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A Must Use Form for Every Landlord: Release to the Rights of Possession

by Kevin Perk on August 6, 2012 · 19 comments

  
important landlord form

The “Release to the Rights of Possession” form is one of the most important forms that a landlord can use.  It is a must use for every landlord.  It helps protect you from future claims from former tenants.  Let me explain.

When you sign a lease with a tenant, you legally give them what is termed “possession” of that rental unit.  The tenant then occupies and possesses the rental unit for the term of the lease.  The “Release to the Rights of Possession” form comes into play whenever the tenant or the landlord decides it is time for the tenant to move on.  It could be at the end of a lease term, or it could be before the end of the lease term if some sort of problem arises.

The “Release to the Rights of Possession” form basically says two things:

  • First, that the tenant has vacated and ceased occupying the rental unit as of an effective date
  • Second and more important, that the tenant has removed all of his or her possessions from the rental unit.

This form should be signed by every tenant upon their move out.  If you have three tenants in a rental unit, make sure all three sign the form when they leave.

Why is this form so important?

The form is really sort of an insurance policy against the unscrupulous tenant.  Suppose for example, a tenant falls on hard times and cannot afford your apartment any more.  The tenant cannot come up with the rent and you threaten court action and eviction.

The tenant, not wanting an eviction on their record decides to leave and move out.  They take their belongings and give you the keys.  You do not get a signed “Release” form. End of story right?  Well, maybe not.

Three months go by.  You have cleaned up and re-rented the unit.  You get a call from your former tenant.  “Did you find my grandmother’s diamond wedding ring? I left it in the medicine cabinet.”  “No” you say.  “You stole it.” Says the former tenant and takes you to court wanting a $5,000 judgment.  What will the court do?  You do not have a signed “Release” form.  It may come down to he said /she said.  Not a position you want to be in when you are in court.

So, protect yourself.  Have all your tenants sign a “Release to the Rights of Possession” form when they end their occupancy on your property.  Make it a part of your move out procedure.

The only time you do not need to get this form signed is if you get possession via court order, say through the eviction process.  The court releases possession to you through the eviction process.  But that is a story for another blog post.  Happy Investing!

Photo: Wiertz Sébastien

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom August 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Kevin,
Thx for the information. I’ll put that in my kit bag when I transition to managing my own properties in a few years.

Tom .

Reply

Kevin Perk August 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Tom,

Thank you for reading and commenting. Glad I could help you.

Kevin

Reply

Paul August 6, 2012 at 2:18 pm

What if they refuse to sign it? Can I have some sort of clause in the rental contract that would cover this ahead of time?

Reply

Kevin Perk August 6, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Paul,

Good question. We have never had anyone even question the form. Of course there is no way I can force anyone to sign anything and if they do not want to sign, they do not sign. But, when you explain the costs involved to the tenant if they do not sign, you will most likely get a signature.

If the tenants do not sign, that means I have two choices to get legal possession back. One, go to court to evict them to get legal possession. Two, use the abandonment provisions of the Tennessee Landlord/Tenant Act. Either way I am keeping their security deposit and charging them for court costs, storage fees, etc.

So the answer is to tie the completed form to their security deposit if your local laws allow this. If you do not want to use such a legal term like “Release of Rights of Possession” just call it a “Move Out” form.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

Reply

Joshua Dorkin August 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Hey Kevin –
Do you have a copy that you can post to our BiggerPockets FilePlace so others can download and see the document first-hand? We’ll link to it from the article if you can….

Reply

Kevin Perk August 6, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Josh,

The file is up here: http://www.biggerpockets.com/files/user/kp1/file/release-of-rights-of-possession

Or it can be found at Smarterlandlording.com/smarter-resources

Kevin

Reply

Joshua August 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Let me know when you post a copy of that file, that’d be great to have! I’d like to know the answer to Paul’s question as well. Thanks!

Reply

Kevin Perk August 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Joshua,

Please see my comments above.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Kevin

Reply

ja santero August 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Tenant belongs left behind is always a dilema. However you incorporate verbage, either a seperate sheet of incorporated in your lease, it needs to be addressed. Be advised that every state has different laws and they will over-ride your agreement.
We also incorporate a abandendment clause that we post and give the tenant 7 days to respond too – if they dont the property is considered abandand and we take possession.

Reply

Kevin Perk August 6, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Ja Santero,

Good advice on understanding your local laws on this subject.

The abandonment policy here in Tennessee is 30 days. Plus I have to pay to store any of their stuff.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Kevin

Reply

Tracey August 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Thanks Kevin, this is really something every landlord should have
Tracey

Reply

Kevin Perk August 6, 2012 at 8:52 pm

You are welcome Tracey.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

Reply

Ayaz August 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Thanks Kevin! its been a great information and seems the solutions of few questions rising between the tenants and landlord.

Reply

Kevin Perk August 8, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Ayaz,

Thank you for reading and commenting!

Kevin

Reply

Remrie August 13, 2012 at 11:04 am

Will going through an attorney be required? I can’t find a PDF copy online anywhere.
My leases already have clauses for property abandonment so I’ll have to review those sections with the form and see what can be improved. Thank you for making this contribution; it is very much appreciated.
~ Remrie Arrie

Reply

Remrie August 13, 2012 at 11:12 am

…nk you for making this contribution; it is very much appreciated.
~ Remrie Arrie

I just now noticed your link in another comment and had to log in to download it. Thank you for posting it, Kevin.
~ Remrie Arrie

Reply

Joshua Dorkin August 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Check out the previous comments, there’s a copy of the document posted.

Reply

Kevin Perk August 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Remrie,

Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad to help. I would always suggest running things by your attorney as the rules may be slightly different in your jurisdiction.

Kevin

Reply

Kevin Perk August 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Josh,

Thanks for helping out.

Kevin

Reply

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