It is not surprising that the effects of the mortgage crises have resulted in more people renting homes, condos, and apartments. For many, the concept of a lease agreement and all that it entails is unfamiliar territory. Although the clauses in most lease agreements are considered standard, as a landlord, it is your duty to make sure that your expectations as noted in the lease are clear and understood by your tenants. Encourage them to read through the entire lease and make sure they understand it before signing it. Here are a few points that you may want to go over.
Use of premises
This item typically refers to how many people may reside at the rental property residence. If additional tenants begin occupying the property, decide whether or not they made be added to the lease and charged rent. There should also be mention of how many guests and relatives can visit and for how long. If there is a clause stating a fee for unauthorized guests or relatives, make your prospective renter aware of it.
Acceleration of rent
If your lease agreement states that failure to pay rent, damage the property, keep a pet when it is prohibited, or basically violate the agreement in any number of ways, let your tenant know if you expect them to pay the balance for the remaining rental period. This practice protects the landlord but can be a real hardship for a tenant.
For those who often rent to military personnel, you may want to include a specific item that addresses what happens if they are called to serve. Other tricky situations that could occur and should be addressed are what happens when your renter is reassigned posts, relieved from active duty, retires, or is sent to military housing. To protect yourself, a clause like this should require a 30-day written notice prior to the renter’s departure.
Although you may know what to expect from typical maintenance fees in terms of cost and frequency, your tenant may have a completely different concept. If there is a $50 landscaping fee or $30 charge to change filters or pressure wash, discuss with them how many times a year they can expect to be charged. For example, if the grass grows profusely in June, they should expect to see more landscaping charges.
Automatic renewal clause Some tenant/landlord agreements include an automatic renewal that goes into effect after a trial period sometime during the first year. If a renter signs a lease with such an agreement, they can be automatically responsible for staying put and paying rent another year. If you have such a clause, make your tenant aware of how it works before they sign it. Some may be thrilled by the security such an item offers, and others may be intimidated by it.
Rent is due on the first of the month In a landlord/tenant relationship, when the rent is due is something that should be clearly established. If you want it absolutely by the first, then when should they mail it? Is a postmark with the 1st day of the month acceptable? Be clear so there will be no problems later down the road.
Residence or business?
Most leases also contain a clause that states that the property may only be used as a residence. However, local zoning laws also dictate where and how business is conducted. Just in case your prospective tenant is planning on running a small nail salon or body shop that would be permitted zone-wise, protect yourself with such a clause.
Changes to the property
A rental agreement should also mention if approved changes to the property are allowed, such as landscaping, painting or the addition of fixtures or features. Will the renter need to return the property to its original state? If the tenant installs a chandelier or invisible pet enclosure, will it become your property when they move?
To ensure your success as a landlord, be upfront and clear in regard to your rules and expectations. Also, review all of the laws and guidelines that govern landlord tenant relationships. Be aware that they vary from state to state. Finally, educate yourself on your rights and the rights of your renter. Should a legal dispute arise, who will be responsible for attorney fees and court costs?
In this situation, “knowledge is power” and both you and your tenant should gain the knowledge for a fool proof, pleasant experience! Laws protecting landlords and tenants vary between states. Please be sure to research your rights with your state’s governing body.
We recommend that that you speak with an attorney and property management professional regarding the ins and outs of rental property leases.
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