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