Rental Paperwork - What I need?

11 Replies

We decided not to go through a property management for our SF rental. Where am I able to get reasonably priced or free rental agreement and application paperwork.

What are the typical deposit, pet fee and non-refundable fees. We will be renting the house out at $1800/month. I was thinking 1st and last months rent up front. Background check fee, $250 non refundable fee and a non refundable $250 pet fee. $4100 just seems like a lot for a renter to bring to the table.

Also, any recommendations on background check websites?

Hi @Kelsey Haldiman , I am a Property Manager located in the Worcester County area. There is a site called very helpful for landlords and it provides Leases, notices, applications, tenant and Lanlords rights etc. All depends which county you are in where the laws changes, but there should be a site where all this information can be provided for your county area. 

If you may have any questions, I am open to help. Best of Luck!

Google your states landlord tenant laws to determine how much you can legally charge for a deposit. It is not the same in every state. Look at your local fb marketplace and craigslist to determine pet fees and/or pet deposits. I charge a fee as it is non refundable but any damage the pet does comes out of the deposit. I use cozy for tenant applications and rent collection. Listing the state you live in on your profile may get a more informed response. 

@Kelsey Haldiman what about the security deposit?

Most markets have common practices when it comes to move in costs. My market is first month and 1 month security. I also charge a $250 pet fee (non refundable).

You definitely need to get this ironed out BEFORE listing it for rent.

@Kelsey I would be careful about the pet fee's as well as charging a background check fee, definitely double check your county laws and what they cover. In my state of MA, we cannot charge anything but first, last, security, and rekey fee.

What I have seen regarding the background check fee, is that the tenant pays for this on their own accord, and will give you a copy of the check. A lot of websites can do this for you and have heard a lot of landlords running with this method.

@Kelsey Haldiman In my experience, it's pretty uncommon for Phoenix area landlords to collect last month rent at move in. I do point out to tenants (and in my lease) that the refundable deposit shall NOT be used for last months rent.

A typical cost breakdown might look something like this: 

1) Applications fees per each adult (paid ahead of move in)

2) First month rent (might be pro-rated depending on move in date. If the move in date is close to the end of a month, then I charge the pro-rated current month PLUS the full rent for the next month at move in)

3) Refundable security deposit (usually equal to one month rent. NOTE - per AZ law, landlords are only allowed to collect a maximum of 1.5x the monthly rent in refundable security deposit)

4) Non-refundable cleaning fee (at your discretion)

5) Non-refundable pet fee (at your discretion) 

At your stated rent of $1800/month, their rough move in costs would be at least $3600 ($1800 rent + $1800 deposit), plus additional non-refundable fees. As you pointed out, the move in costs can be substantial for tenants. You really need to analyze your competition to see what they are charging for rents AND deposits (refundable & non-refundable) to make sure you are competitive. 

    Hi Kelsey, SF is super expensive; just one of those things where most people on the hunt for a rental at this point expect higher pricing. I will say, a lot of great recommendations have been noted above. It could be worth considering a shot at an actual software solution built for DIY landlords (1 - 15 units); one that helps you to automate your own rental process (ie. compared to other tools, one that helps you to actually get it listed on 10+ major listing sites, allows you to schedule showings, provides you with super thorough tenant screening options, online digital leases which can be customized and help you by breaking out those fees, automated maintenance tracking, and fast rent collection which also offers your tenants the ability to report their positive on-time payments to the major credit bureaus; just another positive reinforcement/added incentive to get them to make those payments on time). More than happy to answer any questions that you might have about tenant screening. @Kelsey Haldiman

    Hi @Kelsey Haldiman .  

    I'll do my best to answer your questions.   I'm a landlord with 5 rentals in Tempe.  

    • Typical Deposits:  I only collect 1st months rent and a security deposit.  Always a security deposit and never last months rent!  Last months rent does not hold them liable for any damages, they simply move out on the 31st and good luck getting them to pay for repairs.  Security Deposit is very common in Arizona.
    • Pet Fee:  There are two primary methods: pet fee and pet rent.  Never pet deposit, you're legally required to return deposits.  Pet fees are great to get cash up front.  Pet rent is great in the event they stay longer than their original lease.  Plus if they get another pet you could apply a rent per pet.  You can also do a combination of the two.
    • $250 Non-refundable fee:  This appears to be a general fee at move-in.  I'd consider attaching it to something that is not refundable.  Or else you leave yourself exposed to arguing its cause.  I typically do a Decorating Fee of $250, which allows me to make minor updates between tenants but it is not related to cleaning.  It could be painting with newer trend colors, for example.
    • Background Check:  I would definitely encourage you to research landlord software.  They have tenant screening reports and then other useful tools like rent collection and maintenance ticketing.  Ideally you utilize one that is free.  To make you aware, there are only 3 actual background report generators (Transunion, Experian, Equifax), all of the sites you come across utilize one of those 'report generators' for their reports.  

    I'm a fellow landlord in Arizona, if you ever have questions about the market, management software please feel free to contact me!  Or if you just want to talk shop!  I always enjoy meeting fellow investors in Arizona.

    @Kelsey Haldiman , BiggerPockets has worked with attorneys in each state to craft landlord documents specifically tailored to the state's laws. You can purchase them for $99 at or they are a perk of our Pro membership, when you pay annually.