by Mary Girsch-Bock –
Completing a leasing agreement with your tenants is the single most important task that you will undertake. While completing a lease has likely become second nature to most property management professionals, you may want to take a little extra time and think about everything that needs to be in that lease; before it’s presented to your future tenants. Here are a few things that property managers should make sure are included in any lease agreement:
- Detailed information about monthly rent. While this may seem fairly straightforward, you will want to spell out the specific rent terms such as payment due date, grace period, if any, late charge amounts due after a specific date, and payment form accepted.
- Legal entry to the unit or residence. It’s vital that a tenant lease spells out when unit entry is permissible. This includes how much of a notice is necessary (typically 24 hours), and under what circumstances. Obviously this clause can be overlooked during an emergency, but that exception should be noted as well. Bottom line is that it’s best to spell out exactly when you can enter the unit in order to avoid tenant complaints and potential litigation.
- Consequences of illegal activity. While we all hope that our tenant screening process will weed out the possibility of illegal activity among tenants, it’s in the property manager’s best interest to spell out prohibited activities and the consequences. Stating that you have the grounds to terminate a lease upon evidence of illegal activity such as drug dealing will notify tenants of the consequences of illegal activity and allow you to start eviction proceedings promptly.
- A detailed list of maintenance responsibilities. If your rentals are mainly single family homes, it’s vital that details on what tenants are responsible for are spelled out in the lease agreement. If your tenants are responsible for lawn maintenance and landscaping, it needs to be put in writing. If management prohibits major changes to property such as painting walls or installing a ceiling fan, it needs to be spelled out in detail.
- Detailed information about security, cleaning, and pet deposits. Are tenants allowed to use their security deposit for their last month of rent? If not, it better say that in the lease. Do you charge a separate pet deposit, and is it refundable? Again, spell out the terms in the lease. Cleaning deposits? Non-refundable? Better mention that in the lease.
Taking the time to present a comprehensive lease agreement will likely result in less confusion for tenants and reduce the possibility of litigation later.