38 Addendums Every Landlord Needs for a Battle-Ready Lease


[Note: I am not a lawyer or offering any legal advice. I am simply a battle hardened landlord providing her thoughts on lessons learned the hard way. Every area is different so it is important check you local and state laws. Good luck on your landlording adventure!]

My battle-ready lease is one of the best tools I have created to make me a successful, self-managing landlord. Over the years I have made many mistakes and have had many ulcer-inducing moments. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not having a strong lease that provided a great backbone for success–one I could refer to when the times were challenging or when I needed that written agreement, since everyone’s memories were differing.

Over the years of learning the ropes of self-management, I have found that the biggest tool in my arsenal was my lease. Having a tight lease has been a huge reason for my success, as it prevents “let’s talk about it” or “that’s not what we discussed” or “I didn’t agree to that.” I have a 16+ page lease that is very extensive and is added to as things come up. I review the lease ahead of time with the tenant. Once it is ratified by both parties, I no longer renegotiate. The lease become a binding agreement between me and the tenant.

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The Benefits of a Strong Lease

In the beginning I was worried that a strong lease would make my life harder. In reality it has done the exact opposite. It has dramatically reduced most of my ulcer-inducing moments. In fact I find that my tenants respect me more because I hold their feet to the fire. It’s human nature to try to talk our way out of a situation. That’s why no ones “likes” it when you hold their feet to the fire. At the same time, since it is a written contract that everyone has agreed to, I am no longer the “bad guy.” It keeps feelings out of the business deal.

I have learned early on that there is no such thing as a “perfect” tenant until after they move out and everything has been completed. Therefore, this detailed “rule book” allows me to not think about the situation or inadvertently give anyone a break. Not only is the ulcer-inducing moments reduction amazing, but it also keeps me out of trouble with Fair Housing. Remember, business is business. It is YOUR job as the landlord to protect house and leave your emotions out of the transaction.

I have found that the standard leases I have seen available to just downloaded isn’t specific enough. While none of this information is legal advice (since I am nothing other than a jaded landlord of 10 properties), I personally have found (as always, most of the time the hard way) that if it doesn’t specifically state in the lease or the law and it happens, you are out of luck. For example, a problem child was mad that I wouldn’t let her terminate her three-year lease at month 13. So when they were three months from being able to move out, they moved out of the place, still paying rent because it was cheaper than breaking the lease contract. So now I have a termination agreement.

Related: 5 Legitimate Reasons to Allow a Tenant to Break Their Lease

Yes, there is a fine line between being too specific and having people split hairs, but being generic has burned me too. So over the years, these 38 addendums have been what I’ve come up with. Yes, it is always growing because there is always a new problem children, but this has helped extremely.

38 Addendums Every Landlord Needs for a Battle-Ready Lease

These are the 38 (and growing) addendums that I have in my lease:

  1. Appliances Included With the Rental
  2. Month to Month
  3. Direct Deposit
  4. Pet Fees
  5. Utilities Assignment
  6. Subletting
  7. No Smoking
  8. Maintenance
  9. Entry by Landlord
  10. Extended Absence by Tenant
  11. Termination on Sale of Premises
  12. Lease Termination Provision for Military Personnel
  13. Tenant Assumes Responsibility for Maintenance
  14. Battery Operated Device(s)
  15. Filters
  16. Steam Cleaning Carpets
  17. Professional Cleaning
  18. Landscaping
  19. HOA
  20. Keys, Garages/Gates
  21. Damages
  22. Renter’s Insurance
  23. Break Lease Option (Buy Out)
  24. Alterations
  25. Pest Control
  26. Home Businesses
  27. Attic Storage
  28. Renting Site Unseen
  29. Appliance Maintenance
  30. Fees/Violations
  31. Duct Cleaning
  32. Plumbing
  33. Changing Locks
  34. Play Structures, Trampoline, Pools and Other Large Outdoor Equipment
  35. Roommate
  36. As-Is Appliances
  37. Abandonment
  38. Fireplace

Over the years I have heard many comments from my friends and other investors regarding my lease, including:

  • “It is too long.”
  • “I would never sign that.”
  • “You are going to overwhelm the tenant.”
  • “It is going to give your tenants more loopholes.”
  • “You are going to encourage people to break your lease.”
  • “Your deductible will cost you more money because they will not turn in repairs.”

I could go on and on!

At the end of the day:

  • I have never had a tenant walk away due to the lease.
  • I have not had a tenant let a maintenance issue go because they didn’t want to pay the deductible. It has simply created skin in the game where tenants are not only more careful, but also try common solutions before calling me.
  • Tenants think twice about breaking the lease since they have to pay two months’ rent and give two months’ notice.
  • I’ve created a thorough playbook that makes all of my decisions transparent.

Remember, you won’t have an issue until you have an issue. The issue is not when people are in love with your house. It is when there is a reason that your house no longer fits their “plan” (baby, cheaper options, relocation, etc.). Now they want out so they pull out your lease and scrutinize it. This is when you lease is put to the test. The question always is: Will it stand up?

Adding Items to a Lease

I am sure this is a “no duh” statement, but since a few people have asked me over the years: Once the lease is ratified, there is no adding more items. The only way you can add something to your lease is if the tenant agrees to it. Otherwise, it has to be a federal or state law.

Related: Month to Month vs. Annual Leases: Which Protects Landlords?

I have found that this is when you need your detailed lease. Murphy’s Law has taught me over the years that my rental problems never occur when I have free time. They will happen when you are two days from having your first child, when you are on a long business trip, taking vacation, deployed, etc. This lease is your insurance that your tenants will behave at their best.

I once received the best compliment from a problem child ever: “Two lawyers and my real estate agent friend have reviewed your lease. My real estate agent friend says you write a great lease.” Yes, I do!

For me personally my lease was the best ulcer reducing medicine on the market. While I am sure you will make tons of mistakes, hopefully you won’t have to go through all of the lessons I learned from the hard knocks of life as a landlord.

Is your lease ready to go to war? What do you put in your lease?

Leave a comment below!

About Author

Elizabeth Colegrove

Elizabeth Colegrove is a passionate "buy and hold" investor who specializes in turning her once-negative transient lifestyle (Military) into a positive lifestyle. She self manages her entire real estate portfolio from long distance while holding down a full time job. When she isn't finding new real estate deals, she enjoys traveling, hanging out with her awesome boat-building husband, playing with her mischievous kitty, or writing on her newest project, her blog.


  1. David Spurlock

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I’ve been following some o your posts and stuff. I especially like this one about leases.

    Is there anyway I could get a copy of your “bulletproof” lease.

    I retired from the Navy after 30yrs and now I am renting out the various properties I bought along the way. I have 4 SFHs and eventually want to get to 10 like you.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. David Roberts

    We did the same with our lease. At first it was 4 pages. Then we had a friend who is a leasing agent for a management company. We reviewed their lease which was 26 pages. Lol. She gave us great advice as well, similar to what this article is about. We have found that the tenant still willing to take on the responsibility of the lease is a good tenant. We also added a pet lease, yes that’s right. Lol. Part of it is that we are animal lovers and we think its the cutest thing!

    • Elizabeth Colegrove

      Love it! 26 pages is awesome. We are not quiet there but getting close! Everytime something comes up. I totally add a new addendum.

      I totally agree about the pet lease. My pet language is almost a page long. While I am a huge believer in allow pets (our child is a 8lb kitty princess), in my experience skin in the game on the owners side, is a huge key to pets behavior.

    • Darren Sager

      People can sue others for any reason if they like. I’m sure the reason why Elizabeth doesn’t share her lease is the same reason why I don’t share mine. Someone will put too much faith in it and let’s say it doesn’t happen to cover something and that landlord has an issue with that tenant. They then sue me for it not living up to it’s claims when all I was doing was trying to help them.

      That or she wants to sell it since it’s in her book (and she has every right to do that). I’ve put countless hours into my lease. It’s now over 25 pages. It has to be reviewed each year to make sure it’s compliant with new laws. No lease it bulletproof. Having a strong lease is a great way to help you but it’s not the one thing you should rely upon to protect your rental units.

      • David Spurlock


        I’m not sure that is a valid concern. If someone were afraid that they would open themselves up to lawsuits, they wouldn’t publish anything. Using your logic, if I were of a mind to sue Elizabeth (as someone alluded to, anyone can sue anyone else for anything), I could sue for anything in the 38 item blog or anything else in any blog or published tidbit.

        This is one of the problems we have in the U. S. today. We have become so dependent on lawyers that we cannot do anything without worrying about lawsuits e.g. the mailman trips over a crack in the sidewalk and his lawyer sues everyone in sight. We have become the worst litigious society on the planet. (Roll the many lawyer jokes here)

        Like you said, Elizabeth has intellectual property rights for the lease she created. That being said: Simply say that instead of using the lawyer line. She or anyone else could create a business product out of that lease and market it or like you (or someone said) buy her book.

        It seems to me that the fellowship of landlords could benefit tremendously by incorporating best practices and incorporating a “bulletproof” standardized lease.

        Frankly I find it ludicrous that someone would be so concerned that someone would sue them over using a lease. Again, it’s back to the lawyers. Sigh

    • Elizabeth Colegrove


      Actually it had more to do with the issue of providing legal documents to others without a legal degree than copyright issues. Although copyright could always come into play too because I used a 3rd party lease as the basis of my original lease years ago.


  3. Kyle Hipp

    Why can’t you modify the lease once it has been ratified? I am able to add rules and regulations to an existing lease, either with the tenants approval or effective with 2 weeks notice grants the modifications do not substantially modify the tenants rights. This doesn’t come into play often but is nice if I need to clarify something or add teeth to an existing rule or regulation.

    • Elizabeth Colegrove


      Honestly I had never heard of being able to modify a lease after it was ratified without the tenants permission. The tenants permission is the issues that I run into. When my lease come to play, I am holding their feet to the fire. They are scrutinizing it to find any loop hole or any way out. At this point they aren’t going to agree to anything additional without concession. Which of course, I am not willing to make. Their priorities have changes, and now I am using my lease to protect my house.



        • Elizabeth Colegrove


          Very interesting point, I hadn’t thought of it like that. I will have to look into this point as I have never heard of this before. What language do you have in your lease regarding your right as a landlord to modify the lease?


          PS – Thank you for sharing!! I love learning from others and not have to learn the hard way.

      • Kyle Hipp

        It is under “rules and regulations in my lease”. I basically says any extra rules not already in the lease will be incorporated into the lease in an attachment at lease signing. Then goes further and explains that Lessor has the right to create new rules and regulations during the term of this lease granted that it does not substantially modify lessee’s right. Is not effect without either tenants consent or 2 week notice.
        I usually explain this to a tenant at lease signing that, I can’t add a clause stating that I am going to rent out the spare room because they have been living there a month and still are not even using it. However, if in a multifamily situation I can put in a specific parking arrangement if the. Tenants can’t be adults and park nicely. So I might put in a new clause stating that unit one tenant parks in stalls 1 and 2 and unit 2 parks in stalls 3 and 4. If someone parks in someone else’s spot then there will be a fine and or towing expense.

  4. Deanna Opgenort

    That’s one of the reasons I do month to month — if there is an “unfixable” tenant I can just give 30 day notice.
    Not an eviction, just notice that says “as of 30 days from now our rental agreement will be terminated” (if they’ve been there more than a year it’s 60 days).

    • Elizabeth Colegrove


      That is a great point. I know of a few landlords that do that too! Unfortunately that doesn’t work well in my areas. The three areas that I operate in have definite moving seasons. Vacancy in the summer is much easier to fill than in the winter. In addition, as I have started to manage more and more properties (currently at 10), planning has becomes more and more important. I prefer 12 month leases as I can plan for renewals and turns around my life better.


  5. Mindy Jensen

    Wow, Elizabeth. This is great! Thanks for taking the time to write this all out.

    “At the same time, since it is a written contract that everyone has agreed to, I am no longer the “bad guy.” It keeps feelings out of the business deal.”
    Perfect. Real estate is a business. When you treat it like one, you will be infinitely more successful. Karen Rittenhouse tells prospective tenants to set aside an hour to go through the lease. She makes them initial everything, and tells them exactly what everything means. Removes a lot of confusion.

    I saw an awesome piece of advice from someone in the forums once. He said “Just because you put it into the lease does not make it legal or enforceable.” This is so true. You have to follow the laws in your state, however tenant-friendly they may be. I’m working on a 50-state list of common landlord tenant laws, and the variety of requirements and regulations is staggering. There isn’t one thing that all 50 states agree on, except that you can’t lock a non-paying tenant out of the unit.

    Another piece of advice is to learn all the landlord/tenant laws in your state. They can be difficult to locate online, but knowing exactly what you have to do can help your landlording life be so much smoother. Especially when you find out that violating this law can cost you 3 times damages, or not doing that can cost you double damages.

    • Elizabeth Colegrove


      I agree 100%.

      I spent upwards of an hour with every tenant reviewing my lease. I have them initial below every single one of my addendum’s, in addition to signing the end of the lease and initially the bottom of every page. One of the goals of having a detailed lease is having educated tenants. The best things I have found with them initialing below ever addendum is not only does it make them think about the lease when we are going through it. It also prevents any “I didn’t know about it later”. It also starts discussion about my expectations and theres. After 15 + tenants and participation on tons of forums I have many stories. I use these stories to explain the “why” behind each addendum which really helps.

      One of the reasons why my leases are so successful is because I have spent hours researching the local laws. I have found that when you are holding tenants feet to the fire, they will look for every loop hole and the leases validity. Thats why I have a whole shelf worth of books since I work out of 3 different states. For California I love California NOLO book. http://www.nolo.com/products/the-california-landlords-law-book-lbrt.html

      It is true that just because it is in the lease it is not legal or enforceable. From what I have heard many times it comes down to the judge and their interpretation. That is why most standard leases also has language that says just because one part of the lease is thrown out doesn’t mean it is all thown out. I have been told this is huge CYA and I make sure it is in all of my leases.


  6. karen rittenhouse

    Hi Elizabeth:
    I so agree with your post.

    We, too, have a detailed lease and use addendums. The time to know that a tenant is serious (and to let them know that you are as well) is BEFORE they move into your property. Our lease is also created and battle tested after years of property management with hundreds of tenants.

    Thanks for sharing. More landlords need to get serious and handle property management like the business it is. This only makes landlording easier for everyone involved.

      • karen rittenhouse

        I don’t notice anything missing. I love that you mentioned the comments you’ve gotten. I’ve also been told by other investors “I would never sign that.” Of course, I’m not asking them to, unless they want to move into one of my properties.

        And “it’s too long.” Too long for what? To say what it needs to say? I have never had a tenant complain that it’s too long or refuse to sign.

        Good landlords know how to solve problems. Great landlords prevent them.


        • Elizabeth Colegrove


          I totally agree! As a beginning landlord I use to HATE the txt and phone call conversations that began with “lets talk about it” from the tenants. I always felt like I was the bad guy or trying to interpret or renegotiate the lease.

          I hate confrontation and being the bad guy. I created my lease and processes in the beginning to end those discussion. Two amazing consequences happened 1) 90% of my previous issues are non existent 2) landlording time commitment experience a huge decrease since it became more black and white. Fewer questions and when they occurred less discussion.


          PS- I love that the peanut gallery would never sign my lease yet a prospective tenant has never had an issue with it. I had to laugh when my applicant/now tenant (of landlord of 2 properties herself) even asked for a copy because she was so impressed.

  7. Ayodeji Kuponiyi

    Hi Elizabeth! I share your sentiments on having a strong lease. I also have long and detailed lease agreement. You should also include these in your addenda: Zero Tolerance for Criminal Activity, Security Deposit Receipt & Disclosure, Tenant Guest Policy(this is good one), Smoke-Free, Marijuana Addendum, and Satellite Dish/Antenna Installation Permission. I also include Trash & Recycling Instructions.

    • Elizabeth Colegrove


      Thank you for your response. I appreciate you sharing! Its always great to learn from other landlords, instead of the hard way. I have the Satellite Dish/Antenna and Tenant Guest Policy addendum’s in my lease. I totally agree with you. They are absolutely life savers.

      I don’t have the others addendum’s that you mentioned. I would love to learn more. Would you mind sharing your wording on pming me. I would love to discuss what you include in these addendum’s and their purpose.

      Elizabeth Colegrove

    • Elizabeth Colegrove


      Thanks! Landlording has had many ulcer inducing moments for us and a very steep learning curve. Still we are beyond thankful for our rental as we are well on our way to financial freedoms and early retirement because of them. I would love to hear your feedback on my book. Hope it helps prevent a few of those ulcering inducing moment we learned the hard way.


  8. Kimberly H.

    We cover most of what you listed plus all but one of what Ayodeji lists. Do you have them all as separate sheets of paper, actually as addendums,…or all just in your lease? We have just about ALL in our lease, except for disclosures like lead which we get from the realtor board and the crime-free addendum the cities provide, but the body of our lease does exceed 30 pages. I tell people we need an hour for lease signing where we discuss the most important points; no one has ever had a problem with it but the do frequently seem surprised that it actually took an hour. We do require initials at the important points and on the bottom of every page so there can’t be any question that they didn’t know about something. So of course now I’m curious about the stuff you include that we haven’t yet…

    • Elizabeth Colegrove

      I have them all in the lease after the standard state language. My goal is to draw as much attention to the specific language as possible, which is why I also have initials at the bottom of the page and also after each additional addendum.

      If you are ever free and have time. We should have a phone chat and compare leases. I love learning from other landlords and not the hard way 😉

        • Elizabeth Colegrove


          Oh I totally feel you on that one! We are working on doing 2 cash out refinances, buy 2 more houses by Dec. (total of 9), manage the 10 I currently have, work on my website/ecourse, and still stay employed at my full time job 😉 So I understand your sediments, well. PM me if you ever want to compare notes.

    • Elizabeth Colegrove


      I have them in the lease as one long document but after all the traditional state language. The goal of this separation is to bring special attention to these points for my tenants. My goal is education. So the separation helps me bring special attention to these points.


  9. Just as I was coming to a personal understanding that I was engaging an adversary in unfamiliar territory with a horse and a sword bought off an office supply store shelf, your post came up.
    Until just before this my concerns were not the same. I was renting property I owned to people like me in my own little area.
    Now I am buying property with money gained from rent, from people I don’t know in places I haven’t lived. You would think that a person wouldn’t have to be told that paddling around in the swimming hole was easier than shooting the white water.
    The off the shelf agreement wasn’t bad but a few additional rules could do a lot to at least make a person feel safer.

    • Elizabeth Colegrove

      Congratulations on your first deal!! I started out with a lease from legal zoom. Than over the years every time an ulcer inducing moment occurred I added to it to prevent the issue from arising again. I have written all the wording and than had a lawyer look at it every once in awhile to double check it.

  10. Karl B.

    Going through all my old e-mails which include some old Bigger Pockets e-mails. Just read this blog post. I read another of yours a few days ago and it was awesome (10 Tips to a Battle Ready Lease). Keep up the great work and thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

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