Common Lease Violations and How to Deal With Them

| June 4, 2012 More

Lease violations, whether large or small, are an inevitable part renting your house out. No one is perfect, and even the most responsible tenants are likely to pay the rent a day or two late, play their music a little too loudly, or cause minor property damage from time to time. As long as these practices don’t become habit, most landlords are inclined to let small issues slide, and for good reason—turnover costs are steep, it can be difficult to find good tenants, and being overly punitive doesn’t encourage lengthy tenancies. On the other hand, there are several common lease violations that you should take care to protect yourself against, and take swift, firm action to remedy when they occur.

Unauthorized Pets
Tenants sneaking animals into their rentals is a common source of landlord-tenant strife. Even if you choose to allow pets, you may find that tenants add to their furry families without consulting you, increasing wear and tear on the property without your consent.

To prevent pet violations, spell out your guidelines in the lease. Include a clear description of what will happen if the tenant is discovered to have an unauthorized pet on the premises, starting with a fine and ending with eviction if the situation isn’t remedied. Before they move in, let your tenants know that you intend to schedule quarterly “maintenance visits” to test smoke alarms, replace furnace filters, etc. If they know you plan to visit the property every few months, they’ll be less likely to try to keep an animal on the sly.

If you suspect that your tenant is keeping a pet you haven’t agreed to, get photographic evidence, if possible, then follow through on the terms of your agreement.

Overstaying Guests
While it can be difficult to monitor and regulate the frequency and duration of visits your tenant receives, it’s important to include language in the lease regarding your expectations for overnight guests. To prevent semi-squatters from taking up residence without permission, landlords like to limit overnight stays to a few nights per month unless they give written consent for other arrangements.

The Landlord Protection Agency recommends including a lease stipulation such as, “Occupancy by guests staying over _7_ days will be a violation of this provision. In the event any other people occupy and live in this rental, in any capacity, without Owner’s written consent, it will constitute a breach of this lease and it is agreed that the rent will be increased $500.00 per person per month, and the Owner at his sole option may terminate this lease.” Once the tenant signs, you have the legal right to enforce the lease.

Property Damages
From excessive grime to torn up carpet, holes in the walls, broken fixtures, and other horrors, property damage is not only upsetting—it can quickly eat into your rental profits. The best way to protect yourself from tenant negligence, recklessness, or malice is to thoroughly document the state of the property immediately prior to move-in.

Investing in a professional inspection can be useful for this purpose—it gives you detailed, written documentation of the state of the property from a neutral third party. Another excellent approach is to take detailed photographs of key aspects of the property, then have the tenant sign off on the photo log as you conduct the move-in walk-though.

While you need to respect your tenant’s privacy, conducting semi-regular property inspections is a good way to keep things from getting out of hand. Oftentimes, simply driving by the property will give you a reasonable idea of whether or not the tenants are taking reasonable care of it, and whether intervention is required.

Home-based Businesses
When you rent a residential property to a tenant, you intend it to be used as a residence. While some types of freelance activities may technically violate this expectation without causing any actual extra wear and tear or nuisance, if your tenant is regularly hosting clients, shipping and receiving large quantities of supplies, or using the rental as a production zone, you have the right to put a stop to it.

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Category: Ready to Rent: Tips & Tricks