The rental market is more competitive than ever, and landlords are finding a bevy of tenants to choose from as more Americans forgo purchasing property in favor of renting. Whether you’re new to the landlord-ing game or are ready to place the nth tenant in one of your many properties, there’s much to be said about taking the time to tailor and edit your lease. With competition as it is, landlords have a mightier sense of choice, and if you want to be sure your tenant-landlord relationship goes off without a hitch, make sure to implement the following clauses and provisions.
Joint and Several LiabilityMake sure you get your rent in full, especially if you’re renting out a property to multiple individuals. A joint and several liability clause means that each tenant is jointly and individually responsible for ensuring you receive the entire rent amount each month and for any damages that might be incurred. This provision basically allows you (and more importantly, the law) to view all of your tenants as a single entity. This doesn’t only matter for collecting rent; it also allows you to give notice of eviction, serve any court documents, or sue for damages.
Worried About PestsYou might have done everything right and ensured the house or apartment was pest- free when your guest moved in, but you can’t control their hygiene or cleanliness habits. Including a pest clause will allow you to place responsibility for the arrival of pests on your shoulder. Pest control can cost upwards of hundreds of dollars to correct, and you won’t want to be on the line for a pest that arrived because of tenant habits.
Subleasing IssuesA sublet clause is essential. In some areas and situations, it might make sense to allow your tenants to sublease; for example, in a college town. College students often leave for months during the summer or go abroad for a semester, and they may wish to retain their spot for when they return so it may be more beneficial and profitable for you to allow subletting—just ensure you lay out your terms. If you do allow tenants to sublet their rooms, you’ll want to ensure your income stays the same, and it’s essential to screen subleasing tenants properly with a service like MySmartMove, even if they’re only staying in the property for a month or two. However, if you don’t want to allow for subletting, make sure you write that explicitly in your lease. Tenants may invite strangers into your property, without letting you know or vetting them properly for criminal pasts. Without a provision in your lease, you won’t be able to penalize them for it, and your property will be vulnerable to strangers that you haven’t approved.
Make Renter’s Insurance Non-NegotiableLandlords are increasingly requiring their tenants to purchases individual renter’s insurance, and for good reason. The insurance you have on your property doesn’t cover a surprising amount of expenses should an emergency situation arise. For example, say a natural disaster like a flood or fire happens—landlords can find themselves liable for the costly deductible fees required for damage repairs. It’s wise to ask your tenants to send you proof of their renter’s insurance each time the lease is renewed, and it’s important that you do your homework and have a solid grasp of exactly what damages, repairs, and costs their insurance plan covers.
A Severability ClauseThe law is almost always on the side of the tenant, even if it seems explicitly clear that fault lies with them. That’s why a severability clause is so important. This provision is a vital precaution, stating that if one aspect of your lease is determined to be illegal, the rest of the lease still stands. If you don’t have a severability clause if a small clause in your lease is found to be illegal, even if unintentionally, a judge might conclude that your entire lease is null and void.
When crafting or editing your lease, keep these clauses and provisions in mind. Always speak with real estate legal counsel, and make sure you set your property up to be profitable without making your personal assets vulnerable.