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Whether you’re someone who rents out a few rooms in your residential property, or a full-fledged landlord who has multiple commercial buildings up for lease, you need certain legal documents to keep you protected.

Let’s say, you rent out an apartment. You did an initial inspection with your tenant but didn’t record it down on a Renter’s Inspection Worksheet. Without this simple legal document to validate the inspection, you and your tenant may get into a heated contest over something, like what was initially damaged and what wasn’t, when your tenant moves out. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Make sure you stay protected by completing these legal documents that every landlord needs.

Finding the right tenant

No matter how great of a landlord you are, if you choose the wrong person as your tenant, you can set yourself up for a less-than-pleasant experience. Here are some documents to help ensure that you find the right match during the tenant screening process:

Rental Application

A Rental Application is the perfect way to learn more about your potential tenants. Where do you work? Will you bring pets with you? How long will the lease be? Questions like these will help you weed out candidates that don’t fit your criteria for a good tenant.

Reference Letter

It’s important that you vet your tenants. Meeting your prospective tenants for an in-person interview is a great first step. But be sure to request a Reference Letter — whether it’s from their manager at work or a former landlord. You should ask for a few more Reference Letters if you’re on the fence.

Working with your tenant

Even if you’ve found your *perfect* tenant, it’s important that you create certain legal documents to keep both you and your tenant protected. Here are some ways to work with your tenant and establish a good relationship.

Lead Disclosure Statement

Was your property built before 1978? If so, your property most likely has lead-based paint and it’s crucial that you and your new tenants sign the Lead Disclosure Statement. This document will help limit your liability in case of any injury from the lead-based paint as well as make your new tenants aware of the situation. Remember to keep this signed Lead Disclosure Statement in a safe place for three years. Also, be sure to provide your tenants with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pamphlet entitled “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home.”

Renter’s Inspection Worksheet

When renting out a property to new tenants, it’s important that you do an initial walkthrough with them and complete a Renter’s Inspection Worksheet. This document allows you to record in detail what condition the property was in before it was rented out. When your tenants move out, use their initial inspection sheet to compare it to the condition in which the property was returned. A good tip is to be as detailed as possible in the Renter’s Inspection Worksheet. This may help lessen any potential disputes in the future.

Landlord’s Notice to Enter

Though you’re the owner of the property, you’re still required to give proper notice to your tenants before you swing by for a visit — whether it’s to fix a leaky faucet or to pick up a check. You can use our Landlord’s Notice to Enter letter to keep your tenants informed about when you’re coming by.

Do you have any good tips for first-time landlords? We’d love to hear from you below in the comments!

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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