Tenant Management

Residential Lease Agreements: Best Software for Small Landlords

residential lease agreements

Property management software can be a useful tool for small and independent landlords to improve efficiency, ease, and profitability. We have previously written overviews of several top software products that offer solutions for various property management tasks from advertising and applications to tenant screening, lease signing and rent collection. We have also previously discussed the pros and cons of having your tenants sign their residential lease agreements remotely. Here we compare how each of them handle the lease creation, signing and storing process. As a reminder, the top benefits include:

  • Convenience: The logistics of getting all parties together at the same time to review the lease agreement and sign in person can be challenging. Prior to pandemic lockdown times, people had busy or irregular schedules. Now, it is recommended to try and sign residential lease agreements remotely if at all possible.
  • Document creation: With software, it is easier to create quality documentation where property and landlord and tenant information is automatically populated in the lease agreement consistently and accurately. No more white-out or marked up documents!
  • Strength of the agreement: Similarly, special clauses and addendums can be easily inserted into the electronic document as needed. This provides for additional protection for all parties against circumstances that a standard lease might not account for.
  • Cost: No printing, scanning, faxing or filing. Everything can be completed online and stored in the cloud for additional safety and security.
  • Expediency: Signing your residential lease agreements online is virtually instantaneous. Simply login to your property management software and sign.

October 2020 update: This article has been updated with new online residential lease agreement services, scores and additional information. SparkRental has yet to re-launch several features of their product, including leases and documents. Look for updated scores and rankings once we are able to review them.

Which Property Management Software Offers the Best Online Residential Lease Agreement Services:

Best Overall Residential Lease Agreements:

avail property management software logoAvail
Avail makes it easy to create new leases from tenants’ application and screening information. Signing leases electronically is a simple, secure process for both you and your tenants.

Best City- and State-Specific Residential Lease Agreements:

avail property management software logoAvail
Avail offers comprehensive city and state-specific leases that include the required disclosures and attachments necessary per local ordinances.

Best for Document Storage (tie):

rentec direct property management software logoRentec Direct
Store all your documents, photos, and important files with your Rentec Direct subscription. Files are encrypted and backed up daily, so you never have to worry about losing all your important data.

buildium property management software logoBuildium
Buildium provides unlimited secure document storage for landlords with a subscription to either of their plans.

Click here to review the complete scores.

We considered the following rental property management software products for the best residential lease agreements:

Avail:

With Avail, you can advertise your property, find and screen tenants, sign leases, and collect rent, on any device, with tools built specifically for DIY landlords. Customizable state-specific lease documents are available, along with e-signing and document storage. Avail publishes your online listings to Zillow, Trulia and Hotpads, as well as to apartments.com. For more information, read our Avail Property Management Software Overview.

Buildium:

Buildium is property management software designed to support the larger DIY landlord and property managers. The software includes tools to help with accounting and bookkeeping, lease & document management, maintenance tracking, rental listings, applications and screening, and more. Read more in our Buildium Property Management Software Overview.

Buildium is a winner in our Best Online Rent Payment Service For Small Landlords

Rentec Direct:

Rentec Direct offers property management software and tenant screening solutions for landlords and real estate professionals to manage properties, tenants, and accounts online. Subscribers can collect rent payments, post vacancies, balance accounts, create reports, access tenant and owner portals, coordinate maintenance, accept rental applications online, and generate tenant screening reports. More information: Rentec Direct Property Management Software Overview.

Rentec Direct is a winner in our Best Online Rent Payment Service For Small Landlords

SparkRental:

With SparkRental’s landlord app, you can easily take care of everything from advertising your space to handling payments and sending notices. Note that SparkRental is currently undergoing an overhaul of their property management software. Our grades here reflect our prior experience with the software along with what information we have been able to learn about their new product so far. We will update this page once we get our hands on their new landlord software and tools. Learn more: SparkRental Property Management Software Overview.

SparkRental is a winner in our Best Online Rent Payment Service For Small Landlords

TenantCloud:

TenantCloud is a full-service property management software tool that does a very nice job of meeting the needs of a landlords managing anything from a single home to several hundred units. There are features relevant to owner-managers as well as property managers. From rent-up of vacancies, to financial reporting, to maintenance coordination with service providers, TenantCloud offers valuable solutions. For more information read our TenantCloud Rental Property Management Software Overview.

TenantCloud is a winner in our Best Ways to Advertise Property for Rent

The Best Residential Lease Agreement Criteria and Scores:

To determine the best property management software for residential lease agreements, we graded each service on 5 key rent collection features on a 10 point scale, plus a bonus feature. Then we tallied to scores to choose a winner in a couple of different categories. Here’s how they stack up:

SoftwareAvailBuildiumRentec DirectTenantCloud
State-specific Leases10676
Customization910810
Document Creation10879
Electronic Signing109109
Storage610109
Bonus Features111
TOTAL (out of 50)46444244

City and state-specific residential lease agreements:

We looked at whether the software includes a residential lease agreement template for landlords to use. We also graded on whether they include state-specific, or even city-specific lease agreements to be compliant with local ordinances. Some services include a free general residential lease agreement but charge extra for state-specific leases.

While using a generic, free residential lease agreement is better than not having any formal, written document in place with your tenant, we strongly believe it is better to have a lease that is specific to your state, or even your city in some instances. Each jurisdiction handles residential lease agreements differently. For example, a Texas residential lease agreement will look different than a California residential lease agreement or a Florida residential lease agreement.

Furthermore, some cities limit up front deposits, application, screening, and move-in fees. Others call for payment schedules, utility charge-backs, and other specific landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities. Your locality may also require lead-based paint or mold disclosures and pamphlets. These rules continue to evolve. Don’t get caught without legally binding documentation in place and jeopardize your relationship with your tenants.

Avail:

Avail provides subscribers with a lawyer-approved, state-specific residential lease template. These include relevant disclosures and attachments necessary based on your local ordinances. Where applicable, Local Assist will provide essential notes and documents, including rent price recommendations, late fees, and more. Score: 10/10

Buildium:

Buildium does not provide either standard or state-specific leases. Therefore, landlords must upload or create their own. However, to ensure legal and enforceable lease agreements, we recommend you consult an attorney or search for state-specific residential lease agreements. We have listed some options for finding state-specific leases below. Score: 6/10

Rentec Direct:

Rentec Direct provides a handful of residential lease templates, however, they are not state-specific. We recommend you edit them before using in order to comply with your local laws. Alternatively, landlords can upload or create their own leases and documents. Additionally, if you have a subscription to Blue Moon Forms for state-specific leases and forms, you can integrate those documents into your Rentec Direct account directly. Score: 7/10

SparkRental:

SparkRental provides access to a free, general lease to members of both their free and premium plans. State-specific leases are available for $19.95 or $29.95, depending on your subscription level. You can also purchase a reusable, fully editable lease package in Word format which includes state-specific disclosures and addenda. Each state lease package costs $49.97 (one-time purchase). Score: N/A

TenantCloud:

TenantCloud does not provide users with city and state-specific leases. Landlords need to import or create their own. It does come with a basic residential lease agreement template that the landlord can customize. You can also create and store multiple lease templates for different states or tenant types. However, TenantCloud does not review or approve leases for state-specific uses. Landlords should use this lease at their own risk. Score: 6/10


Customizable residential lease agreement templates:

Here we examine the level of customization you can make to the residential lease agreement or template. These can be provided either by the software or another source. Some products have a step-by-step process to create your lease. It might ask for tenant and property information and then automatically populate it into the agreement. Others start with a standard residential lease agreement template and allow you to choose from auto-fill elements to include in a customized lease.

Important: If you want to create your own custom lease agreements, we recommend you consult an attorney or use a service like Nolo or RocketLawyer to ensure your leases comply with relevant state and local laws to be valid and enforceable.

Avail:

Subscribers to Avail’s Unlimited Plus plan have access to step-by-step lease customization. As a result, landlords can specify start and end dates, rent amount, and any other fees or deposits you require. Select from a list of common optional causes or create and include your own. Score: 9/10

Buildium:

Once you create or upload your own residential lease template, you can save and reuse them for time-saving future use. You can also customize lease agreements with common features like signature blocks and form fields or include clauses about things like parking and pets. Score: 9/10

Rentec Direct:

Rentec Direct has some basic lease templates and other documents. While these are not state-specific, you can use them as a start towards creating your own custom residential lease agreements. Rentec Pro and Rentec PM subscribers also can use the Forms Editor to include commonly used data fields for easier population of tenant information. Score: 8/10

SparkRental:

With a paid subscription, you can edit the legal clauses of your lease directly. We advise that you do not do this without a legal review and that you do so at your own risk. Score: N/A

TenantCloud:

Starting with TenantCloud’s basic residental lease agreement template, landlords can select and customize specific lease items such as deposits, late fees, and other transactions. You can also select utilities and services that will be provided by the landlord or paid by tenants. TenantCloud will take you through these steps and then create and share a new residential lease agreement to you and your tenants. Score: 9/10


Document creation and data integration:

When creating a new lease agreement, you likely already have the tenant and property information from their applicant or other documents. You can manually type them into each of the lease documents yourself, but it is easier and more reliable if the software automatically populates this information for you. This saves time, eliminates mistakes and ensures consistency across all legal documents.

Avail:

Creating new leases is simple using Avail’s residential lease templates. Once you review applications and screening information and decide on a tenant, begin drafting a lease with just one click. Avail will pull relevant applicant data and use your property location to automatically include relevant clauses, rules, and disclosures. You can even clone and reuse your custom lease agreements for other properties or for when the next time this unit becomes available again. Score: 10/10

Buildium:

Create new leases from scratch or upload an existing lease or document. With auto-fill fields, you won’t have to remember details like tenant names, rent amounts, or dates. Score: 8/10

Rentec Direct:

Within your custom documents or lease agreements, Rentec Direct will auto-populate the form fields you included when building your document, such as tenant name, address, dates and rent amounts. Score: 7/10

SparkRental:

Subscribers to either SparkRental’s free or premium plans can convert rental applications to lease agreements automatically. Score: N/A

TenantCloud:

If your tenant is already connected with you, their information from the application and screening process will automatically be included in the lease agreement. But if it is not, you can add their details manually and the lease will populate their information in all relevant places. TenantCloud steps you through their document creation process which will then include the required clauses for your lease. Score: 9/10


Electronic signing:

Can landlords and tenants sign leases remotely using electronic or digital signatures for residential lease agreements? This is particularly important and has been a common feature in the real estate industry for years. We graded the software providers on security, ease of use and any extra costs for accessing electronic signing capabilities within the software.

Avail:

Once you have created your residential lease agreement to your liking, invite your tenant to sign the lease with just their name and email address. Avail will walk them through the lease signing process on their end. You can communicate with your tenants through the Avail app should they have any questions. You can also track the signing progress which can be particularly useful if you are renting to multiple people such as roommates. Once your tenants sign, Avail will notify you to sign and complete the process. Avail follows the 2000 E-sign Act so you can rest assured your newly signed electronic lease is fully legal and enforceable. Score: 10/10

Buildium:

Buildium has a partnership with Adobe Document Cloud so you can collect e-signatures for every lease and addendum directly from Buildium’s software. Tenants can sign documents easily from the device of their choice. Buildium charges $5 per document for subscribers to their Core plan. With the Pro plan, the first 30 signed documents are free each month. This might be useful for property managers with large portfolios or for those who experience frequent turnover. Score: 9/10

Rentec Direct:

Your Rentec Direct subscription automatically comes with a HelloSign account at no additional cost. You can begin sending documents for your tenants to sign immediately, and for free. HelloSign eSignatures are valid and legally binding across the globe and are used in 188 countries around the world. HelloSign offers industry-leading levels of eSignature enforceability. These signatures comply with the U.S. federal ESIGN Act and UETA Act, as well as many other international laws and statutes. Score: 10/10

SparkRental:

You and your tenants can e-sign instantly. It is currently unclear what this process entails and what security measures SparkRental has in place to facilitate electronic signing. We will update this score once have more information. Score: N/A

TenantCloud:

TenantCloud only offers electronic lease signing to landlords who have upgraded to a paid subscription plan. E-signature allows your tenants to sign the documents in the lease using their phones or other devices. You can send, track, and manage the signing process on the go. Score: 9/10


Lease and document storage:

Having all your signed residential lease agreements and drafts stored in one centralized, secure location is a must. You can store files on your personal or work computer, but how often are you backing up your data? Do you have security measures in place against viruses or identity theft? What happens if (when) your computer crashes and you are unable to access your lease agreements and templates? We examined the cloud document storage each of these software providers offers. We fee this is a safe and secure way to store your important property and tenant information and lease documents and notices.

Avail:

The final, signed and completed lease agreement is emailed to you and your tenants. You can then save or print offline copies for your records. Avail does not seem to offer document storage so you will need to save and organize your files offline. We would also recommend finding a cloud back-up solution to ensure you have copies of important leases and documents saved and accessible from anywhere. Score: 6/10

Buildium:

You can draft and store leases securely in the cloud with Buildium. Buildium also allows an unlimited number of leases, policies, addenda, receipts, meeting minutes, inspection reports, floor plans, and maps. Since they are on the cloud, landlords can access them anytime, from anywhere. You can also share documents with residents or rental owners when the need arises. Score: 10/10

Rentec Direct:

Rentec Direct offers unlimited secure file and document storage. Subscribers can store important files and signed lease agreements securely on the cloud and are encrypted in transit and automatically backed up daily. You can also share files with owners and tenants and access them from any computer, tablet, or phone with internet access. Score: 10/10

SparkRental:

SparkRental offers secure, unlimited document and move-in/move-out photo storage. Save your signed residential lease agreements and templates (and other documents, inspection reports, photos, etc) for each rental unit. Score: N/A

TenantCloud:

The free TenantCloud subscription level offers 512 MB of document storage for signed residential lease agreements ant 10 notice templates. Upgrading to the standard or advanced levels comes with 1 GB or 10 GB of storage, respectively, and unlimited templates. Score: 9/10


Bonus features:

Does the lease signing software offer any other useful features that the others don’t? We gave bonus points for things like in-app messaging, signing checklists, and progress tracking of documents. Read on for more details. 

Avail:

Avail uses LocalAssist to ensure your lease is compliant with relevant rules and regulations. Score: +1

Buildium:

Buildium offers a leasing dashboard so you can track the leasing process. Know exactly who has signed and who has not.  Score: +1

Rentec Direct:

N/A

SparkRental:

SparkRental gives you the opportunity to purchase an editable state-specific lease you can reuse as often as you like. While this does not update as new regulations are enacted, you may be able to benefit from a one-time purchase for several lease agreements, rather than paying for each one separately. Score: N/A

TenantCloud:

TenantCloud has partnered with Assurant to offer renters insurance to your tenants. The lease creation process asks if you want to require tenants purchase renters insurance (we suggest that you do). If they do purchase through Assurant, it will automatically include the landlord as the “interested party” to be informed of tenant coverage changes and in the event a claim is filed. Score: +1


The Best Residential Lease Agreements

The property management software that handles the lease agreement process best for small landlords in our comparison is Avail. Avail stands out from the competition by offering city and state-specific lease templates that include the required disclosures and attachments necessary to comply with local ordinances. Avail also makes it easy to create new leases from tenants’ application and screening information. Signing leases electronically is a simple, secure process for both you and your tenants. While Avail’s document storage features are not as robust as the others, it’s Local Assist feature is unique. Not only does it help ensure your leases are compliant in your property’s location, it also helps set the right rent price, late fees and guidance.

avail property management software logoSign up at Avail for your next lease agreement today.


The Best City and State-Specific Residential Lease Agreements

Avail offers comprehensive city and state-specific leases that include the required disclosures and attachments necessary per local ordinances. This is of utmost importance in many locations that have strict landlord-tenant laws. With their Local Assist feature, your leases will have all the proper terms, clauses and disclosures necessary to protect you and your property, wherever it is.

avail property management software logoSign up at Avail for your next lease agreement today.

Get Legal Help

Additionally, these rules are continuing to change and evolve as housing becomes increasingly difficult to secure in many places. If you would like further legal help, you can sign up for Rocket Laywer and try their legal services free for 7 days. You can also create and purchase a state-specific residential lease agreement online.

Rocket Lawyer is an online legal service company that connects people to the legal help they need. Rocket Lawyer makes the law simple and affordable with thousands of easy-to-create legal documents, quick access to independent local attorneys, and much more.

As a member, you receive:

  • Unlimited access to all legal documents
  • Document reviews by an attorney
  • Discounts on Incorporation Services
  • Ask a Lawyer questions
  • 30-minute attorney consultations on each new legal matter
  • Up to 40% discount on attorney fees (For longer-term engagements)
  • eSigning
  • On-line dashboard and document storage
rocket lawyer logoRocket Lawyer
Rocket Lawyer makes the law simple and affordable with thousands of easy-to-create legal documents, quick access to independent local attorneys, and much more.

Download Strong Lease Forms

You can also download these popular state-specific leases and landlord-tenant guides from Nolo:


The Best Software for Residential Lease Agreement Storage

Saving and storing signed lease agreements in an organized, easily accessible location is important for many landlords and property managers. It saves time over searching printed files or through the clutter on your desktop. Storing important files in the cloud also provides security in case your computer gets hacked or your hard drive fails. If this is your top requirement for property management software, there are a couple of excellent options:

Buildium provides unlimited secure document storage for landlords with a subscription to either of their plans. You can draft and store leases in the cloud and upload an unlimited quantity. You are not limited to lease agreements though. Store other important documents, notices, photos, maps, receipts, and more. These can take up quite a bit of storage, but Buildium offers storage of unlimited number of these files, which you can access anytime, from anywhere.

buildium property management software logoSign up for a free trial at Buildium today.

Similarly, you can store all your documents, photos, and important files with your Rentec Direct subscription. Files are encrypted during transit to provide ultimate data security of yours and your tenants’ personal and financial information. They are also backed up daily, so you never have to worry about hard drive corruption and losing all your important data.

rentec direct property management software logoSign up for a free trial today at www.rentecdirect.com.


Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Tagged , , , , , ,

About Chris Lee

Chris comes from a family of real estate investors, and remembers well his childhood of helping to prepare apartments between renters. He now manages his own property, apartment complexes, and condos. He has particular insight into the issues around short-term rentals as he manages those for himself and for other owners.
View all posts by Chris Lee →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *