Residential Lease Documents Explained

A properly completed residential lease, with all of important components, is essential to a proper landlord/tenant relationship.

It’s in the best interests of all parties for everything to be laid out in writing, so don’t hesitate to ensure that all items are covered.

Remember that each law covering leases will have subtle differences in each state, but the bulk of what’s in a good document applies across the board.

Search state databases for information about what needs to be included.

The information below will help you understand the substance of generally accepted lease agreements.

Rental Agreement or Lease

The primary difference between the two is that a rental agreement is a month-to-month document, while the lease covers a set period of time.

Should a tenant remain after a lease expires, things convert over to a rental agreement based on the final terms of the lease until a new lease is signed or the tenant moves out.

The obvious advantage of a rental agreement is that it allows either party to terminate it on a 30-day notice.

The downside for landlords is just that — there’s more long-term advantages to a lease that implies a time frame.

Of course, that means getting it right and covering all aspects of a lease in important.

Prominent Sections in a Residential Lease

The first section is always the personal and/or business information for both the landlord and the new resident, followed by the physical address of the property as well as any extra details.

If the premise includes furniture or something else in addition to the structure it would be noted here.

The amount of rent will be in another section, along with any security deposits and/or last month requirements.

This information may be be broken down into sections called “terms” and “payments.”

This is where you likely see language detailing late charges and how they are handled included.

The date late charges will be implemented needs should be listed as well.

Further down the lease document will be sections detailing rules about occupants. It’s important to include specific language that limits the amount of time a guest can stay (normally 15 days) to avoid extra residents who aren’t on the lease.

There should be sections outlining pet policy that are clear and concise.

Parking regulations are also important if there is any shared parking or if a landlord wants to limit the number of vehicles that can be parked on the property.

Sections Referring to Termination and Maintenance

The maintenance section details who is responsible for what when it comes to property upkeep, trash disposal and routine repairs.

Utility services can be paid for by the resident or landlord as prescribed in this section the lease.

When it comes to termination, the section should contain specific language that spells out what kind of actions can result in the lease being terminated is important.

The effective dates of the lease should be included here and the options for renewal as well.

Many office supply stores and online services can provide a lease template.

What you want to be sure of is that you are using the correct lease for your state and that it covers all the necessary categories.

Make sure any lease you choose is up to standard as it isn’t something to cut corners on.

How to Read a Credit Report

An individual’s credit report is one of the most important tools landlords should be utilizing to help ensure their properties are rented to the most qualified candidates in the market.

Along with employment and past references, credit is a critical decision making tool, but it’s not as effective if it’s not completely understood.

This sample offers a nice layout and helps with the explanations that follow.

 

Tradelines

This is the area on the report where you will find information on accounts and how long they have been open.

The trade term “seasoned tradeline” indicates one that has been open for a long time.

Usually, the longer an account is open, the more positively it influences a credit score.

There are companies that will essentially sell tradelines that are meant to boost the credit rating.

While the practice may seem unethical, it’s not illegal.

It’s one reason landlords should be wise to look beyond just the credit score.

Tradelines will start by listing the lender and the loan type, such as credit card, car loan, or line of credit.

Next, the report will list a designator and then the industry the credit falls under.

Last, it will list the current status of the account, which is the most important section — you want to rent to people who are current on their credit obligations and rarely late.

Collections

As you might assume, this section will provide alerts regarding any accounts going to collections and whether they are still open or have been resolved.

If a person had  an account go to collection but has paid it off, it will still be listed in the Collections section.

An update in August 2014 changed the way medical bills reflected on credit reports, lessening their impact, which is a big help for consumers who were hit by enormous medical bills and were simply unable to pay them.

But remember, if a person walked away from routine obligations such as cell phone payments or a credit card, they probably aren’t the best candidate — though context should also be considered in such situations.

Context

It’s important to look at any credit report through a lens that takes into account some level of context, which is what the new rule on FICO score reporting is meant to provide.

However, it may be years before the changes are fully implemented, so it’s helpful if those who are reading credit reports understand context too, and not just with regard to medical bills.

If a potential renter has a lower score because of medical costs going to collection, it’s not by itself an indication of risk when it comes to paying rent on time.

Another situation where a little leeway is good is if a person is coming off of a divorce.

If the shared bills have had to go to collection and your applicant can show they are otherwise quite responsible, that’s worth taking into consideration.

Employment

This section tells the reader about the place of employment, but you need to be aware that it’s one of the most inaccurate sections of credit reporting.

Frequently, employers aren’t listed at all, or the reporting agencies list people working someplace when in fact they haven’t for years.

Employment is best verified outside of the credit report.

Errors

The high confidence everything from banks to employers and even dating sites place on credit scores might make you assume they are correct, but the truth is that credit reports can often report errors.

If a report is telling you something about a potential renter but that person has evidence to the contrary, it’s probably an error.

Many people don’t find out their credit reports have mistakes until they have their credit run, so it’s possible they were completely unaware.

How to Verify Contractor License

In most jurisdictions, a contractor must be licensed as a business and in their chosen specialty.

This specialty license is issued by the Department of Labor and Industries or similar agency, and a number is assigned to the contractor.

Most contractors are required to publish this number in all public communications.

To verify the contractor license to see if it is current and there are no registered complaints, simply ask to verify the number with the government agency.

This can often be completed online. If your jurisdiction doesn’t require a specific contractor’s license, there are some other ways to verify their credentials so greater confidence in the company or individual hired can be had.

1. Ask For Their Certificate Of Insurance.

Contractors must be insured in every jurisdiction in order to conduct business.

This is because they are making a change to a property in some way.

Whether acting as a handyman or a specialized contractor, the Certificate of Insurance will verify their coverage and the presence of a surety bond if needed.

2. Ask For a Physical Copy Of The License.

If a contractor has been licensed to complete work, there will be a paper license issued.

It is required to be displayed in a prominent location and accessible for inspection.

Although you won’t have a contractor take this license off their wall and take it to your home, you can visit the contractor’s office and ask for a copy of the license to verify its validity.

3. Create An Inquiry.

If there isn’t a way to specifically request a license verification, then you may be able to create a local inquiry to get the information that is needed.

This is typically through the state licensing board, but it could also happen through a local trade union as well.

Be aware: this process may require a specific written request that cannot be submitted online and it may take up to 90 days to complete.

Knowing how to verify a contractor license is generally pretty easy.

Get the name of the contractor, find their assigned number, and conduct an online search through the appropriate government agency.

If that option is not available, then use these additional options to get the information needed today.

5 Golden Rules to Create Model Tenants

After investing in your rental property, your tenants become your most valuable asset.

They help determine your staying power in the real estate business, and therefore serve as valuable additions to your property’s value.

Selecting good tenants is a difficult role for most landlords, but not because of the caliber of tenants.

There are many decent potential tenants waiting on the right housing opportunity.

The problem lies with the approach to finding the right tenant.

1. Property Appeal—“Like Attracts Like”

Before you can find the right tenant, you need to invest in your property.

When your property looks immaculate and is located in a desirable part of town, it will attract the kind of tenants you want.

Conversely, if it looks “run down,”  it’s unlikely you’ll find the model tenant you are looking for.

Since “like attracts like” in the real estate industry, landlords with well-maintained properties are more likely to attract tenants who are willing to uphold the same standards of house maintenance as you are.

2. Lease Agreement—“Your Word is Your Bond”

Like a marriage contract, the terms set out in your landlord-tenant agreement are legally binding.

To foster a long lasting future with the ideal tenant, start the relationship off on the right footing; draft a lease that is reasonable and respectful of the needs of both parties and be sure to review the document in full with your prospective tenant.

Even after the lease agreement is signed, differences can arise.

Experts strongly recommend that both parties attempt to resolve any issues with each other before seeking outside help.

Probably the most important advice to resolving landlord-tenant disputes is for both parties to read the lease agreement and become familiar with each other’s obligations.

3. The Rental Business—“It’s a Business Relationship Not a Friendship”

Communication is at the core of any great relationship; however, it’s a very different dynamic when a tenant thinks of you as a friend.

With friendships, special privileges and concessions are expected and that can compromise your business investment.

Be courteous and professional.

Keep your relationship on a business level, communicating clearly any new arrangements to be implemented and ensuring terms are understood before documenting.  

4. Property Maintenance—“Happy Tenants are those who are Routinely Maintained”

Happy tenants are extremely important to your real estate business, and good tenants are happy tenants.

The way you keep them contented is by keeping your property in good shape.

Fix leaks, replace old fixtures and fittings, and inspect the home annually.  

You may want to keep a list nearby of good plumbers, electricians and tradesman to refer to when needed, if a problem were to arise.

5. Negotiate on Some Terms—“Yield to Understanding”

Don’t be too rigid with house rules that you scare away good tenants—be flexible and negotiate.

You may hate having pets on your property, but if a responsible tenant wants to move in with a family cat, there is little harm in making revisions to accommodate that request.

As long as all newly negotiated terms are in writing, your leniency will stand to benefit your relationship in unexpected and fruitful ways.

Many landlords find that being pet friendly makes them stand out from the crowd.

Often they attract good tenants who are happy to pay more rent for pet accommodation.

Model tenants reliably tend to their obligations.

They pay the rent on time, take care of your property and are respectful neighbors in the community.

The bond you help create with your tenants can only strengthen your investment.

Short Term Property Management Tips

Whether you are looking to add some extra cash into your budget to make ends meet or you want to supplement your holiday plans by renting out your home, short-term property management can pay off with some big rewards. Even if you just have an extra room, you could make more than $20,000 per year more just by renting it out. Before you get started, however, there are certain things of which you may need to be aware. These 5 short-term property management tips will help you make sure that you get the most out of your rental property.

1. You May Need to Charge a Hotel Tax

Some jurisdictions require that short-term rentals charge a hotel tax. In short, your rental on a short-term basis may be illegal unless you get the authorization to run a hotel on your property. This may require rezoning and that’s a lot of hassle. Even home sharing isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be clear of the law and any profits you make are most definitely taxable at local rates.

2. Make Sure to Thoroughly Vet Your Guests

Many short-term property managers check a Facebook page, look for a quick criminal history, and call the vetting process good. That could wind up setting a landlord up for a bad experience. You’ll want to make sure that security deposits are in place before handing over the keys, a credit check has been done, and other background information in checked – like offender registries that may not show up on a criminal record, like founded child abuse.

3. The Rules Must Be Clearly Known

Your house rules must be posted somewhere on your short-term property to be valid. This generally goes beyond whatever lease terms that you may have. If you charge a smoking fee, then this fee must be posted on the property. You’ll also want to clearly communicate when people can check into your short-term rental and when they’ll need to leave so you don’t have an unpleasant surprise waiting for you.

4. Set a Valid Price Point

This might be the trickiest thing of all for the short-term property manager. The right price is a balance between profitability and image. You don’t want to charge so little that people won’t stay because they think there’s something wrong with the home. You also don’t want to charge too much because you’ll become the option of last resort. Location, current market conditions, and even the seasons can all cause fluctuations in the price of rent that can be charged.

5. Market Yourself

You won’t get many renters if no one really knows that you’ve got a short-term space to rent. Make your description comprehensive and consider having professionals take promotional images and create marketing content for you so that a clear picture can be received by a prospect. A short-term rental is highly profitable when managed correctly. Get started with these 5 tips and start pulling in the extra income you need today.