I wish I would have put that on the lease...

55 Replies

Hi All,

I'm reviewing my lease, and I'm wondering if there's any additions in people's leases that they consider must haves, or perhaps additions to leases after a bad tenant experiences? What is something you'd wish you'd put in your lease to prevent issues? Or simply additions that allow you to highlight some part of the lease, send to tenant as proof of "yeah, you signed and agreed not to do that."

 I did not have any issues with my leases, but I don’t have very many rentals. I only have been a landlord for 10 years and only had one rental for 10 years. The other ones I added within the last couple of years. 

Anyway, I added that all unpaid balances will becoming a rent. Apparently in my area if it’s not a rent then it’s harder to collect. But if you add that then it will become a rent and then I guess it’s easier to collect. 

 I also recently added that I can break the lease whenever I want to. And I did not need to hold till the end of the lease. I added it because I was thinking of selling one of my rentals. However, the tenant cannot do that. Tenant has to give two months notice and I withhold two months rent from them.

However, it is important to understand that it may not hold in court, depending on the state. So it is always better to have some violations, which is pretty easy to find  because every tenant violates the Lease at one point. 

Make sure Late Fees are brutal. Have them initial this section. Shows them you are very serious about getting paid on time, and won't stand for BS late payment excuses. I have additional late fees at 5, 10 and 15 days and daily after 15 days. 

Add landlord has right to pick, destroy, replace any lock at anytime without notice that has been changed without giving landlord a key.

 Make entering property 24 hr notice. Some leases don't make this clear or are longer.

The goal is to get great tenants upfront, but if there are problems and you need to evict, you want things in your favor.

make sure late fees are to be paid as "additional rent".

@Eric V. ha - it's illegal for landlords to charge late fees in Vermont. I have the lease written so that rent paid by the first is X-amount, but after the first it's X-amount + $50 and call it a prompt payment discount.  I had something about lock changes but will alter it some to be more clear, and VT requires 48hr notice of entry. Fun state. 

"Tenant cannot park a vehicle on the front lawn."

You'd think that is just common sense, obvious, and would not need to be included in a lease.  You would be wrong, lol.  As was I (at the time).

I also started capitalizing and bolding the area in my lease that basically says, "Security deposit cannot be used as last month's rent."

It's always been in my leases, but have had multiple arguments with tenants (of course, always the bad ones) that no...really, really...they can't.  Apparently I'm "outrageous" because "all the other landlords" let people do that. 

Ha.... i thought NJ was bad.

I put in all leases that any safety issues or maintenance issues must be reported immediately. This is protection against a lawsuit for being negligent. 

When it comes to adding common-sense stuff like "no parking on lawn", "don't hang clothes from water pipes in unfinished basement" etc etc etc, your lease will soon become a book. Just because it's written down doesn't mean silly stuff won't happen. Mostly, make sure it reflects your local rental laws, and start the eviction process as early as legally possible. This shows you're serious, and you can always stop the eviction process if they pay.

Originally posted by @Jennifer T. :

"Tenant cannot park a vehicle on the front lawn."

I have that as well as a few other common sense rules - like don't throw cigarette butts on the ground, grills/BBQs can't be used inside, etc -- the lease is a bit lengthy, but I feel having some of these stated is required. 

Similar to the "no parking on the lawn" I added "no driving on the lawn" period, because the current tenant (who will be on my lease starting May 1st) doesn't seem to think it's a problem to repeatedly turn around on a wet section of lawn and made it a ridiculous rutty mud mess! Just because it's common sense doesn't mean it's common! I'm going to buy sticks/tape or markers to block it from driving, but you just look at it and have to shake your head like "why? why do you think that is okay to do??"

Hi Megan!

Some awesome suggestions on here so far, my most used sections of the lease include the one that the Landlord may enter for any reason with an appropriate notice (here it's only 24 hour notice) and the one covering Renter's Insurance, detailing exactly what it will cover and releasing the Owner from any liability for the Tenant's and/or their guest's personal belongings. A no-smoking clause can be helpful as well as a neighbor/tenant dispute clause (saying that the Landlord will not get involved in any personal disputes among the tenants and/or the neighbors). I utilize a Damage Fee Schedule that I have tenants sign along with the lease before move in, assigning a specific cost to each commonly damaged item. For example, there are costs associated with wall damage, overgrown lawns, hard wood floor damage (both buff + coat and sand + coat), missing smoke detectors, etc. This helps when the tenant moves out if they are unhappy with the security deposit amount withheld, you can point them to this and remind them what they agreed on. 

Many of our landlord clients have clauses that make the tenant responsible for drain backups if they flush something down the drains that shouldn’t be flushed.

@Michele G.

Gonna add that drain clause to my lease template right now, had this happen twice but both times the tenant paid for it and told me later, they tried to use it as negotiation point on security deposit return.

I second the renter's insurance!

Similar to no vehicles on the lawn, the lease where I'm currently renting (hopefully only a few more months!) has a clause that unregistered/disabled vehicles will be towed at owner's expense.  Wouldn't have thought of that one but could come in handy around here, people like to collect junk cars as you may have noticed.   

Might check with a local attorney about the "prompt payment discount" part, guy I work with rents and has that in his lease, he was advised by his attorney that it's an illegally disguised late fee.  

The way I've read the state statute is not that all late fees are illegal but that they cannot be charged in excess of verifiable operating expenses.  My landlord has this language in the lease: "Tenant hereby acknowledges that late payment will cause landlord to incur costs not contemplated by this rental agreement, the exact amount of which will be extremely difficult to ascertain.  In the event rent is not received prior to 5:00 on the fifth, regardless of cause including dishonored checks, tenant further agrees to pay all charges incurred by late or nonpayment of rent."

Originally posted by @Jennifer T. :

"Tenant cannot park a vehicle on the front lawn."

You'd think that is just common sense, obvious, and would not need to be included in a lease.  You would be wrong, lol.  As was I (at the time).

I also started capitalizing and bolding the area in my lease that basically says, "Security deposit cannot be used as last month's rent."

It's always been in my leases, but have had multiple arguments with tenants (of course, always the bad ones) that no...really, really...they can't.  Apparently I'm "outrageous" because "all the other landlords" let people do that. 

 Good stuff. I would not have thought of the front lawn clause until it happened. Thanks 

@Matt Vezina   I'm not worried about it being considered a "disguised late fee" I've heard both sides of the argument, my attorney said it's okay... worst case scenario, I just solely increase the rent without any early payment incentive. I think tenants would rather be able to pay on time at a reduced price, and consider it fair. It's easier than the statute of "late fee equals reasonable costs incurred by the owner due to late rent payment" or whatever -  because, as you stated, not one person has defined that for landlords here!

I do have it in there that there is only one car allowed per adult living at the premises and it must be in working/legal condition. You're right about people collecting junk around here haha

@Eric V. It’s frightening what tenants flush down drains. Some blockages are the landlord’s responsibility (poor maintenance, roots, broken line, etc), but if we find the blockage was due to paper towels, rags, diapers, or anything else that should not be flushed down the drains then the landlord might be able to hold the tenant responsible for the cost of the cleaning. It may also save you from paying for damaged personal effects too. 

I would make sure that whoever you call out to fix a backed up line writes the source of the blockage on the invoice if they are able to determine what caused it. 

@Michele G.  

Unfortunatly it's usually me dealing with these issues. I love it when they find rags paper towels feminine products all jammed up and say (after living there for 9+months) "we didn't put any of that stuff down there, it must have been the guys who lived here before us."

Ask a friendly Realtor to see a blank copy of your state's standard lease (for example in Texas it is called TAR Texas Association of Realtors). This is written and updated by attorneys with state specific guidelines. Read through it and pick out sections you like. You wouldn't want to plagiarize it but you can at least get the idea. Also, citing property code is not plagiarism so you can always add those types of lines in. Same applies to friends that are renting. Ask to see their leases to get ideas. Most likely one of them will have signed that realtor lease anyway. There are also apartment associations that write a lease landlords can subscribe to so it might be worth joining one to get access to their lease because you know it was written by lawyers. 

As for specific clauses, have a lease break agreement in there. If it isn't in there you will have to work out something with the tenant if you want to avoid an eviction (you do always want to avoid eviction if possible) which is much more labor intensive than just pointing to the paragraph and saying " Ok you can leave early, just pay X"

We have a copy of standard leases almost everyone uses.  They're pretty long.....seems like every time we have a decent issue anywhere in the state, we'll add it to the lease.  Our realtor lease is no 11 pages whereas the sales contract is really 8.   It covers just about everything you could ever think of....or probably that a tenant has tried.  Just amazing....not sure most of it holds up in court with a fight, but at least it is in the lease and both parties sign and agree.

I've got another friend who did a very simple 2 page lease with almost none of the standard clauses in it.  Month-to-Month on all leases.  Tenant wants to do stupid stuff and play games.  Rent goes up next month...to whatever you want it to be and that resolves most issues.

When we were first in the business we had a lot of these questions.  Then we found the best eviction attorney in our city and asked him to put our lease together.  We haven't had any major adjustments since.  

Put it in the lease.  EVERYTHING!   Even the silly things.  I have them initial each item as well. That way when it happens there is no "I didn't realize" parking on the lawn was a problem or putting tampons (that never biodegrade but expand 3x the size) down the toilet was a problem.  This is especially helpful for pets, long term additional "guests" and plumbing drain issues. I get alot of "my friend did it" - then I say it says right here next to your initials that you are responsible if your friend flushes whatever down the toilet.

 Also, I have fines attached for each violation.  That gives me a recourse besides lease termination or eviction.  I don't want a costly vacancy - I just want clear and simple compensation for additional wear and tear or damages.  

Sample wording:

  • PETS: No pets will be brought or kept on the premises without prior written consent of the LANDLORD in the form of an addendum to this contract. This includes dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, snakes and any other animal. If pets are on the premises at any time there is a $50 fine. If pets are kept more than one day the fine is up to $100 per month that the pet is kept. Plus tenant will bear cost of damages as they occur.

  • TENANT agrees that there will be nothing besides human waste and toilet paper going in toilets or drains. That includes (but is not limited to) NO cutips, paper towels, sanitary napkins/tampons, flushable wipes, diapers, paper towels, fish, or smoking materials/ cigarette butts, or badages. Plumbing repairs necessitated by TENANT(s), family, guests or invitees, carelessness or neglect shall be at the expense of the TENANT. If any of these items are found in the drain or sewer – tenant will be charged for cost to clear blockage. Usually $150 but possibly more.

  • Only the individuals listed on your application and lease are entitled to stay at your house as residents. Guests longer than two weeks need additional landlord approval.  Additional Tenants without landlord written approval is $75 per resident per month.

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