Top 5 lease essentials

Most landlord leases are generic to the point of being worthless.  Others are copy and pasted from the internet with no forethought of the important (and legal) contents of it.  Don't make the mistake of getting any random landlord lease without vetting it for the following essential lease items.  They will protect you from aggravation and expenses.  It may also prevent a landlord lawsuit brought by a tenant.  Overall they will be a guideline for what to do when renting your house and can be used in conjunction with your landlord strategy.

1.  How rent is to be paid.  All landlord leases includes when the rent is to be paid.  We all want the monies due us on time.  Many forget to include HOW the rent is to be paid.  Do you expect only cash?  Do you expect rent to be mailed?  Do you list how long you'll wait for the item in the mail?  In my lease I list the rent is to be paid in cash, in person for the first 4-5 months.  I also list during that time if it is mailed, the renters are still responsible when I show up.  This is to forestall the aged excuse of something happened in transit in the mail system after it was mailed (e.g.  I forgot to put a stamp on it and must wait for it to come back, it must be lost, etc)  This should be among the top lease essentials for landlords.

2.  Pets.  What type of pets you will allow if any and what happens if those excluded pets are found on the premise.  Most homeowner insurance carriers will exclude certain dogs and other animals or surcharge you if you have them.  They do that for a reason.  Do you want to risk a renter having such an animal in your property?  Other animals are more inclined to ruining the inside of a home.  Others are just downright dangerous.  List your pet policy in your landlord lease and what happens if excluded pets are found (fee of $75 month for each month the animal is on the premise until it is removed is an example)  If a dog bites someone your insurance carrier may want to examine your landlord lease to see specific language forbidding certain animals.

3.  Vermin!  When your renters move into your property, it is vermin-free.  Suddenly you get a call that bed bugs are present and the renter wants to know what you are going to do about them.  If your property is a single-dwelling unit the answer should be clear:  Nothing!  If you know your property is clear and clean of vermin why pay for the renter's lack of vision in purchasing an used mattress full of bedbugs that infest your property.  In my landlord lease I clearly outline I must be notified of any items such as furniture, sofas, etc before they are brought into the property.  This is an important consideration when asking what to do when renting your house.

4.  Communication.  I never understood it but many renters I've encountered go through cell phones like one does flashlight batteries.  I have had my same cell phone number for a decade or more and want to keep it.  Not so with renters who owe their cell phone providers.  I find it frustrating to call a renter and find out the service is disconnected, forcing me to sleuth around to find the new number.  Outline a policy in your lease for communication, asking the renter for an alternate means of getting in touch with them.  This can be an email account, an aunt's phone number, or friend.  Put in your lease landlords and enforce it!

5.  Utilities.  If you don't have a policy on utilities you need to include one.  Once a renter, during the winter months, said they were having problems paying the gas bill.  She was advised by her dad to ask me to put the utility in my name because if I didn't I'd face possible burst pipes.  I did and she skipped out on a $300 gas bill.  My lease stipulates if utilities are shut off I will not assume them and if during the cold months, the utilities are not maintained it will constitute grounds for eviction.  I also outline in such cases pipe warmers or space heaters for the purpose of keeping the plumbing from freezing may be brought in.

These items make for the start of a good landlord lease that helps landlord's from being surprised.  If you have more essential items, please list them in the forum section.