Some readers did ask for my rules. Your rules have to depend on your properties. For example, there’s no point posting rules for using the pool if your property doesn’t have a pool. Also, it’s up to you to determine what are appropriate fines. Just remember to charge more for more serious items. And, it’s not wise to threaten eviction for the first violation. I can’t speak for the whole country, but New Hampshire is experiencing relatively high vacancy rates and so we have to love our tenants a bit more at this time.
I’m planning to put updated rules documents on my web site fairly soon, but in the meantime, here are some useful guidelines for rules.
The following should not be allowed – tampering with smoke detectors, non-electric space heaters, fireworks, or any open flame other than a gas stove installed by the landlord or candles in holders, damaged electrical equipment. You can order any tenant’s appliance or equipment removed if you deem it unsafe.
Trash and Sanitation
If you have dumpsters, the dumpster company will let you know what is allowed. If you have trash pickup, the city will let you know. Tenants must keep trash in closed bags inside barrels with secure lids. If there is curbside trash pickup, tenants must put out barrels after a certain time and bring them back by a certain time. The city may mandate a certain type of trash bag. Impose a separate fine for each separate item of trash (e.g. bag, box or whatever) which you have to take care of because the tenant blew it – plus whatever you are charged.
One problem with this is it can be hard to tell whose trash is left out on the sidewalk. Make your best guess and wait for denials. i would be very interested to hear how other landlords “assign” trash.
Designate specific spaces for each tenant. The only things allowed in parking lots are registered motor vehicles (cars, trucks or motorcycles) or registered trailers. Limit maintenance to these specific items – interior cleaning, replacement of small parts such as lightbulbs, adding of fluids such as oil or antifreeze, changing of tires. Do not allow oil changes. Do not allow any use of unregistered motor vehicles such as minibikes, scooters or ATVs.
Do not allow tenants to make copies of keys. You can order key blanks which are marked with “do not duplicate” and a serial number. Record the serial number when you give the keys to the tenant (typically one set of keys for each person who signed the lease). It may be appropriate to offer the tenant additional keys at the start of tenancy for a small fee.
If you have common lawns, tenants can use them for outdoor activities, but cannot leave anything on the lawns overnight. The following are not allowed: fireworks, cooking, weapons, alcoholic beverages. You may want to allow alcoholic beverages outside in case of a scheduled social event where the tenant asks your permission ahead of time. All trash must be removed by the end of the event. Do not permit any use which would prevent other residents from using the space at the same time – that is, anything that would block off an area.
Common area activity is not permitted outside of certain hours (which you may extend on weekends). Designate which areas are not unit interiors, but are also not common areas (decks and porches, for example). Activity in those areas may still be prohibited after a certain hour.
Pet policies deserve a book of their own, but obviously pet waste must be cleaned up by the tenant immediately, pets can’t be left outside unsupervised and pets can’t be outside even with the tenant unless they are on a leash. The simple answer is obviously to ban pets, but this will also really limit your prospective tenants.
Tenants are responsible for the conduct of their guests. If the guest of a tenant violates a rule, the fine or penalty will be owed by the tenant. Any guest who threatens or endangers other tenants will be permanently banned from the property.
Overnight guests are only permitted for a few nights per month (this is up to you, but I would suggest a maximum of four nights) and one or two consecutive nights. If the tenant has an overnight guest he wishes to have stay longer, he can negotiate the matter with you.
Tenants must let you know immediately when they have a maintenance issue. Impose a fine for late notices. Typically you will not allow any tenant to perform his own maintenance (including painting and small repairs using tools). You should not ever allow a tenant to perform maintenance on another tenant’s unit, unless a) the first tenant is a licensed contractor working in his field and b) you have a separate arrangement with the tenant to perform the work.
At the same time, tenants are required to keep their units neat and tidy. Any trash must be bagged and in a barrel with a lid and removed from the unit at the next possible opportunity. Entrances may not be blocked.
Any threatening or criminal activity is obviously banned. Tenants are not allowed to put any signs or notices on the exterior of their units. Solicitation is not allowed. Tenants may not enter another tenant’s unit (including porches, steps or decks) without the other tenant’s permission. Even within units, noises above a conversational level are not allowed after a certain time.
It is the tenants’ responsibility to let you know about rules violations, but not to address those violations themselves (by confronting another tenant, for example). You want your tenants to be informants, not police.
In preparing your list of rules, you should also consider appropriate penalties. A very few types of violations will be cause for eviction. These include safety matters such as open flames inside units, as well as criminal or threatening behavior. Otherwise, you should impose a system of fines, with second offenses commanding higher fines. Charge more for safety and sanitation issues than for convenience violations. The penalties as well as the rules must be either in your lease, or referenced in your lease. Include that more than a certain number of violations in a month will be cause for eviction.