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Clauses to Add to Every Lease

by Mel Metts

What kind of lease do you use? No preprinted lease is perfect, and I’ve made a number of my own modifications over the years. Here are some that you should consider.

"Charge a single late fee instead of a daily late fee. 

Why? Judges are now limiting awards to a single late charge. If you’ve been charging $5 per day and the tenant is 30 days late, the judge may award you $5 instead of the $150 you expected.

"Convert your late fee into additional rent instead of calling it a late fee. 

Why? By converting the late charge into additional rent, you can sue and collect in court. Do not list late fees separately on the Five Day Notice or the Complaint and Summons. Instead, include the additional rent in the total Amount Claimed.  

How to word your lease – ADDITIONAL RENT: Rental amount shall increase by $xx.xx if not paid by the [first] day of each month.

"Require that all late rental payments shall be paid by cash, money order or other certified funds. 

Why? (1) Prevents the tenant from buying time by paying with an NSF check. (2) Gives you peace of mind if a tenant makes payment after receiving a Landlord’s Five Days’ Notice. (3) If paid in certified funds, tenant cannot provide a backdated check and claim it was delivered earlier than it was.

"Limit legal expense reimbursements. 

Why? This places a realistic cap on a claim for legal fees, so you are not writing a blank check if you end up in a legal action. 

How to word your leaseLEGAL EXPENSES: The losing party shall pay all costs, expenses and attorney fees, not to exceed [$1,000] incurred or expended by the prevailing party due to the losing party’s breach of the covenants and agreements of this Agreement.

"Stop accepting personal checks for rent payments after receiving two NSF rent checks. 

How to word your leaseIn the event that two of tenant's checks are dishonored during any twelve month period, then tenant shall be required to make all future payments via money order or cashier's check.

"Your lease should ensure that you have access to the rental unit upon reasonable notice. 

Why? Illinois law does not address this, so you have no Statutory right to enter without a lease clause. Note that some municipalities address right-of-entry in their landlord-tenant ordinances. 

How to word your leaseTenant shall allow Landlord and his agents free access to the apartment at all reasonable times, to exhibit, repair or inspect the same, and shall allow Landlord and his agents to display "For Rent" notices on the premises.

"Clarify damages the tenant is obligated to repair, including broken windows. 

How to word your lease Tenant shall make all necessary repairs to the premises whenever damage to the same has occurred or repairs are required, and shall replace all broken glass and fixtures. Tenant is responsible for any damage to appliances and fixtures, including refrigerator damage by sharp objects during defrost, and toilet stoppage caused by flushing other than toilet tissue.

"Evict if tenant’s utilities are disconnected. 

Why? To prevent resulting damages from tenants’ use of candles, space heaters, electric hotplates, etc. as well as frozen pipes. 

How to word your lease – Tenant shall at all times maintain the temperature at a minimum of 45 degrees and shall be responsible for all damages resulting from the failure to do so. Tenants whose utilities are not connected within three days of lease inception, or are disconnected at any time for non-payment, are in violation of this lease, and are subject to eviction.

"Use a Crime-free Lease Addendum. 

Why? It empowers you to evict if a tenant or guest is arrested for criminal activity on your property. Some communities, including the Village of Round Lake Beach, now require the use of an approved addendum.  

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January 25, 2007