Bulletproof leases

10 Replies

As I listen to the podcasts, and read many forums, I am wondering does anyone have an example of lock down, solid lease for a single family or multi? (2-4 units?) Of course, a mutli uni lease will be a bit different than a SFH. My lease (SFH) is 4 pages that includes a crime free addendum. After listening to many of the podcasts, and hear from others, it seems that I may need to "enhance" mine. Do you feel your lease is solid and fair? Where did you get yours? What did you do to ensure it is fair and pretty iron-clad? Any suggestions are appreciated!!

I believe a solid lease is your first line of defense. I learned this while researching the best way to set up our business (LLC, S-Corp, umbrellas,etc.). It is important to understand landlord/tenent laws in your state and how much exposure you have. Spend some time and money finding an attorney you can talk to and is open to really knowing you and your goals. I use custom leases in the states I own property for rent. The attorney of residence may have leases they have crafted for other property owners and can ammend them to suit your concerns. I also sit down with the tenants while signing the lease and have them initial, in blue ink, the "hot buttons", i.e.: no pets, maintining property appearance, etc. This just reinforces your position when a problem arises. Another thing I add is a drug use stipulation. Although in most cases you cannot evict in less than 30 days, I add a 3-day "vacate or else" if I even suspect any drug use on my properties. It won't hold up in court, but if they are using drugs, they don't want to get caught and get the sheriff involved. However, first and foremost, I screen and interview for the right tenant. This is the best way I know of to hopefully never have to fall back on my lease. But as a side note, the lease most always allows me leverage when I need to keep a security deposit. Those simplle paint/carpet and cleaning bills add up when you are turning over tenants!

@Douglass Belt  - I don't think you will ever have a lease that will capture every possible sticky situation. I have been in real estate for 5 years and my lease has evolved many many times. It gets better with each revision, but I don't think it will ever be perfect. You will learn from situations you deal with and will adjust it over time to meet the needs of your business. 

I haven't seen your lease, but 4 pages seems really light. I don't know how it is in Wisconsin, but the state of Michigan has a really helpful handbook with lots of great guidance on Tenant/Landlord issues and even provides a sample lease. I highly recommend you look into what resources the state has to offer. Per Michigan law, there is certain legal language that must be present in every lease. It's important to be aware of Such requirements if they exist in WI. Regardless of what you use as a starting point though, get your lease reviewed by an attorney - that can save you a lot of headache down the road.

@Natalie Brown  

Tell me more about your drug use stipulation.  I need to add that to my contract.  Although my issue at the moment is not with the tenant but rather the tenant's boyfriend that she will not provide me his information.  So I'm unable to do a background search on who he is.  Appears to be dealing drugs from the house.  They happen so quickly that not sure calling the cops will help much because the deal has occurred and the buyer is gone.  Less than 1 minute.

wisconsin has pretty specific clauses you can and cannot have. there is a wisconsin lawyer with a faboulous website explaining what you can and cant do, from what i remember from the website, per some newer wisconsin law your entire lease can be thrown out if it contains one of 9 illegal clauses spelled out in wisonsin law. i am on my moble and don't have the website handy, try googling wisconsin landlord tenant lawyer. each state and even counties have different rules. that being said, 4 pages is to short. i am constantly evolving my lease addendum as situations arise, and i talk through it all at lease signing since tenants typicaaly dont read what they sign.

thanks for all the good advice and responses. I will continue to look for resources on this and have a 3rd party look at my lease. 

I have a 14 page lease that just keeps getting better and better :) I download the initial lease from legal zoom and than have added to it over the years.

Having a strong lease is important, but it'll never be "bullet proof".

You can list all the things not allowed, but it doesn't mean that it won't happen, and it doesn't mean that it'll be easy to enforce. It's more of a deterrence. Who knows, you might even get a lovely judge who sides with the tenant even though your lease is legal. 

Have a strong, legal lease...but mostly, screen tenants as well as possible. There will be hiccups, so be willing to overlook small infractions if they keep a clean house and pay rent.

There are many issues covered in a lease that a lawyer is neutral on. For example charging a pet fee or a pet registration fee. Another would be what date and time your lease ends. No one lease fits all. It depends on your management style and what things you are managing for. It is worthwhile to get your hands on a couple of the leases from the Big Box rental complexes. It will open your eyes to many other sources of revenue besides rent.

Hi Douglass,

I am from wisconsin as well and have a 8-9 page lease. I had my lawyer take a look a couple years back and had some recommendations. A couple highlights are to make sure you have the "non-standard rental provision" section where things like lates fees, security deposit and applicable charges, termination fees, and automatic lease renewal clauses are located. In this section the tenant must initial each clause indicsting that they have read and understand them. Wisconsin has updated their landlord tenant laws quite a bit over the last few years. The most recent being the requirement of the Domestic abuse notice stating that tenanta have certain protections when the victim of abuse harrassment and the like. Another update is that you no longer need to store tenants items once the lease terminates with a couple common sense exceptions. In order to enforce this there are certain guidelines that must be followed though. Another is the damages for a tenant not moving out on the agreed upon date. 

I update my lease on a regular basisas laws change and clarifications are needed..

@Kyle Hipp  

- thanks that is good information and that helps. I should have clarified that my property is actually in MN not WI. Like some of you have said, there is no way to protect yoruself frome very posible situation or hazard but the feedback I am getting makes me realize I need to continue to anaylize and improve on my lease yearly-which I will make a part of my process moving forward.


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