Who Reads the Lease Anyway?

You’ve run the credit and background checks, yoursoon to be new tenants passed with flying colors. They have all deposits in the required form, the month’s rent, and any other fees such as pet fees are covered. The only thing left is for the lease to be signedby all parties involved right? While the lease does need to be signed, there is one more crucial thing that must be taken care of. One that far too many landlords and property managers tend to let slip by.

No One Reads Their Lease

There you have it in a nutshell; if you don’t sit down with your new tenants and go over the lease clause by clause, it will likely end up in the bottom of a drawer somewhere completely forgotten. Those who are guilty of doing this will often tell their new tenants to read the lease at their leisure and contact them if there are any questions or issues.

No matter what state you have property in, there are certain landlord/tenant laws that cover things like the amount of security deposit you can require and how long you have to return any portion due to the tenant. But beyond this any “personal preferences” such as whether or not to allow smoking or the use of marijuana (legal in California now) inside your property, whether you will allow your tenants to have pets, or if you allow your tenants to have water beds (yes, people still have waterbeds).

You Dictate the Terms

When you are the property owner, it is to no one else but you as to what you will and will not allow to take place in your rental properties. But here’s the rub. If you don’t put it in black and white on your lease and make sure your tenants read and acknowledge that they have done so, you have no one else but yourself to blame. Your tenants are not mind readers, and unless you make it so, most will never read your lease either.

To make matters worse, if you don’t put something you don’t want to happen within your rental property on the lease such as “No parking on the front lawn!” you have no legal recourse beyond asking your tenants not to do so after the fact.

Put It All In Writing

No matter how silly something might seem such as don’t park your car on the lawn or no target practice in the back yard. If it is something you do not want occurring at your rental property, you need to put in the lease and ensure not only that your tenants read it, but that you go over it with them to ensure they understand their limitations.

Finally, with each clause in the lease the tenant reads, be sure to have each person who is signing the lease initial next to the clause to acknowledge they have read and understood it. This way should there be a problem; you have proof that they knew the rules outlined in the lease. It doesn’t take that much time out of your day to be this thorough with each of your new tenants, but doing so could save you from significant problems down the road.