Lease item specifying what I as Landlord NO NOT DO???

5 Replies

Good morning BP- 

I tried a forum search but the concept is broad enough I can't find anything popping up...please direct me to an existing blog post or forum discussion if this is redundant.

I'm a Toledo, OH landlord who happens to have grown to the point I became far more focused on property management than acquisition and renovation...in 2016 I finished my licensing here in Ohio to be a realtor and allied my company with Stonehenge Realty for broker coverage so I could do legit PM here in Toledo. (Still it's not an aggressive focus for us, if an owner likes our capabilities and is focused in our areas of competency then we can be mutually beneficial for each other)

SO- I go through these epiphany moments periodically, usually after someone really deviates from what is reasonable and pisses me off :)

Example- Back in 2013 I finished the year with a few city citations for lawn length on my houses...the first is $75, the second is $250...my tenant base is poor enough that they simply don't have that kind of cash sitting around to cough up that amount. I concluded after paying ~$500 in city fines I could have mowed all my houses for a majority of the year for the same price (internalizing the cost and providing a value-add service to my properties).

So starting in 2014 I contracted to have a basic lawn cutting done 2x a month for something like $20 a house and felt I really had a good benefit for my tenants (DID I MENTION THIS WAS A FREE SERVICE)...one house in particular decided that if I was mowing for them then I had better be edging and bush trimming and proceeded to call my cell phone (back when I gave that out to tenants, ah the good-old-days) telling me that the lawn crew left clumps of grass in the yard and didn't rake leaves from under the bushes. After I got a few of these I flipped the service 180 degrees and simply lease-mandated that any house that had grass length approaching the Lucas County / Toledo City 6" limit would get a 24hr notice from us and then be mowed by us with a $50.00 fee applied...tenants could call and have a scheduled basic mowing performed for $25.00 if they didn't have a mower or the time to mow.

Conclusion - the middle road decision was a good idea ultimately, that policy has survived three years now, no problem. Some folks pay the $25.00 fee and request we mow them, some push our buttons and get mowed (they have to pay that $50.00 fee the next month or we initiate eviction proceedings, some tenants just need to see where the line in the sand is), most mow their house without any issue and get on the stick when we remind them it's long.

SOOOOO- Today's discussion is does anyone have a lease-disclosed list of items they don't do for tenants...naturally I had a silly tenant moment over the T-day 4-day weekend where a Section 8 tenant who has been in place for ~18 months called our repair line and started screaming about "Them Mices", that she has seen more than 1 mouse and she's heading to a hotel and won't live in the house since she saw them. (We passed the annual inspection for her house about 2 months ago, it's a superb property with absolutely nothing wrong with it, the mice simply prefer to move indoors when the weather turns cold)

As a policy we have placed bait-blocks for tenants behind the fridge/stove and in the basement for free, we even place them annually as part of our Fall Inspection where we check the home and most importantly the furnace.

Bet you can't guess that when we didn't show up at her house on Saturday or Sunday she kept up the frantic voicemails to our company system...and the best part is when we showed up with bait blocks on Monday (our next scheduled work day for the crew AND WAAAAYYYY ahead of the 14 day timeline we allow for non-emergency repairs) the tenant refused bait blocks in the home since she has children in the home (who access the back of the refrigerator and stove I guess, no basement in this house).

I'd like to assemble a list of what LaPlante does NOT handle, so we can direct tenants to that section when they ring our phones... "At our discretion we will refer you to the best course of action including where to buy supplies, refer you to a contractor, or provide supplies to assist you in your issue"

- Mice, cockroaches, bedbugs in the home after more than 2 weeks living in the home.

- Unplugging a toilet which requires plunging

- Light bulb replacement

- 9 V battery replacement

- (I will update the list as we come up with more ideas)

Anyway, the list clearly will get discussed with my attorney before it's implemented, but I wanted to see if anyone has a section that helps explain to tenants what WE ARE NOT DOING FOR YOU, because it feels like we are being too nice on my side and need to implement a better policy. 

Thanks! Andrew

Andrew Fidler, Real Estate Agent in OH (#2016006183)
(419)410-3836

I do like your list.  I have had to tell tenants on occasion that renting a house is not like being in a hotel where there come fix each and everything immediately.  Renters have some obligation to maintain the home while they are living there, this includes light bulb replacement, batteries in smoke detectors (although we are moving towards the 1 year lithium kind   where no change is needed) anything caused by tenant such as a plugged toilet, disposal, etc  Also pests like ants, fleas, are tenant repsonsibility is not detected close to move in.  We also are not a 24 locksmith if they lose their key or lock themselves out of the house. We also typically do not deal with complaints regarding neighbors.  Just as an owner would, the tenant needs to negotiate happy neighbor relations on their own (unless it is a police matter, then call the police)

@Andrew Fidler sounds like you're learning how to be a landlord the hard way...Why would you EVER mow someone else's grass? You EVICT and do a better job in tenant selection the next time. Why would putting out mice bait be your job? Your lease should have pest control be the tenants responsibility. I could on for an hour about why not to take section 8 but my guess is that lesson will come to you soon enough.

Treat it like a business, don't take sh*t from any tenant, don't deviate from established policy (but you need to have established policies first which I would bet you do not have).

As to your question you can spell out your policies regarding lots of things in a tenant handbook, never in a lease.  If managing property is going to be your thing then you need to join NARPM asap so you can get educated on how to deal with these things.

@Robert Gilstrap

Thank you for the recommendation to hand out a tenant handbook. We currently have a welcome cover page detailing what day is trash day and a few other minor items. 

However we do not have a full handbook. (Would you be willing to share yours with me?)

I can see most of the issues being cleared up that way, I will continue to keep an open mind for new ideas though, even is some end up being discontinued. ( We stopped providing appliances for houses and now charge $15/mo for each stove/fridge/washer/dryer. Tenants are welcome to provide their own but it has been a nice income source for us)

Andrew Fidler, Real Estate Agent in OH (#2016006183)
(419)410-3836

A few years ago there was a company that rented SFHs. The had a computer learning class on their website about living in a SFH. It had videos that showed how to change a furnace filter, plunge a toilet, push the reset button on the disposer, etc. If applicants took the class, they got a certificate in SFH living -- and $50 a month off their rent.

I wish I could remember the website.  Anyway, it was awesome.

OK BPers -- here is a new business opportunity!  Develop "How to Be a Tenant" videos for LLs.

Love this idea!! I end up writing a ton of post it notes (my passive aggressive way of yelling) letting tenants know what to do instead of what they have done (like it says in their leases!)! 

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