Landlording & Rental Properties

38 Addendums Every Landlord Needs for a Battle-Ready Lease

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties
23 Articles Written
battle-ready-lease

[Note: I am not a lawyer or offering any legal advice. I am simply a battle hardened landlord providing her thoughts on lessons learned the hard way. Every area is different so it is important check you local and state laws. Good luck on your landlording adventure! Click here to check out state-specific, landlord-reviewed landlord forms from BiggerPockets!]

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My battle-ready lease is one of the best tools I have created to make me a successful, self-managing landlord. Over the years I have made many mistakes and have had many ulcer-inducing moments. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not having a strong lease that provided a great backbone for success–one I could refer to when the times were challenging or when I needed that written agreement, since everyone's memories were differing.

Over the years of learning the ropes of self-management, I have found that the biggest tool in my arsenal was my lease. Having a tight lease has been a huge reason for my success, as it prevents “let’s talk about it” or “that’s not what we discussed” or “I didn’t agree to that.” I have a 16+ page lease that is very extensive and is added to as things come up. I review the lease ahead of time with the tenant. Once it is ratified by both parties, I no longer renegotiate. The lease become a binding agreement between me and the tenant.

The Benefits of a Strong Lease

In the beginning I was worried that a strong lease would make my life harder. In reality it has done the exact opposite. It has dramatically reduced most of my ulcer-inducing moments. In fact I find that my tenants respect me more because I hold their feet to the fire. It’s human nature to try to talk our way out of a situation. That’s why no ones “likes” it when you hold their feet to the fire. At the same time, since it is a written contract that everyone has agreed to, I am no longer the “bad guy.” It keeps feelings out of the business deal.

I have learned early on that there is no such thing as a “perfect” tenant until after they move out and everything has been completed. Therefore, this detailed “rule book” allows me to not think about the situation or inadvertently give anyone a break. Not only is the ulcer-inducing moments reduction amazing, but it also keeps me out of trouble with Fair Housing. Remember, business is business. It is YOUR job as the landlord to protect house and leave your emotions out of the transaction.

I have found that the standard leases I have seen available to just downloaded isn’t specific enough. While none of this information is legal advice (since I am nothing other than a jaded landlord of 10 properties), I personally have found (as always, most of the time the hard way) that if it doesn’t specifically state in the lease or the law and it happens, you are out of luck. For example, a problem child was mad that I wouldn’t let her terminate her three-year lease at month 13. So when they were three months from being able to move out, they moved out of the place, still paying rent because it was cheaper than breaking the lease contract. So now I have a termination agreement.

Related: 5 Legitimate Reasons to Allow a Tenant to Break Their Lease

Yes, there is a fine line between being too specific and having people split hairs, but being generic has burned me too. So over the years, these 38 addendums have been what I’ve come up with. Yes, it is always growing because there is always a new problem children, but this has helped extremely.

38 Addendums Every Landlord Needs for a Battle-Ready Lease

These are the 38 (and growing) addendums that I have in my lease:

  1. Appliances Included With the Rental
  2. Month to Month
  3. Direct Deposit
  4. Pet Fees
  5. Utilities Assignment
  6. Subletting
  7. No Smoking
  8. Maintenance
  9. Entry by Landlord
  10. Extended Absence by Tenant
  11. Termination on Sale of Premises
  12. Lease Termination Provision for Military Personnel
  13. Tenant Assumes Responsibility for Maintenance
  14. Battery Operated Device(s)
  15. Filters
  16. Steam Cleaning Carpets
  17. Professional Cleaning
  18. Landscaping
  19. HOA
  20. Keys, Garages/Gates
  21. Damages
  22. Renter’s Insurance
  23. Break Lease Option (Buy Out)
  24. Alterations
  25. Pest Control
  26. Home Businesses
  27. Attic Storage
  28. Renting Site Unseen
  29. Appliance Maintenance
  30. Fees/Violations
  31. Duct Cleaning
  32. Plumbing
  33. Changing Locks
  34. Play Structures, Trampoline, Pools and Other Large Outdoor Equipment
  35. Roommate
  36. As-Is Appliances
  37. Abandonment
  38. Fireplace

Over the years I have heard many comments from my friends and other investors regarding my lease, including:

  • “It is too long.”
  • “I would never sign that.”
  • “You are going to overwhelm the tenant.”
  • “It is going to give your tenants more loopholes.”
  • “You are going to encourage people to break your lease.”
  • “Your deductible will cost you more money because they will not turn in repairs.”

I could go on and on!

At the end of the day:

  • I have never had a tenant walk away due to the lease.
  • I have not had a tenant let a maintenance issue go because they didn’t want to pay the deductible. It has simply created skin in the game where tenants are not only more careful, but also try common solutions before calling me.
  • Tenants think twice about breaking the lease since they have to pay two months’ rent and give two months’ notice.
  • I’ve created a thorough playbook that makes all of my decisions transparent.

Remember, you won’t have an issue until you have an issue. The issue is not when people are in love with your house. It is when there is a reason that your house no longer fits their “plan” (baby, cheaper options, relocation, etc.). Now they want out so they pull out your lease and scrutinize it. This is when you lease is put to the test. The question always is: Will it stand up?

rental-property-pros

Adding Items to a Lease

I am sure this is a “no duh” statement, but since a few people have asked me over the years: Once the lease is ratified, there is no adding more items. The only way you can add something to your lease is if the tenant agrees to it. Otherwise, it has to be a federal or state law.

Related: Month to Month vs. Annual Leases: Which Protects Landlords?

I have found that this is when you need your detailed lease. Murphy’s Law has taught me over the years that my rental problems never occur when I have free time. They will happen when you are two days from having your first child, when you are on a long business trip, taking vacation, deployed, etc. This lease is your insurance that your tenants will behave at their best.

I once received the best compliment from a problem child ever: "Two lawyers and my real estate agent friend have reviewed your lease. My real estate agent friend says you write a great lease." Yes, I do!

For me personally my lease was the best ulcer reducing medicine on the market. While I am sure you will make tons of mistakes, hopefully you won’t have to go through all of the lessons I learned from the hard knocks of life as a landlord.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help landlords newer to BiggerPockets.]

Is your lease ready to go to war? What do you put in your lease?

Leave a comment below!

Elizabeth Colegrove is a passionate "buy and hold" investor who specializes in turning her once-negative transient lifestyle (Military) into a positive lifestyle. She self manages her entire real e...
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    Bernie Neyer Investor from Chanute, Kansas
    Replied over 3 years ago
    As far as posting your contract, if you actually purchased it, then you can’t post it, but if it came out of a book, you probably can as there is no expectation it will remain private. You could give the book away and the new owner could use the contract. There are some addendums that are interesting, but 26 pages wouldn’t fly here. I know of a landlord that got his long contract tossed in court on the grounds that the length made it onerous. That ruling was in Massachusetts. I include a change clause in my contract allowing me to change the Rules & Regs at will with 30 day notice. ALL my rules and most of my contract is actually R&R. I have only 5 Rules and Regs 1) Pay your rent on time. 2) Don’t bother the neighbor’s. 3) Don’t tear the place up. 4) Keep the place clean. 5) Leave it clean when you leave. (I want to take the key from you and give it to the new tenants.) Now I have a WHOLE lot of explanation contained within each of them, but it will never get tossed for being too long. I’ll try to post mine later.
    Fred
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great article Elizabeth. Can you elaborate on two items. Tenant Assumes Responsibility for Maintenance and Appliance Maintenance. Thanks
    Westin Southern Professional from Redlands, CA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Yeah I was curious about that “Tenant assumes responsibility for maintenance” item too. That aint flying here in California. Not in residential rentals. Not if both parties sign, initial, and stamp the clause with a fingerprint of their own blood. But since not a single one of the 38 ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL LEASE ADDENDA THAT EVERY LANDLORD NEEDS IN THEIR LEASES OR ELSE!!!! was elaborated on or even briefly explained I guess we can all just use our imaginations.
    Lisa
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Hi, Elizabeth, Can I get a copy of your bullet proof lease. TY, Elisa
    Westin Southern Professional from Redlands, CA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great article? This article is worthless. Heres 5 addenda everyone needs in their leases that you missed! 1. Exotic pets 2. Open flames 3. Visitors 4. Roof access 5. Cancer causing chemicals Isn’t that helpful??? SMH
    Kimberly Gillock Rental Property Investor from Denver, CO
    Replied over 1 year ago
    Thanks Elizabeth!! I’m in the process of revamping my leases and really appreciate this article as a starting place for adding some additional rules for tenants to follow!
    Shub Patel
    Replied 2 months ago
    Possible to get a copy of your lease for reference? Thanks
    Account Closed
    Replied about 2 months ago
    How can i get a copy of your lease for ref? I am also interested.