Welcome back investors! You’ve weeded out all of your bad tenants and you’ve done your background and credit checks like you should. An eager prospective tenant has come running into your home/office with a deposit check and is ready to sign a lease. Now, you need to follow the rental check-in process, which we just so happen to discuss here.
By now, we assume you have a prospective tenant lined up with a deposit check in their hand. They’ve also filled out their rental application by now as well. It’s now time to prepare a lease, or a rental agreement and walk the tenant through the rental check-in process. Don’t confuse a rental application with an agreement or lease, of course.
If you would like a good tool to generate a sample lease, check out LawDepot. Take this document to your real estate attorney and work with him/her to fine tune that, since accurate lease terms will help you protect your rights. A shoddy lease may prevent you from evicting a tenant or enforcing your rules if it isn’t written properly. Avoid potential loopholes in your lease and seek guidance from your attorney.
Make sure to review the lease in detail with the tenant before having them sign it. Now days, too many lease documents are handled off site or over the internet with electronic signatures. There’s nothing technically wrong with this approach as long as you find time to discuss the lease. A lot of tenants don’t read details on the lease and you are better off ensuring they understand. Review the lease with the tenant and go over every clause and rule to ensure they understand the important issues. [bctt tweet=”Here’s a successful rental check-in process for landlords… #AssetRover http://goo.gl/Ul6xU3″]
What’s in a Lease?
To start out, the lease is going to have basic information such as your name, the tenant(s) name, the duration of the agreement, property address, and renewal options. Besides the basics, you may have specific lease terms such as:
- Amount of rent to pay and when the payment is due
- How to handle security deposits (how the tenant is paid back and under what conditions)
- Late charges: how do you deal with them (make sure you treat everyone the same in this regard to avoid discrimination)
- Payment for utilities
- Agreed upon occupants, along with how many guests you can have
- Pet policy (see our related blog, Why Service Animals May Force You to Allow Pets)
- Entry and inspection rights (you have to give notice, but you need an option to inspect)
- How parking is set up at the property
- Special covenants by an HOA
- Property maintenance tenant is expected to do (e.g., changing lightbulbs, furnace filter)
- Lease termination rules (can they break it early if they keep paying until you find another renter?)
- How attorney fees would be handled in the event of an issue
- Insurance (do you require renter’s insurance?)
- Lead notification requirement (for structures built prior to 1978)
- Assignment of lease (e.g., sub-letting)
- Joint and several liability
When you get ready to rent out your property, you’ll want to know whether or not you’ll accept pets. Remember that there’s nothing against discriminating against a certain breed of pet. If you don’t want rottweilers or pitbulls, put it in the lease agreement; however, make sure you apply that rule to everyone. If you aren’t consistent with this, you could be accused of discriminating against the actual rights of the humans who want to live on the property too.
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It’s okay to charge more rent for the pet and it’s okay to increase the security deposit appropriately to cover the pet, but make sure you return that pet deposit if no damage was done. Non-refundable pet deposits are illegal! As discovered in Why Service Animal Laws May Force You to Allow Pets, your pet policy can disallow pets, but service animals and emotional support animals will still be allowed in your home. Remember that a service/support animal is not a pet, but almost like a piece of medical equipment. Sure that sounds a little cold towards the faithful little quadrupeds, but it’s a really good way to differentiate service animals from everyday pets. [bctt tweet=”Check your tenants in right, a process for landlords… #AssetRover”]
When a tenant checks into the property, one of your key goals is to ensure the property is in the best possible condition once they move back out again. Being proactive in this area can ensure you do your proper homework ahead of time. If you can accurately assess the condition of the property upon move-in, it will go a long way to verifying the property is in the same condition upon move out. Walk the tenant through the property, let them know how you want the property maintained and what you want it to look like after they move out. Make sure that you discuss terms of the lease such as where to mail the rent check, how to care for the appliances, etc. At least one tenant should be required to attend. Finally, use a checklist! Make the tenant fill out a checklist when they move in so you have a record of the property’s condition. It’s a good idea for you to go to the property and take photos before move-in so you have a visual record of the property’s condition. Hey, “film” is cheap these days, just going around with your smartphone or camera phone is more than sufficient.
Here are some other items you should consider when prepping the tenant and getting them moved into your property: Welcome Pack with Vital Information: house keys (mailbox keys, if applicable), garage door opener, emergency contacts, mailing address and zip code (out of towners may appreciate the reminder) Mail Forwarding: ensure previous mail is cleaned out of the mailbox and that the tenant is beginning to route to mail to the property. Trash Pickup: make sure the tenant knows how trash is dealt with and who the waste management company is. Many towns have trash pickup and recycling rules and if your property is part of a Homeowner’s Association, they may have a deadline on when the trash receptacles need to be brought back inside of the house or where they need to be sitting for collection. Utilities: tenant needs to get the utilities switched over to them upon move-in. Make sure you have a Landlord Agreement set up with the utility companies if you’ve just purchased this property. A Landlord Agreement initially puts utilities under your name, but when the tenant moves in and calls for a switch, the utilities will change over to their name. As soon as the tenant cancels, it defaults back to your name automatically without the service being cut. [bctt tweet=”Here’s how a landlord can check-in a tenant successfully. #AssetRover”]
Protect Yourself and Welcome the Tenant
Above all, the goals are to protect yourself, your property, and make sure the tenant feels safe and at home in their new rental. You painstakingly found the best deal in town on a property, you did your due diligence, performed any repairs you needed to, and screened out bad tenants. You shouldn’t stop now! Follow the steps in this article to see this through to completion, and get the tenant moved in right!