If you're like Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management, you've spent the long winter months gearing up for the busy rental season. After hiring new staff members, preparing the property for tours and rethought your marketing strategy, you may think that you're prepared for just about anything. With spring leasing in full swing, though, there's one thing you and your team may have forgotten to update: your lease terms!
Many landlords use their state-issued standard lease form to rent out their property to tenants. While this is fine for a brand new landlord, it's worth digging in and personalizing for your specific needs. Since the standard lease is supposed to be a simple guide, it lacks the nuanced clauses successful property managers need included. Before you dust off the old standard lease for another rental season, consider adding these important clauses:
1. Subletting. With the advent of Airbnb, subletting has become more popular than ever before. While some property owners might be fine with their tenants renting out their space in the short term, many do not wish to go down that road. Short term tenants can cause liability issues and you could be stuck footing the bill for damage done by a renter in town for a weekend. Long term tenants can cause even more serious issues. That's why we recommend always outlining your subletting policies in clear terms. Such clauses are especially critical if you're renting to students, who may plan to only live in the unit during the academic year.
2. Lease renewal. Predictability is key for any successful business, and property management is no different. Finding tenants you can count on is important, but so is ensuring that they are willing to stick around. Your lease should clearly explain your procedures and expectations for lease renewals and offer details on expected rent increases. Also be sure to include how much notice is required to give the landlord in advance of moving out.
3. Severability. This term is scarier than it sounds, but you don't want to leave it out of your lease. It ensures that if one of your clauses violates the law, the rest of the lease is still enforceable. For example, if you do not allow pets but your local laws require you to allow service dogs for people with disabilities, your severability clause would ensure that the rest of your contract still stands, regardless of your pet policy.
4. Joint and Several Liability. Not to be confused with severability, several liability is a term referring to the responsibilities of multiple tenants on the same lease. It requires that individuals be both individually and jointly responsible for paying rent. Should one tenant fail to fulfill their obligation to pay their share, the others on the lease will be required to make up the difference. This is not a clause to overlook, especially when roommates fight or couples break up.
- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management
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