17 Vital “Rules” Your Rental Lease Should Cover

by | BiggerPockets.com

As a landlord, my lease is perhaps the most important document I use.  It is the legal agreement between me and my tenant.  An attachment to that lease, and therefore a part of that legal agreement is a set of house rules.  The house rules are just what you think they are.  Rules you will live by while you live in our house.

Basic House Rules

Some of the house rules are pretty basic.  Things you would expect to find.  Such as:

  • No illegal drugs
  • Keep your unit clean
  • Take the trash out regularly
  • The lockout procedure
  • Notifying us if you plan to be away for longer than two weeks.

Some Basic House Rules That You Need To Spell Out

With some of the house rules, I am amazed that there has to be a rule.  You would think this stuff would be common sense, but oh no, you need to spell it out for some.  Things like:

  • Every month you will pay your rent first, then utilities, then other bills.
  • Even if bad things happen to you or your roommates, your rent is still due on the first of every month.
  • You are responsible for getting your rent to me on time.
  • You must lock your doors to prevent crime.
  • We are not responsible for utility outage due to storms.

Rules We Added Over The Years

When we first started out in this business, we had developed what we thought was a pretty good set of house rules.  Boy, were we mistaken.  It seems like every year we have to add a new clause or rule because we have experienced something new and unexpected.  Who would have thought that we would have to add rules like:

  • Don’t put things down the drains – any drain!
  • No couch surfing  – look up couchsurfing.com
  • No candles inside.  No grills inside!
  • No inside furniture outside.
  • We do not negotiate between roommates.
  • If you get broken into, call the police FIRST!
  • No satellite dishes without our approval.  Otherwise there will be 47 of them on your front porch!

It’s funny, at lease signings when we are going over the house rules some tenants will ask “Did that really happen?”

I am sure as we continue in this business we will have to further add to our house rules as tenants can be quite “creative.”  So for now, we call our house rules a work in progress.

So what is in your house rules?  Do you have anything to add to the list?  Tell us about your experience with a comment.
Photo Credit: biphop

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


    • Also add no doing your laundry in the Dishwasher. Had a couple of college students wash their socks in the dishwasher, I had to replace the burnt out motor, when it jammed with lint, also had a tenant complain the oven wasn’t working and his steak wasn’t getting cooked when I checked I found he was using the storage draw under the oven.

  1. Kevin:

    Our list has grown long as well. I was just signing a lease with new tenants this evening. As we read through the “House Rules” and initialed each section there were several “Do you really need to write all this down, isn’t it common sense?”

    One added to our list after a set of frugal students thought they would save money during the two weeks they were home at Xmas:
    “The Tenant agrees when leaving on Christmas holidays or spring break thermostats shall not be set below 10C and all windows shall be closed.”

  2. Thank you for sharing Kevin.

    Some points I have are include;

    Do not stay with any additional person without prior permission from the LESSOR
    Regulate visitors to the property (overnight visitors must not stay longer than 3 days)

  3. I have a lot of great clauses in my rental agreement but the one that comes to mind first is: “Resident agrees to provide pest control as needed and to notify management immediately if any professional pest control services are rendered and/or needed. Any infestation due to the negligence of Resident shall constitute a default of this Agreement.”

    I recently had to threaten to evict someone with this clause 🙂

  4. karen bickford on

    Storage maximum. Recently rented to two new tenants that basically moved their entire household into the basement. A storage clause never occurred to us. We don’t want to facilitate storage by charging. Any ideas how to politely tell them they can’t store their former house in my basement?

  5. Our most recent addition:
    No person or chair should be on the roof at any time.
    Also, do not use paper towels for toilet paper. If you do, you will be replacing the sewage ejection pump.

  6. a) Lessee will, at its sole expense, keep and maintain the Premises and appurtenances in good and sanitary condition and repair during the term of this Lease and any renewal thereof.
    b) No rugs shall be beaten on porches and balconies. No dust, rubbish, litter or anything else shall be swept, thrown, or emptied from any of the windows or upon or from the porches or balconies of the building or into the halls or entryways thereof. Lessee shall not utilize charcoal, gas or electric barbecue grills or similar cooking devices within the Premises or the building in which the Premises are located, on porches, balconies, or patios, or within ten (10) feet of the building in which the Premises are located, or within ten (10) feet of any other neighboring building.
    c) Children shall not be permitted to loiter or play on the stairways, halls, basement (if any), laundry areas (if any), porches, or court areas used by the public or other Lessees.
    d) The sidewalks, entryways, vestibules, halls and stairways outside of the apartments, shall not be obstructed or used for any other purpose than for ingress and egress to and from the respective rooms or apartment.
    e) Lessee shall keep all windows, glass, window coverings, doors, locks and hardware in good, clean order and repair. Lessee shall not cause or permit anything to be hung from the outside windows, porches or balconies or placed on the outside window sills or porches or balconies. No door nor window treatments visible from outside the Premises shall be kept by Lessee in or upon the Premises except such as are both consistent with décor of the building and in good taste, as determined by the Lessor in its sole discretion. By way of illustration, not limitation, windows coverings would include blinds, curtains and drapes, no paper coverings or bedding sheets.
    f) Lessee shall not leave windows or doors in an open position during any inclement weather.
    g) Lessee shall not hand any laundry, clothing, sheets, etc., from any window, rail, porch or balcony nor air or dry any of same within any yard area or space.
    h) The water shall not be left running for an unreasonable or unnecessary length of time.
    i) Lessee shall not interfere in any manner with any part of the heating, lighting, refrigerating or cooling apparatus in or about the Premises or in or about the building containing the same.
    j) Lessee shall keep all lavatories, sinks, toilets, and all other water and plumbing apparatus in good order and repair and shall use same only for the purposes for which they were constructed. Lessee shall not allow any sweepings, rubbish, sand, rags, ashes or other substances to be thrown or deposited therein. Any damage to any such apparatus and the cost of clearing stopped plumbing resulting from misuse shall be borne by Lessee
    k) Lessee shall keep all air conditioning filters clean and free from dirt (if any).
    l) Lessee shall nether keep nor maintain any dog, cat, bird or other animal in the Premises not permit occupant of the Premises to do so without first obtaining Lessor’s prior written consent. Lessee assumes full responsibility to see that this regulation is observed.
    m) Lessee shall not keep nor store nor permit any occupants of the Premises to keep or store any articles of any kind on any part or portion of the building in which Premises are located other than inside the Premises or in a storage room, if such storage room is provided by Lessor.
    n) The Lessee shall not alter any lock nor install a new lock or a knocker or other attachment on any door of the Premises without the prior written consent by Lessor. If Lessor’s consent is given to Lessee, Lessee agrees to immediately provide Lessor with a key to the new lock or knocker If a key is not so provided, Lessee shall be responsible for all charges and repairs related to Lessor’s entry into the Premises pursuant to this issue.
    o) Vehicles which are inoperable, unlicensed, or have expired licenses shall not be parked or stored on the property in which Premises is part, and any such vehicle may be towed away at the owner’s expense, and without notice. In the event Lessor incurs any expense in connection with the towing of such vehicles, Lessee shall reimburse Lessor for such expense immediately upon demand therefore.
    p) The use of garbage receptacles or incinerators shall be in accordance with posted signs, and garbage and refuse shall be kept in small, light parcels or bags and said garbage and refuse must be placed only in garbage receptacles or incinerators unless allowed in writing. Lessee shall deposit all trash, garbage, rubbish or refuse in the locations provided for that purpose and shall not allow any trash, garbage, rubbish or refuse to be deposited or permitted to stand on the exterior of any building or within the common elements. Lessee agrees to fully cooperate with the Lessor, in complying withal federal, state or municipal laws, acts and ordinances including, but not limited to, those regarding the recycling of waste materials.
    q) Lessee shall not cause or permit the display of any sign or advertising material upon or about the Premises or the building of which it is a part without Lessor’s prior, written consent.
    r) No furniture filled with liquid or semi-liquid shall be brought in or used on the Premises, unless contained in a proper frame or liner Lessee shall be responsible and liable for any and all damage to the Premises and or the building in which the Premises are a part, which is caused by such furniture.
    s) Parking shall only be permitted in those areas and/or spaces as designated by the Lessor or Lessor’s agent. Any vehicles, which violate this regulation, shall be subject to towing at the owner’s expense and without notice. Working on motor vehicles in the parking lots, driveways and other areas of the property is prohibited.
    t) Motorized vehicles, including but not limited to motorcycles and motorbikes, shall not at any time be stored in the Premises or any patio area. Such vehicles may be stored only in areas designated by Lessor.
    u) Recreational vehicles, boats, trailers of any kind, tow trucks, flat beds, and any form of commercial vehicle are not to be parked anywhere on the grounds of the apartment complex of which the Premises are a part without the express written permission of Lessor and, id Lessor’s permission is given, shall be parked in designated areas assigned by Lessor. Violators will be subject to towing at their own expense.

  7. Great article! This motivated me to make my own list for all future tenants.
    We currently have the nicest retired couple as tenants. The only issue that I have had is that they downsized from an old farmhouse to our town home and have way too much stuff for the new space. They have boxes and furniture everywhere! it is so bad that a city inspector had to reprimand them and tell them to at least clear a 3 ft path to all the exits.
    Rule #1 on my list- Improperly storing personal property in a way that creates a fire hazard is not acceptable.

  8. Bettina Settles on

    Great info and don’t get me started about leases. When I buy a tenant occupied property the first thing I check is the lease that is in place, so I know what I am dealing with when I would make an offer and I have seen some ugly leases…

  9. Surprised nobody has mentioned “No ironing on the carpets.”

    I actually have only had this happen once in my places (and we needed to do that carpet anyway so not THAT bad) but have seen it in dozens of properties we have looked at.

  10. Great article. Thanks for the info, you made it easy to understand. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out Residential Lease Agreement form, I found a blank template form here http://goo.gl/RHfcrs. This site PDFfiller also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and a few related forms that you might find useful.

  11. Page Huyette

    Anyone out there require their tenants to have renter’s insurance. We do and haven’t had any complaints. Once they understand it actually protects them they have no issue with it. It also helps weed out those who don’t have the extra $60 or so dollars a year to pay for the protection, and might have trouble paying rent down the road.

    • Matt Baker

      I know I’m a bit late to the thread but this is a great clause. My wife and I just included this in our own lease agreement and I’m seeing it more and more in my day job as a social worker. Even our local community housing corporation that provides subsidized income to the tenants we all dread requires proof of insurance before handing over the keys.

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