Activity 1: Completing the Rental Agreement

(Objective 1: Increase ability to read and understand a rental agreement.)


Suggested Introduction: A rental agreement is a legal contract whether written or oral, between the landlord and tenant. The terms of the agreement explain what the landlord expects of the tenant and what the tenant expects of the landlord. Ask for a written agreement. Written agreements give you a record of the terms and are easier to enforce if there is a problem.

Signing this agreement means you will follow the terms explained in the agreement. While it may be tempting to just sign the agreement, so you can move in, it is very important to read and understand it – know when rent is due, what utilities you will be paying, how long the agreement lasts and more! Take your time to read the agreement – don’t feel pressured to sign one that you haven’t read completely and/or discussed with the landlord. If you don’t feel comfortable reading and understanding the rental agreement, ask a friend or family member to help you.

Most written rental agreements use a standard form; however, some landlords add extra conditions to a rental agreement that are handwritten or typed into or attached to the form. This is legal, but occasionally the conditions are not legal. Very carefully read any language that is added to the pre-printed rental agreement. If it doesn’t seem fair to you, check with an attorney or one of the resources listed on the Overall Handout. Your rental agreement is a very important document to keep and refer to throughout your tenancy. Keep it secure with your other rental documents.


After introducing participants to the topic, ask participants to work in pairs. Distribute copies of Handout 1: Sample Rental Agreement and Smoke Detector Notice and Handout 2: Rental Agreement Checklist. The Sample Rental Agreement and Smoke Detector Notice have been completed for the Smith family. On the left hand side of the Rental Agreement you will see that each of the lines of the Rental Agreement have been numbered. The Rental Agreement Checklist identifies a number of things to look for in the agreement the Smith family signed. For each of the items on the checklist, identify the line where the information is found and the answer to the question.

Following the completion of this task, facilitate a discussion using the Instructor Materials: Rental Agreement Checklist Answer Key.

OPTIONAL: Provide Handout 3: Non-Standard Rental Provisions. Some property owners, especially those with many properties, will also include a “Non-Standard Rental Provision” agreement with the Rental Agreement. This document details charges the landlord may assess and withhold from security deposits. Share copies of this document and review the types of charges a landlord may deduct from the security deposit.