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Top Clauses in a Residential Lease

1. Provision for a late fee if rent is paid past due date.

Resident should pay a penalty for increased risk and inconvenience to owner. Jurisdictions will allow some flexibility, but your late charge should relate to the expenses you incur (mortgage penalties) as a result of the rent being paid late.

2. Repair Policy

Do not allow tenants to perform repairs and all requests for repairs should be in writing. Your lease should prohibit the resident from performing repairs on the property. The resident is not likely to be a repair expert, so you will probably be disappointed in their workmanship. Even if they can do the repair, what if they fall off a ladder or electrocute themselves? Can you afford a lengthy legal battle involving time and expense over a repair item. Second, you should state that all repair requests be in writing. This will give you a written record of all requests for your records, a good defense in the case of a lawsuit.

3. Suggest tenant obtain their own liability and fire/theft insurance.

Although you cannot require it, it is in your best interests if the resident is insured. They may burn the house down or injure another person on your property. This could result in a lawsuit against you. You will be doing the resident a favor as well, they will then have protection from any mistakes they make at the property.

4. Spell out who is to pay the utilities.

If not spelled out, you and the tenant will each assume the other party is paying. Different areas have different customs as to who is to pay. It is usually better if the resident pays any utilities that vary in amount as a result of their use.

5. Spell out under what conditions the landlord may enter the property.

In some states this is a matter of law, but it is best to notify the tenant that you may enter to show the property to appraisers, potential purchasers, potential renters and insurance agents.

Also, you may need to see the property to inspect for repairs. State how much time you intend to give prior to entry and make sure you are complying with the local laws.

6. Do not allow subletting, without written approval by management.

Make certain it is understood that the tenant you approved and signed the lease with is the tenant that is living in the property.

7. Yard responsibility.

State who is responsible and what happens if the yard is not taken care of. You could put in a clause that the residents' rent will be raised to cover the cover the cost of a gardener on ten days notice for example.

8. Homeowners Rules must be obeyed, if applicable.

If your property is under the jurisdiction of a homeowners association you should state that fact and give a copy of the rules to your resident. Also state that the resident is responsible for any fines that are assessed.

9. Lead-Based Paint Disclosure.

It is now federal law to provide a Lead-Based paint pamphlet and to have a signed disclosure on file with the rental agreement. You can obtain these forms from any NARPM Member in your area.