Eliminating Common Leasing Mistakes

by Chris on September 9, 2013

Each day, legal disputes arise between landlords and tenants.

Some end with the landlord owing the tenant money, or unable to enforce the lease provisions.

Following the best leasing practices will eliminate many of these disputes, and protect your legal rights as a landlord:

tenant screeningMake sure your new tenant has the opportunity to read through the lease agreement and other leasing documents before signing. This not only reduces confusion over lease terms, but increases compliance with the property rules because the tenants understand what is required of them.

Provide a copy of the documents in advance, and be prepared to answer any questions the tenant may have. Allow tenants a reasonable time to have the lease reviewed by an attorney if they wish. This shows the tenant is taking the responsibilities in the lease seriously.

When it comes time to formalize the paperwork, meet with the tenant in person. Count all of the pages of the lease, and double-check that the most updated version of all needed attachments, like house rules, non-smoking, pet or crime addenda, are included.

Discuss move in and move out condition report requirements with tenants, and have them sign the initial move-in condition report. Provide the tenant the opportunity to note any items of damage.  Offer a short grace period after move in for the tenant to note any additional items. If the sheet comes back with additional notations, stop in to take a look at the damage right away. Pictures taken at the initial walk-through can prove if the damage noted was caused by the tenant during move-in.

Use a written form for any modifications of the lease and obtain the tenant’s signature to ensure that changes cannot be disputed. When communicating with tenants, note the results of the conversations, in the event a tenant later claims the lease was modified verbally.

Keep the lease specific to the tenant. For instance, avoid generic terms like “tenant” unless you also have listed the specific tenant’s name on the form. Blank lines left unfilled on the lease,  sentences on form leases with multiple options which are not modified, (e.g., “Rent is due on the 1st/5th/15th day of each month”), or terms that are to be determined at a later time will work against the landlord when it comes time to enforce the lease.

Note important dates from the lease on your calendar, including routine inspections, and the move-out date. Also, include a reminder date 60 days earlier, so you can contact the tenant about their intentions to move or renew at lease end.

Follow up with a move-out inspection report at the end of the tenancy. If the tenant is present at this time, ask them to sign the move-out report form, noting any damage that is in dispute.

Whenever possible, provide the tenant advance notice of what specific items will need to be cleaned or repaired in order to receive a full refund on the security deposit. Disputes over security deposits are one of the most common reasons why landlords wind up in court. Diffusing these disputes early on can minimize the risk of income loss.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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