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Lease Confidently with Rocket Lawyer

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Lease Confidently with Rocket Lawyer

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Put it in writing.

It seems simple, but putting everything in writing can be the smartest thing you ever do as a landlord. The most important item to put in writing is the Lease Agreement between you and the tenant. If you ever have problems with the tenant, the Lease Agreement protects you and gives you legal rights that would be more difficult to prove without documentation. It also makes it clear that both you and your tenant(s) have agreed to specific terms that you can reference later if there is a dispute.

Get a security deposit.

Collecting a security deposit communicates to new tenants that you care about the condition in which they keep your property. It also gives tenants motivation to keep the property in the same condition in which it was first rented. If a tenant does not keep the property in good condition or damages it, you may be able to keep a portion or all of the security deposit to pay for repairs or additional cleaning. 

To avoid disputes about the condition of your rental and simplify this process, make sure you have tenants fill out a Renter's Inspection Worksheet when moving in.

Know the tenant financially.

It is your responsibility to vet your potential tenants. Start by having them complete a Rental Application, which will help you collect the information you need to screen your potential tenants. 

Next, take the time to verify their good credit and their employment, which will help you determine their ability to pay the rent. Keep in mind that it's much easier to find another potential tenant than it is to evict a tenant who cannot pay the rent. Of course, you also need to follow any laws that protect tenants against housing discrimination, but the inability to pay the rent generally can be used to disqualify a potential tenant. You may also use a Letter to Request a Credit Reference to verify the prospective tenant's good credit, and ask the tenant's employer for a Salary Verification Letter.

Understand your own lease terms.

Make sure you know and follow the terms of the lease you've signed. If you create a document and then flaunt the terms, your tenant could take you to small claims court and you could be found liable. You could also get in trouble with local housing authorities and face penalties or a reduction in rent. In addition, if you don't follow the lease terms (by not maintaining the property, for example), it makes it harder to enforce the lease terms that you do want the tenant to follow, like paying the rent on time.

Understand your rights as a landlord.

Although renters have rights, so do landlords. For example, you should be able to enter the property when necessary for maintenance with the appropriate amount of notice given to the tenant. You also have the right to evict a tenant if they are not upholding their end of the lease.

You can use an Eviction Worksheet to evaluate your situation before you get started. It is smart to understand the legal process for evicting a tenant in your city and state, since it varies by locality. Evictions often have strict rules a landlord must follow, or they may face delays and additional costs.

Understand the Tenant's rights, and your obligations to protect them.

Familiarize yourself with your local and state laws that protect the tenant's rights, and any applicable city or county laws that might affect you. It can be helpful to have a list of local agencies or resources for tenants who fall on hard times. Some tenants may qualify for rental assistance, or other aid, that can make sure the rent is paid each month.

If you have more questions about managing your rental property or tenants, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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