So you finally found the perfect tenants to rent your property (yay!), and now it is time for them to sign the lease agreement. Before you let the ink dry on that, it might be good to consider these few extra details. Most landlords opt to use the standard Boston lease agreement, which in most cases, suffices. But as time passes by and tenants settle into their new surroundings, you may find that their habits fly in the face of what you had originally intended for your property. Hanging laundry on the porch? Not so good for curb appeal. What then can you do to avoid having these potential conversations once the lease has been signed, sealed, and delivered?
On the whole, our approach is to be proactive, rather than retroactive. We talked about 5 key lease addendum clauses that every landlord should consider in an earlier post, but here are 5 more items you can make explicit to your tenants about how to (peacefully) inhabit your rental.
- Basements: To Store or Not? – Depending on your preference as a landlord, you may choose to allow your tenants to use the basement as storage space. In that case, be clear about the space that they are allotted by designating bins or shelving for each respective tenant’s use. Remind your tenants to keep these areas clean and free of clutter, particularly if they are near access points for utilities. What is more, tenants should respect each other and contain their belongings in their own space.
- Pets and Pet-Sitting – Many standard leases make some mention of a tenant’s pet ownership i.e. type of pet, size, registrations, and vaccinations. But something to consider adding to the lease would be a specific statement about pet-sitting. While this may not seem like a big deal, think about it from a legal standpoint. Say one tenant’s friend’s pooch is an absolute love-bug and you are totally fine with it, but what do you do if the tenant brings around a less friendly or larger animal? Avoid any confusion and potential damage by letting your tenants know your stance on pet-sitting g. absolutely no or yes, with conditions, etc., for their sake and those around them. Give as much detail as you can, and you’ll never have to worry about your tenant’s pets or them sitting again.
- Rent Payment: All for One, One for All – This is always a good sentiment from The Three Musketeers to keep in mind when dealing with tenant groups. What do we mean? Well, let’s say for example you decide to rent an apartment to a group of 3 friends for the price of $2100 per month. They, in turn, ask if you would accept 3 checks in the amount of $700 from each of them. Same thing, right? Actually, no. It can be far more difficult to receive and track payment from 3 separate sources that are consistent AND on time. The same goes for the couple that (unfortunately) splits up partway through the lease, and one of them decides not to pay his/her share of the rent. Skip the hassle and headaches by letting your tenants know that one rent payment is expected from all of them, as it is one lease agreement that they will sign.
- Subleasing aka Subletting – Your tenants may find themselves with an extra room or an extended period of time when they won’t be living in your rental property. In times like these, they may turn to subleasing (leasing the rental to a third party/subtenant) to fill these voids. Additionally, services like Airbnb present tenants with attractive ways to pay their rent and earn extra income, especially when they can’t live in the space themselves. Definitely address this in your lease addendum, particularly whether you will allow it, and under what circumstances.
- Renter’s Insurance – We typically recommend that our tenants obtain this additional policy to help protect them against any loss of personal belongings that may occur in the apartment i.e. theft, water damage, fire. If tenants don’t have this type of insurance and the worst case scenario happens, they may look to you for reimbursement of the items lost. Even if you don’t believe they would, encourage them to get renter’s insurance anyway because it really can help to smooth the transition from a terrible event to normal life. Most major insurance companies offer this type of coverage, and some even bundle it with auto insurance for fewer complications.
While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good place to begin, regardless of your experience as a landlord. If you feel like you don’t have the skills or the language to draft a lease addendum, reach out to a lawyer and have them help you get it done. At the end of the day, adding these types of clauses to your standard lease agreements will make your life easier when speaking with your tenants, and save you from (some) awkward conversations.