How to Amend a Rental Lease

by Karon Warren | Published: Sep 12, 2022

When a landlord and tenant sign a rental contract, their signatures secure the terms of the agreement for the length of the rental. Once that happens, the rental contract is a legally binding contract for both parties. Both tenant and landlord know the set terms, and no changes should happen until it's time to renew the rental contract.

However, what happens when there's a change in circumstances that requires a change to the rental agreement? That's where the lease amendment comes in. Here's how to amend a rental lease.

What is a lease amendment?

A lease amendment is a legal document used to change or modify the terms of the existing lease. To make the lease amendment legally binding and enforceable, both the landlord and the tenant must sign a written lease contract to amend it.

Lease amendment vs. lease addendum

Lease amendment and lease addendum are terms often used interchangeably, but they're not exactly the same. A lease amendment changes or modifies the original lease, while a lease addendum adds new terms to or clarifies existing clauses in the original rental lease.

For instance, a landlord could amend a rental contract by changing a "no pets" clause to allow a pet. That changes or modifies language in the original contract. For an addendum, the landlord could add a new provision to assign a designated parking space to the renter. That adds a new term to the original contract.

Getting a pet could lead to amend a rental lease.

Why would I need an amendment?

The landlord may need to amend a rental lease if there's a change of circumstances for the tenant. These include:

  • Getting a pet
  • Adding other tenants to the rental contract
  • Changing payment terms for unpaid rent or due to financial hardship
  • Subletting the rental home
  • Wanting to end the rental contract earlier than the end date

The landlord may also need a lease amendment if they want to change the terms of the original rental contract. For instance:

  • You want to set new boundaries on how the tenant can use the property
  • You're designating a parking space for the tenant
  • You're accommodating the tenant's special request or change in obligations

What information should you include?

All lease amendments to a rental agreement should include the following information:

  • The name of the business or landlord
  • The tenant's name
  • The rental home address
  • The effective dates of the lease amendment
  • The specific terms modified by the lease amendment
  • Any penalties for breaking the lease amendment
  • Signature and date lines for the landlord and tenant

When documenting the terms modified in the agreement, be very specific so there's no wiggle room for misunderstandings by the other party. For example, if the lease amendment is to allow pets, be very detailed regarding the type, size and number of pets.

Say the tenant wants a dog. State how many dogs the tenant can have, any maximum weight limits (say, no more than 50 pounds) and any specific breed limitations (i.e., no pit bulls). Also include any provisions like leashing the dog at all times when outside the rental property, having a dog incurs rent payments of a specific amount and having a dog incurs a nonrefundable security deposit of a specific amount.

Contract edits

What document is required to amend a lease?

Legal documents to amend a lease are not complicated. You can do one of three things:

  1. Simply write or type up a new form that includes the aforementioned information, and have each party sign and date it
  2. Cross out the existing language on the original lease, and write in the new terms. Have the tenant and landlord sign and date it. (Note: If the changes are extensive, this could be difficult to fit in the original document without it being messy or hard to read.)
  3. Rip up the original legal documents, and type up a new rental agreement that contains the new terms, and have it signed and dated by the tenant and landlord

Does a lease amendment override the original lease agreement?

A lease amendment applies only to the specific terms contained within it. All other terms of the original lease agreement remain in full effect as is.

What can I not use an amendment for?

A lease amendment is not for such lease changes as rent increases. Keep in mind both landlord and tenant must agree to the lease changes in an amendment and sign the document to make it enforceable. It's highly unlikely tenants will agree to pay additional rent mid-lease.

Any rent increases outlined in the original legal contract in order to take effect during the term of the document. For instance, include wording that states the landlord may increase the rent by $50 per month starting six months after the rental document takes effect.

Can I add a lease amendment to a lease or rental agreement at any time?

You can add a lease amendment at any time provided both the landlord and the tenant agree to the terms of the lease amendment. Neither a landlord nor a tenant can unilaterally add an amendment to a lease or rental agreement.

Consult a lawyer if needed to amend a rental lease

If in doubt, seek the legal services of a law firm

There are many online options for landlords to find templates for a lease amendment to a rental agreement. If you have any lingering questions or concerns, always consult a lawyer with a law firm that specializes in lease agreements, lease terms and related legal documents. This will ensure the lease amendment both protects the landlord and is legally upheld in court. The financial investment for a lawyer's time is well worth the legal protections received in the long run.

Changing agreements

There are times when a landlord or tenants want or need to make changes to a rental agreement. When the parties agree on those changes, making it official is pretty effortless. In doing so, both the landlord and the tenant receive much-needed legal protections.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.
Categories: Landlords

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