Landlord-Tenant Law 101
So you are considering finally starting to leasing out that gorgeous beach front property you bought a few years ago. Renovations took a bit longer than you expected, but it has finally satisfied all of the state and local housing codes. Numerous potential tenants have exuberantly expressed interest in the property, but you are still getting your ducks in a row, after all, this is your first time being a landlord. Preparation for this new venture is key to your success, so pay close attention.
First Things First
As a landlord you still retain responsibility of your properties. Those housing codes that you painstakingly reached need to be constantly maintained. Unfortunately, now, there will be a tenant and their family living there, possibly causing damage and writing up a robust work order for you. Before you have to deal with anything like that, first you need to find a reputable property lawyer to help you draft a template contract for your tenants. This lawyer needs to be well versed in the state, local, and common property laws. You should do your homework as well, as you might be confused by the legal jargon lawyers tend to present their clients with. Researching beforehand reduces confusion, thus allowing you to communicate with your lawyer at a higher level of understanding. This contract should however only be a base line to establish what is needed in your final version, there may be specific needs you may have or you may have properties in other states where the laws may be different. By all means, however, have your lawyer look over your final version as well. You do not want any future problems or discrepancies in your contract to arise. These variables need to be understood in impeccable detail and implemented accordingly.
The Content of Your Contract
The guidelines and regulations within your contract will be heavily drawn by the statutory and local laws in place and how they relate to your properties. Other articles in the contract will spell out to your potential tenant what your duties are and what to reasonably expect from you as their landlord. Tenants should also have a crystal clear description of what is expected from them, and the consequences that will result if those requirements are not met. The requirements usually placed on the tenants are timely rent payments at proscribed amounts, respect for property guidelines, and to adhere to their granted permissions.
Duties of a Landlord
When a tenant submits a service request, it is your responsibility to tackle that concern as soon as possible. Within a residential property, all the various unfortunate events that could go wrong within your own home could happen within your rental property. This includes, but is not limited to: plumbing issues, insect infestation, flooding, gas leaks, power outages, or something less severe. These variables can vary greatly depending on the region of the world your properties are and the environments that define them. Issues like flooding or fire will most likely require specialized insurance, so that is something to consider as well. Aside from extreme cases, the landlord will need to ensure things like the air conditioning and indoor plumbing are functional, and that their tenants are comfortable. The limits of the tenant’s comfortability and basic standards of living will be spelled out in the contract under the Warranty of Habitability clause. Breaches of this covenant could result in a constructive eviction. Landlords and tenants alike would do well to avoid a constructive eviction. This occurs when the living conditions fall below the housing codes that are established in a particular region, thus the property is deemed uninhabitable. This status on the property not only displaces the tenant, but is a horrible blemish on the record of the landlord in particular. Punishments for a landlord causing a constructive eviction can vary, but what usually happens is tenants receive a reprieve from their rent payments. More severe punishments for landlords could result as well depending on the condition of the property being rented.
Your Address to Your Tenants
Your expectations for your tenants regarding rent and the rules for your property should be clearly explained to them in the contract before you have them sign it and inhabit your property. The day rent is due, the exact amount, and the consequences for not paying on time, or an insufficient amount should never be a mystery to your tenants. Omissions from your contract are entirely on you, the landlord, and deviations from your desires that are not expressed in your contract will hold no legal value in court proceedings, if a situation ever progresses to that state. In the event of tenants failing to make payments, the protocols established in your contract should immediately be set in motion. If your contract says that you will notify tenants of late payments or wave payments for extenuating circumstances, then you need to follow through accordingly. However, if you are less lenient, take a moment to speak with your tenant to understand why they are not making payments. Be thoughtful in your approach, but also keep in mind, you are not running a shelter. The renting of your property is a business transaction and needs to be treated as such when all aspects are considered.
Your Landlord-Tenant contract is your word and your bond. It is the legal fiber ensuring that every time a tenant signs your contract that your return on investment rests in your hands alone. Your responsibility is to ensure your hands are best prepared to shape your future. You also have the power of the law in your hands as well; the words in your contract are legally binding and the only written record of your demands, requirements and accommodations. Ensuring those words work in your best interest is paramount because your bottom line depends on it. That beach front property did not come cheaply, and your return on investment is what is going to make all of your efforts worthwhile.