Coming up with a lease agreement that’s firm and fair is essential when it comes to setting the tone for your next tenant. Creating a lease that is reasonable, honest, and consistent should be a landlord’s top priority. After all, the lease determines a lot of the rules, regulations, and expectations of your rental home.
It may be helpful to connect with experts to help draft up a strong lease since it can be challenging for a landlord who manages their own property to also come up with a formal agreement. On the other hand, if you have a property management team, let them handle the lease agreement for a stress-free experience.
Whether you are drafting your own lease or leaving it to your property managers, we are going to discuss some of the most common lease loopholes that landlords should always check for and some tips to write a strong lease.
Hold Up Your End of the Agreement
First and foremost, when you draft up a lease, make sure you understand your part of the deal. If you don’t know your responsibilities regarding the rental property and the lease agreement, then your tenant could potentially make a claim against you. For example, if you put in your lease that you will give tenants a 24-hour notice before entering the property for regular maintenance, you must follow that agreement. If you constantly show up unannounced and try to enter the property, your tenant could try and break the lease or try to file a claim against you.
Similarly, if you include in your lease that you will respond to all maintenance requests within one business day, it’s important to hold up your end of the deal. If you as a landlord don’t follow the rules according to the lease, you can’t expect your tenants to do so, either.
Clearly State the Occupancy Limits
In any lease, occupancy limits should be distinguished. Federal occupancy standards require landlords to allow two people per bedroom unless there are special circumstances. Either way, every person who intends to reside at the property must be listed on the lease and must follow the occupancy limits.
If you fail to set the occupancy limits for your rental property, you may have tenants take advantage of you by inviting more people to live there. Likewise, you should include in your lease that everyone who resides at the property must be listed on the agreement at all times. This way, you can keep track of who lives there and who doesn’t.
Include Maintenance and Repair Requirements
To avoid repairs going untouched and unfixed, make it a requirement for tenants to contact maintenance as soon as something goes wrong with the property. One situation that you don’t want to run into as a landlord is a completely broken property in need of expensive repairs at the end of someone’s lease term. This could happen if you don’t have maintenance time requirements within your lease agreement.
It’s best to set a standard for your tenants to follow regarding maintenance and repair requests. If you want to avoid running into large repairs at the end of someone’s stay, include a timeframe in which they must contact you for repairs and maintenance. For example, require your tenants to report large repairs within 24 hours of the damage occurring. Similarly, include yearly maintenance checks in your lease so that you can observe the property first-hand while the tenant still lives there. Just make sure to give them a heads up before you visit the property.
Set Strict Pet Rules
A lot of people these days are looking for rental homes that allow pets. However, not all places are pet-friendly. If you want to avoid having pets in your rental home, it’s essential to set that boundary on your lease agreement. If you fail to mention a pet policy, you may end up with a zoo in your rental property. Just as you should require all occupants to be listed on the lease, you should also require all pets to be listed on the lease if you allow pets. If you don’t allow pets, then you should make that extremely clear within your lease.
Keep in mind that tenants with emotional support animals, service dogs, and therapy dogs have the right to live in most places regardless of pet policies. Check with your local and state laws to see how this applies to you and your property.
Smoking and Drug Policies
It should be pretty obvious that there is no smoking allowed in most rental properties. However, if you fail to put this in your lease, you could potentially end up with a smoke-damaged home. Nothing is worse than the smell of stale cigarettes, which is near impossible to get rid of. Also, if you don’t want people smoking other substances, it’s best to say that in the lease explicitly. Tenants could find loopholes around the rules of cigarettes vs. marijuana. In your lease, make it abundantly clear that there will be no illegal drug use or smoking of any kind in your rental property. That way, tenants can’t find a loophole around it.
All in all, drafting up a lease takes a lot of time, work, and brainpower. If you find yourself struggling with this, let your property manager handle the lease agreement. Professionals know it best and can help you with figuring out these tricky loopholes.