Managing Tenants, Part One: 5 Favorite Lease Clauses

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Like every other [tag]landlord[/tag], we’ve had a few tenants with Special Needs. My favorite story (given a healthy amount of hind-sight and a Valium or three) involves a well-qualified, newly single business manager who moved into our quaint ‘40’s style garage apartment.

On paper, she looked like a dream [tag]tenant[/tag]–stable job, good income, decent credit. A week after move-in, her ‘brother’ appeared. Seems our dream girl spent nights and weekends trolling for boyfriends on some questionable websites and caught herself a doozie. Drugs? Check. Criminal record? Check. Violent behavior? Check. Equally skuzzy friends hanging about premises? Double check. This jewel lasted only 6 weeks.

A Good [tag]Lease[/tag] is Like a Sturdy Fence

The clauses in a lease can by divided into 2 general categories. The first are the necessary legal rhetoric which conform to the landlord/tenant statutes of your state and spell out the specifics of your agreement-the Who, What, Where, When and How Much.

The second type are far more interesting and just as important. These are the “You’d Better or We’re Gonna” clauses and should be written in specific, yet clearly understandable language (preferably English, not Klingon.) Just as parents lay down the law to their children- eat your veggies, clean your room, don’t spit in the house-landlords must clearly communicate what is and is not allowed. These are The Rules for living in your house.

Here are 5 of our favorites, taken directly from our lease and probably swiped from elsewhere. Feel free to cut and paste at will, just make sure you check with the proper smart people to see if they’ll fly in your state.

QUIET ENJOYMENT: Tenant shall be entitled to quiet enjoyment of the Premises, and Landlord will not interfere with that right, as long as Tenant pays the [tag]rent[/tag] in a timely manner and performs all other obligations under this Lease

This is one of my favorites-tenants love it. I like to read this out loud with the proper flourishes and hand gestures (sets the tone nicely before laying down the law on other issues.)

USE OF PREMISES: The property shall be used as a residence by no more than ____ persons, and for no other purpose without written consent of the owner. Occupancy by guests without prior written consent staying over ten (10) days within one calendar month will be considered to be in violation of this clause.

If it is determined that one or more additional tenants have occupied the premises, such unauthorized tenants shall cause the rent for the premises to increase by $5.00 per day for each unauthorized tenant for each day exceeding the allowable ten (10) days.

Owner may, but is not obligated to, give written consent to allow the new tenants to continue occupying the property with an additional security deposit of $500 per tenant and an increase in rent as described above. A newborn or adopted child shall not be deemed an additional tenant.

In other words, ‘you specified 3 persons on the application, there better not be a fourth unless she weighs 7 lbs, 5 oz.’

DRAIN STOPPAGES: As of the date of this Rental Agreement, LESSOR represents, warrants and covenants that the sewer system of the Residence is in good working order, and that the sewer system will accept normal household waste for which the sewer system was designed.

LESSOR informs the Tenant that the sewer system of the Residence is not designed to accept many types of items, included but not limited to, paper diapers, sanitary napkins, tampons, children’s toys, wads of toilet paper, balls of hair, grease, oil, table scraps, clothing, rags, sand, dirt, rocks or newspaper.

Tenant agrees to pay for clearing the sewer drains of the Residence of any and all stoppages, except for those stoppages which the LESSOR will agree were caused by defective plumbing, tree roots, acts of nature, or which are declared in writing to have been so caused by the plumber or other person who is called to clear the stoppage.

No one calls us to unstop a toilet-ever. We demonstrate that all plumbing is working and lines are clear at the lease signing. We don’t live there. We don’t flush cooking grease down the drain or Hot Wheels down the toilet. Stopped sinks and drains are the tenant’s responsibility-The End.

Parking: Tenant shall be entitled to use _____ parking space(s) for the parking of motor vehicle(s).

Applicants list all vehicles including license plate information on the application. Nothing else is allowed on a permanent basis. We tell our tenants, if you have two cars, you can park two cars-not two cars and a boat, not two cars, one truck on blocks and one RV your parents drove in from Florida and certainly not without written authorization.

MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR: Tenant will, at Tenant’s sole expense, keep and maintain the Premises in good, clean and sanitary condition and repair during the term of this Lease and any renewal thereof.

Tenant shall be responsible to make all repairs to the Premises, fixtures, appliances and equipment therein that may have been damaged by Tenant’s misuse, waste, or neglect, or that of the Tenant’s family, agent, or visitor.

Tenant agrees that no painting will be done on or about the Premises without the prior written consent of Landlord.

Tenant shall promptly notify Landlord of any damage, defect or destruction of the Premises, or in the event of the failure of any of the appliances or equipment. Landlord will use its best efforts to repair or replace any such damaged or defective area, appliance or equipment.

Not to be confused with the Damages Vs. Wear-and-Tear clause, this one’s more specific-don’t tear stuff up or you’ll pay, don’t paint or we’ll scream, don’t be a piggy or you’ll be hunting another sty

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

Our lease has evolved over time. Like most landlords, we started with a standard lease and added a few things we thought might be helpful. After some actual tenant issues, we refined some clauses and deleted others.

A strong lease depersonalizes the landlord/tenant relationship-you no longer need to rant and whine and threaten. Simply point to the lease-The Lease Says So, therefore it must be done. (Waving the hands about in a mystical fashion whilest gazing upward towards the heavens adds an air of wonder to the Recitation of the Lease.)

A good lease is a beautiful thing and a joy forevermore.

Amen.

Not a lease but more relevant (and less random) than last week’s picture.

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11 Comments

  1. Excellent article Connie! There are two categories of landlord: Those that HAVE had problems with tenants and those that WILL have problems with tenants. A strong lease is your best pre-emptive strike against those problems.

  2. Thanks for incluiding those great clause samples. I’m going to plug a few of those into my general rental contract. I especially like the idea of taking down license plate numbers so that more vehicles don’t magically start appearing in the driveway.

    To add to your collection, a clause that I have started adding in my contracts is a additional rental charge of $10/month for each dog or cat. Dogs invariable get into a rental house and cause wear and tear, and there is always dog poop in the back yard when they leave that someone has to clean up. The extra $10 or $20 a month makes it seem not so bad.

  3. Now this is some great advice!

    I think we have all dealt with folks like your tenant. they look good and decent at first, but the more you uncover the more trash you find. Finding drug head boyfriends behind her shine must have been a real downer! lol

    Every lease should be tailored to meet your needs. The standard leases are just a starting point.

    Great advice here!!

    :O)

  4. Pingback: Managing Tenants, Part Two: Steering Clear of the Fair Housing Act | Real Estate Investing for Real Blog

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