental health hazards, such as mold or radon (in addition to lead-based paint hazards, as required under federal law)
- previous flooding in the rental unit
- smoking policy
- rights of domestic violence victims
- presence of a meth lab in the rental in a previous tenancy, and
- outstanding housing code violations.
In some states, landlords may disclose required information to tenants by posting it in elevators and/or in one more conspicuous place, like a lobby or recreation room.
See Required Landlord Disclosure Laws by State on Nolo.com for specific details on your state disclosure laws.
Also, rental property subject to control may be subject to local rental control rules that require landlords to make additional disclosures, such as the name of the local government agency that administers the rent control ordinance.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I did not receive a lead paint disclosure from my landlord, but there is peeling and deteriorated paint in my apartment. I have a young child, so I’m especially worried about lead contamination. What should I do?
- How detailed should the disclosure be regarding pest control at the apartment complex where I live?
- I just found out that my apartment was a murder scene, but my landlord never told me this. Can I get out of my lease and get my security deposit back? Am I entitled to any other damages? The situation is very upsetting.