Best Legal Documents for a Beginner Landlord
You invest time and energy into your new rental property, and you want to protect your investment. Handing over the property keys to your new tenants can be nerve-racking, as you are trusting them to respect and maintain that investment. To protect yourself and your rental property, you need to acquire several legal documents. These rental documents will ensure that you are compliant with your state's landlord-tenant laws; they also give you legal recourse in the event that something goes awry.
1. Rental Application
To begin the renting process, you will need a steady supply of rental applications to document each potential tenant. This simple form gives you all of the information necessary to perform background and credit checks, and it may also reveal your applicant's serious or fickle intentions. Check any employer or previous landlord references, establish that your rental applicant can make the rent each month, and ensure he or she has good rental responsibility.
2. Rental Agreement
Once you have chosen the renter(s) for the property, you need to create a rental agreement or lease agreement. This is a binding legal contract between the renter and yourself, spelling out the exact details of your agreement, including the length of the lease, the exact location of the rental property, the amount of rent, when the rent is due and payable, and any other stipulations you may have, such as pets or no pets. Each state has its own laws regarding the exact language to be used and if certain elements cannot be included. Ensure you conduct thorough research.
3. Eviction Notice
No one wants to think about the worst case scenario. However, it's best to be prepared if your tenants are unable to make their monthly rent payments, or if they break the lease in another way, such as subleasing the property. The only legal way to evict inappropriate tenants is with an eviction notice, which may have a different name depending on your location, such as demand of possession. Once you notify tenants, you start the clock on the eviction process. This process differs based on your state and whether the tenant is being evicted due to non-payment or other factors.
4. Notice to Enter
You should check on your property from time to time, to ensure that your renters are taking care and not violating any terms of the rental agreement. However, you cannot stop by unannounced; the tenant is entitled to his or her privacy. Therefore, you must give your tenants a notice to enter at least 24 hours in advance of your visit. This gives your tenant enough notice to make sure that he or she will be home (if necessary) at the time of your visit and is in compliance with your legal responsibility as a landlord.
5. Notice of Non-Renewal
Sometimes you don't want your tenants to stay for another lease term. This may happen because you no longer want to rent out the property, or you may choose to move someone else in instead. To give your renter(s) adequate notice to find a new place to live, you will need a notice of non-renewal. State requirements vary widely on how much notice you need to give, but generally, the more notice you give, the better.
While there are many more forms that a new landlord may need, these five documents will give you the confidence to move forward in renting out your first property. Find your locale's requirements on the exact language needed and the time lines necessary to execute proper documents. Many of the initial difficulties of renting out a property will be alleviated with the right paperwork.
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