Having a solid lease agreement is one of the fundamentals of property management. This document provides specific guidelines and serves as a binding contract that you can use to enforce the rules of your property. Unfortunately, as most seasoned landlords will tell you, even the best-screened tenants sometimes try to bend the rules. Here are three of the most common lease violations and how to best handle them.
Regardless of whether your lease says “no pets allowed” or “pets allowed upon written approval,” there’s almost always going to be a tenant who tries to sneak an animal without your knowledge. Most of the time, unapproved pets are noticed and reported by a neighbor.
If you receive a tip that one of your residents is violating the rules, try to get proof, such as a photo. From there, send the tenant an official notice of violation, the proposed resolution (i.e. getting rid of the pet), in what timeline you expect this to occur and the consequences of non-compliance (i.e. eviction).
Anyone not included on the lease agreement who stays at your property is considered a guest of your tenant. Temporary visitors are understandable, but individuals who stay longer without permission can turn into a costly headache. Not only do long-term guests become a liability, but they can also be an expensive nuisance, hastening wear and tear on the property and racking up utility bills.
Most leases include specific verbiage defining a long-term guest (i.e. anyone staying at the property longer than 15 days) and mandating that you must be notified and permission must be obtained for any visits exceeding this timeframe.
How you deal with a long-term guest is ultimately your choice and usually depends on the circumstances. For instance, you could order that they vacate by a certain date, or you could decide to add them to the lease. Either way, the situation should be dealt with promptly.
Most people want to make their home as comfortable as possible, but this can be challenging when you’re talking about a rental property. Especially considering that everyone has different taste. To one tenant, painting their child’s bedroom hot pink may seem like a great idea, but if that’s how you receive the property back when they leave, you’ll be stuck with restoring it to a more neutral tone. And at the end of the day, if there’s a lot of “damage,” the security deposit may not even be enough to cover it.
To avoid this, be proactive by including specific language in your lease about damage-free decorating requirements. A few examples include:
- No painting without prior written approval
- Pictures and other items may only be hung using preapproved methods
- Accessories, such as light fixtures, shelves, hooks and towel bars may not be added without prior written approval
- Tenant is responsible for the cost of any and all repairs or painting required as a result of personal décor
To further prevent any unexpected and costly surprises upon move-out, routine property inspections are strongly recommended. This should provide the opportunity to identify violations and address them before they become a bigger headache down the road.
One final tip – if one of your tenants breaks a clause in your lease agreement, the situation should be handled as swiftly as possible. Ignoring issues or letting things slide can set a bad precedent for the tenant in question as well as for others.
To address the problem, notify the tenant of the violation, cite the lease term that was violated and provide the opportunity for the tenant to remedy the issue. In most cases, this will be more than enough to get residents back in compliance.