Ask any landlord who has been through a terrible tenant situation, and you’re sure to hear that problems with the lease could have prevented hundreds of headaches and saved them thousands of dollars. If you’re in the midst of crafting or editing your lease agreements, there are a variety of factors you should be taking into consideration, and no doubt there are a few clauses that may have slipped your mind.
The Sublease Factor
Rest assured, if you don’t include a clause forbidding subleasing, you’ll have at least one tenant who takes advantage and rents out your space to an un-vetted tenant that you don’t know about, making your property vulnerable. If you’re not against subleasing, you can include it within your lease, along with caveats, like a fee paid to you every time a new sublease occurs. You should also require that any subleases go through your normal vetting process, using a website like www.mysmartmove.com to make sure everything is squared away. If you’re renting to students who might traveling abroad or gone for three months on summer vacation, subleasing is probably an important facet to allow.
You might consider placing a renewal clause within your lease. While many landlords like to have automatic renewal, this can set you up for messy departures and nightmare tenants that just won’t leave, or tenants that leave you in a ditch after they find a new property without notifying you. You may want to include a clause that forces tenants to tell you at least 30 days prior to their lease end whether or not they want to continue on with you, or whether you should start searching for new tenants.
Dealing with Pesky Pests
Every house gets them, but your tenants could be the true source of pests. Nonexistent housekeeping, poor hygiene and plain lack of common sense can create a messy problem in your rental property, and don’t be surprised if your tenants swear up and down that they couldn’t have been the cause. Your lease should include a grace period, say, a month after their move in date. If pests show up within this time period, the cost of pest control will fall on your shoulders. After this time passes, responsibility passes to the tenant.
The Right to Enter Your Property
It might be your property, but once it’s rented out, you lose all right to show up whenever you please. Most states have rigid guidelines regarding this, including a 24-hour warning period for tenants, meaning you could be barred from entering and fixing something essential. Include a clause that allows for your fair and appropriate entry into the property for necessary reasons.
Always Include Late Fees
This might seem like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many landlords neglect this essential portion of the lease. Remaining firm with late fees from the get-go means you’re less likely to have renters that try to take advantage of your kindness, turning rent in days or even weeks late. There are limits and regulations on the fees you can put in place depending on the state you live in, so do your research before you add this portion to the lease.
Avoid Rogue Tenants
Make sure your lease agreement includes specifications on the number of tenants allowed to live in your home at one time. This will help you avoid the slow and sneaky addition of family members or boyfriends and girlfriends that slip through the vetting cracks and essentially squat on your property. Restricting the use of premises means that your tenants won’t be able to allow unapproved individuals to live in your home, and you can make it so that any breach of this clause means immediate eviction.
Joint and Several Liability
Putting in a clause that outlines both individual and joint liability means that you can treat any and all of your tenants as one single entity, meaning responsibility falls on all shoulders. This will improve accountability, and give you more assurance of receiving the rent you’re owed. It’s also helpful should any legal action need to be taken, as you can serve one action against all of the individuals on your lease.
Taking the time to go through your list of lease do’s and don’ts could save you from court cases, severe money losses, and prevent you from any property damage. These safeguards will also help you select the right tenants, and make sure your property investment remains lucrative in this rental-happy market.