If you've just purchased your first apartment building, you may be anxious to get some tenants moved in so you can start earning money from your investment. Unless you've done your research, though, you could be setting yourself up for trouble the second you collect the signature on your first tenant's rental agreement. As a landlord, you've got to protect yourself from financial loss, and protect your apartments from untimely destruction by including the below 3 sections in your renters' agreements.
1. Addendum To Lease With Pets
It's not enough to just tell your tenants that they can or can't have pets. If you tell them that you don't allow pets, you run the risk of a gray area where the definition of "pets" is not very clear. A tenant could claim that their pet tarantula is pest control rather than a pet, or that their flock of chickens is nothing more than a food supply.
If you do allow your tenants to have pets, what is the limit on the number of pets they may have? What if their pet is an incessantly barking dog who bothers the other tenants, or worse yet, and aggressive dog that frequently runs off-leash? What if your tenant allows their pet to do its business all over the rental property's lawn without even attempting to clean up the waste?
As a new tenant, you've got to be very specific about your rules regarding pets and you need to get those rules in writing by attaching an addendum to lease with pets onto your renters' agreements. Specify in the addendum that failure to oblige by these rules will result in the early termination of the lease agreement.
2. Limits On Occupancy
It's every landlord's nightmare. You rent your apartment to a seemingly single individual only to have that individual's brothers, cousins, and friends from high school crashing the pad every night -- taking showers, running appliances, and smoking cigarettes in the hallways. This isn't okay; it's costing you money. It isn't what you agreed to... or is it?
Make sure that you clearly outline in your rental agreement who may reside in your rental property. Make every person who plans to live in the apartment sign the agreement. Clearly state that if anybody is found living in the rental unit besides those you have collected signatures from and their dependent children, it's grounds for early termination of the lease.
Another bit of compelling information on this matter is that, in some states, unless you specify the terms of occupancy in your rental agreement, your tenant is free to sublet the apartment out to any person they want!
3. Emergency Reporting Guidelines
It's never fun to have a tenant who calls you for every single trivial problem. A tenant should at least have a plunger and know how to use it, and they should also understand that the sound of children playing outside at 3 o'clock in the afternoon does not constitute their neighbors creating a noise disturbance. But, for every false emergency-reporting tenant you have, you're likely to have one on the opposite end of the spectrum, too -- those who never call you.
There are certain situations your tenant may find themselves in during which it's crucial to call their landlord (you) immediately. Generally, any event that includes gas, electricity, or large amounts of water should be considered one of these such emergencies. You'd think that this would be common knowledge, but you'd be surprised by how long some people are willing to ignore a hissing gas furnace or sparking electrical outlet.
Specify in your rental agreement that, when faced with a maintenance issue that could potentially harm somebody, the tenant is to phone the landlord immediately. If you live far away from your rental property, it's a good idea to hire a property management agency, like NorthStar Cleaning & Property Services, located in the same city as the rental unit so that they may field these calls and tend to the issues immediately.
If you're a new landlord, don't underestimate the importance of the rental agreements you create. These agreements are your only chance to establish what you deem acceptable and unacceptable behavior for those living in your apartment unit. When crafting your agreement, be thorough, be specific, and be sure to include the above 3 sections.