Newbie landlord questions...
May 9, 2006 6:01 AM   Subscribe

First-time landlord questions inside.

Due to a need to relocate, I am renting out an apartment that I own, and am presently narrowing down a small pool of interested tenants. My first question is: where can I find good quality lease contract boilerplate that I can modify to meet my needs?

My second question is more open-ended. What specific things should I do to make sure that the rental and tenant occupancy go smoothly?
posted by perissodactyl to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The best advice I can give you is to screen, screen, screen your potential tenants. I used Call former landlords if you can. People are creatures of habit - if they have been paying their bills on time, chances are that they will continue to pay their bills on time.

You can get the standard lease agreements at office supply stores like Office Max or Staples. However, I would recommend the book Landlording - it's pretty much considered the bible of Landlording and has the forms as well. Or, you can check out - kind of an amateur-looking site, but it does have a ton of information. They also have a forum and I'm sure that you would get a ton of helpful responses on there as well. Oh, and they have the forms too.

One thing that I wrote into my lease is that once the rent was late, a $50 late fee would be charged, and the rent would increase by $50 for the duration of the lease. Never had to actually increase the rent, just the threat of this worked.

Other suggestions - let people put things up on the walls - it will make the place seem more homey and they are more likely to stay there long-term. Allowing pets increases your pool of potential tenants, just be sure to increase the deposit to cover any damage. Fix problems as soon as they arise.
posted by Ostara at 6:16 AM on May 9, 2006

Sure call former landlords, just not their current landlord who may be anxious to dump them...
posted by Gungho at 6:25 AM on May 9, 2006

My landlord found some boilerplate forms on our state's government website.
posted by mikepop at 6:30 AM on May 9, 2006

Nolo has some lease forms that you can buy.
posted by hooray at 7:04 AM on May 9, 2006

You may have already seen these, but these previous Ask Mefi threads may be of help to you...

Advice for a first-time landlord

Screening Prospective Tennants (This is in Canada, but the info is relevant no matter where you are.)
posted by AlisonM at 7:08 AM on May 9, 2006

Your state or province may have a standard residential tenacy agreement which complies with local laws. In British Columbia, there are standard terms that always apply whether or not they are in the agreement.
posted by angrybeaver at 8:08 AM on May 9, 2006

Over the years I have owned 11 rental units--all the advice is good. The one that I would add and try and stick by (even it it makes it a bit harder to find a tenant): require a substantial down payment and don't make any exceptions (every one will have a story). One months deposit and first and last months rent. This is a real hardship for mant people but is does sort out those with earning potential and savings. I have bent on this if references are outstanding or there is a unique situation I can verify. Admittedly it does make it more difficult to find tenants. Adjust based on your market and sense of urgency in renting . Good Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 12:08 PM on May 9, 2006

Wow. Deposit and first and last months' rent? Are you in NYC? There is no way I would put down this much money, and I've never been asked to. Just so you know, I make good money and have never paid my rent late once.
posted by lunalaguna at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2006

The One Inviolable Absolute Rule: Always Check References.

Previous landlords, that is. Not friends of tenant, not neighbours, not roomates-of-tenant. Turn down any tenant that doesn't have a reference.
posted by storybored at 1:32 PM on May 9, 2006

LunaLaguna, no I am in a very affordable midwestern housing and rental market--your point is well taken--I would imagine that the total deposit I have required is not as much as the monthly rent in many major metropolitan areas. The principle stays the same--I have found that one of the best predictors or rental success is the ability of the tennant to come up with money. But I do appreciate and respect your point and realize it must be modified to accomodate local rental rates. Thanks
posted by rmhsinc at 2:05 PM on May 9, 2006

It sounds like this might be a short-term arrangement for you, but a lot of communities offer Landlording 101 courses. Not only do they provide all kinds of good info to protect you, they outline your responsibilities as a landlord. Different communities have different laws about deposits, evictions, etc. It will help you protect yourself and keep happy tenants.
posted by annaramma at 2:07 PM on May 9, 2006

I can second what rmhsinc said. I have multiple rental properties, and have learned the expensive lesson that requiring a deposit plus first and last month's rent is a MUST.

The likelihood that you'll have to evict someone is slim if you do your screening right, but if things do go south, you're going to be out a LOT of money as you go through the very slow process of getting your apartment back.

While first and last month's rent sounds like a lot, you probably don't want to be renting to someone who is that close to living from paycheck to paycheck anyway. It may take a little longer to get it rented, but it will be well worth the wait.
posted by richmondparker at 11:31 AM on May 10, 2006

Know the local law.
Know the local law.
(It bears repeating!)

For example: someone suggested 1st and last months rent as a deposit. In some jurisdictions, that is flatly illegal.

Tenants may learn the law and use it against you. I've done it to landlords (who certainly deserved it). Some jurisdictions have laws more favorable to tenants, others to landords.

Another example: at one time and place, it was required that deposits be placed in an interest-baring account, AND the tenant notified of the details. Failure to do so meant the landlord could keep none, and (my memory is foggy) may have had to pay more than the deposit back.

After a tenant has been in a month or two, stop by for an inspection. That this may happen probably should be in the lease. You'll probably have to give advance warning. I've seen places trashed beyond my imagination, by tenants. (Not my house, thank god!) This isn't to see how clean they are so much as to make sure they aren't destructive. The really bad ones can't help but show it.

Management companies in the UK told me they found inspections inspired a better relationship. Tenants being inspected were better at pointing out problems that might otherwise have gone unmentioned. "Little things" to a tenant may be signs of problems that could grow big for the landlord.
posted by Goofyy at 2:53 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

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