Beyond the Basics: Ten Things Your Lease Should Cover

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on October 9, 2009 under Landlord Paperwork and Forms, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

filling out a lease on tenant screening blogRental property lease information is everywhere—on the Internet, in books and newsletters, and given freely by your fellow landlords. And usually, all that advice covers the basics: when the rent is due, the length of the term, utilities that are or are not included, and whether or not pets are allowed.

Experienced landlords know that renting dozens of units to hundreds of tenants over the years will bring to light issues you might not have ever considered adding to your lease. If something you don’t want tenants to do is not specifically prohibited in the lease, a tenant is going to do it. Conversely, if you think every tenant is going to treat your property well just because you expect them to, think again: if it’s not required in the lease, not everyone will do it.

Here are ten items you may not think you need in your lease—but sooner or later, you may change your mind!

Military Clause: You should have some language covering both parties if your tenant is active duty military and receives orders to report to another location.

Vehicles: Not only should you designate where tenants may park their cars, but you need to state clearly where they may NOT park. Otherwise, you could have vehicles on the lawn, on the sidewalk, or in another tenant’s parking spot. Consider also stating that abandoned or non-titled vehicles may not reside on your property, and that any vehicles that are leaking must be parked elsewhere.

Damages: Require new tenants to conduct move-in inspections themselves, and list any and all damage they see on move-in day. Once they sign and date the list, they are agreeing that anything you find upon move-out happened under their tenancy—and is their responsibility.

Garbage: State that the tenant will be responsible for any damage to the garbage disposal, if provided, if caused by bones, grease or any other prohibited item. Believe it or not, you should also spell out that garbage cannot be left in common areas, patios, porches, steps, hallways, etc. and that it must be placed in provided receptacles.

Appliances: Include a clause that tenants may not install or remove any appliance without your written permission and supervision.  More than one landlord has a story to tell of improperly installed air conditioning or heating units that caused electrical damage or fires.

Waterbeds: You might think they went away in the 1970s, but waterbeds are still with us. Include a clause that you either do not allow them in your rental units or that tenants who have any liquid-filled furniture carry insurance to cover damages caused by their failure.

Rental Insurance: Spell out clearly that as landlord, you do not hold insurance to cover tenants’ property, and that they should obtain a policy to cover losses that may be incurred as a result of fire, theft, hurricane, etc.

Improvements: Notify your tenant that they must have your permission prior to making any improvements to the interior or exterior of your building, and that these improvements become your property when the lease is over. This includes interior improvements like built-in bookcases, paint and wallpaper, ceiling fans, and light fixtures; exterior items include shrubs, flowers, and other landscaping.

Landscaping: Speaking of shrubs and flowers, include a clause that tenants may not remove, trim, or prune any trees, shrubs, or flowers on the property. If tenants are allowed to weed flower beds, or are responsible for cutting grass, state it here. Many landlords agree that it’s better to hire professionals for lawn care than leave it for tenants!

Locks: Include a clause that tenants may not change the window or door locks.

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