10 Rental Terms to Include in Lease Agreements

When it comes to being a landlord, one of the best ways to protect both yourself and your renters is by having a lease agreement that is both clear and thorough. One way to help do this is by including basic house rules into your lease agreement.

House rules (or rental terms) help set clear expectations for the tenant as well as allow you to be protected and take legal action if necessary. However, when adding these house rules to your lease agreements, it is important that they are both legal and relevant to your property.

These rules are meant to protect both you and your property, however they should not violate any landlord tenant laws in New York City nor should they inconvenience your tenants. In fact, adding rules that will inconvenience your tenants may result in you having a harder time finding and securing long term tenants.

Here are some house rules you may want to consider including in your lease agreements:

1. Timely Rent Payments and Rental Statements

Paying rent on time is one of the most important rules a landlord can set for their tenants, as receiving rent on time is necessary in order to keep your business running. When including this rule, your rental statements should specify when rent is due and how it should be paid.

It also may be useful to include information on any grace periods or late fees you intend on implementing. Tenants should be given fair accommodations, however they should be penalized for breaking the lease agreement. You may want to consider providing your tenants with a number of days after rent is due where they are able to pay without facing any penalties. After the given amount of days, you can charge a late fee. In your lease agreement, you should specify how long the grace period will be and the dollar amount of the late fee.

2. Maintenance and Maintenance Requests

Rules regarding maintenance should cover what the tenant is responsible for as well as how they are expected to submit maintenance requests to you. There should be a clear list of what the tenant is expected to maintain, such as their unit, and what the consequences will be if they fail to do so.

Additionally, it should be clear how they can contact you for maintenance requests and repairs. It can also be helpful to include an alternate source of communication they may use in the event of an emergency. What an emergency entails should also be specified.

3. Security Deposit Deductions and Return

It is important to provide your tenants with a guide on what can be deducted from their security deposit as well as steps they can take to ensure that they get to keep their entire deposit once their lease expires. This will not only provide a sense of security to your tenants, but it will protect you in the event of a legal dispute.

4. Renter’s Insurance Regulations

It is not legally required for tenants’ to have renters insurance, which is why it is important to decide whether or not you would like to require that your tenants have it. By requiring renter’s insurance, you are protecting both yourself and the tenant.

The reason renter’s insurance protects both you and the tenant is because not only will it cover the tenant’s belongings, but it may also offer coverage for certain property damages as well as any injuries that occur on your property. This can help protect you from potential lawsuits and charges as you will not be held liable for any injuries or damages done on or to your property.

5. Pet Policies

If you decide to not allow pets on your property, this should be clearly stated in your lease agreements. There should also be a clear exception for service animals and support animals.

On the other hand, if you choose to allow pets, you should also specify any rules such as any breed or size restrictions, how many and what kind of pets are allowed, and any pet fees. These rules are important as any miscommunication can lead to unwanted or dangerous pets on your property.

6. Noise Recommendations and Policies

Noise complaints are some of the most common complaints made by tenants. In order to avoid them, you should include rules about noise in your lease agreements. One rule you may choose to include is having what is known as “quiet hours” which is a period of specified time, typically from the evening to the early morning, where the noise level should be kept to a minimum.

7. Changes to a Tenant’s Unit

Many tenants, especially those who are long term tenants, may find themselves wanting to make adjustments to their unit in order to give it their own personal touch. This can include making changes such as painting or changing the floors. When it comes to this, you should set clear rules and restrictions for tenants, as well as what is and isn’t considered normal wear and tear in the building. For example, you may want to be clear on how the unit is expected to look at the end of a tenant’s lease.

This way, if they decide to make changes, they are aware of the fact that they must return the unit back to its original form at the end of their lease. You may also want to include a rule that states tenants must give you notice before making any changes, this way you can document and keep track of them.

8. Subletting

In order to avoid any miscommunication or unwanted tenants in your units, be sure to include your specific rules on subletting. If you decide to not allow your tenants to sublet their unit, this should be clearly specified in your lease agreement. You may choose to do so because by allowing your tenants to sublet their unit, you have less control over your property.

When a tenant sublets, their sub-tenant must sign a contract which you have no control over. This contract may include rules you disagree with, which can lead to complications between you and the primary tenant.

On the other hand, if you do choose to allow subletting you should include specific rules, such as the minimum amount of time a sub-tenant can stay, if the primary tenant must ask for permission first, and if the sub-tenant will have to undergo the application process. You may choose to allow subletting on your property as it helps to ensure you receive rent payments on time.

9. Illegal Activities, Possessions, and Substances in Your Building

While what is illegal is already clearly stated by the law, it can be helpful to further emphasize it by including a rule in your lease agreement. This rule will prohibit any illegal activity or substances on your property. This rule should also specify that if you suspect a tenant is conducting illegal activity on your property, they may be subject to legal consequences.

10. Number of Residents Allowed

You may choose to include a rule about the number of residents permitted to stay in a unit. However, you may need to be flexible on this rule as you are legally required to allow a tenant’s close family to live with them, such as their children. This means if you only allow 4 residents per unit, for example, but the tenant has 5 children, you may need to make an exception.

By limiting the number of residents on your property, you are lowering your own liability, especially if the tenants do not have renter’s insurance.

Trust Outerbridge Law to Protect Your Livelihood

Keep in mind that it is important to be flexible with your tenants to a certain extent. For example, if you decide to have a no pets policy, but a prospective tenant requires a service animal, it would be both unlawful and unfair to deny them housing due to this.

However, when it comes down to ensuring that your property and livelihood are protected, house rules are critical for building a legal foundation if you find yourself in a situation where a tenant must be taken to court. If you find yourself in that situation, turn to Outerbridge Law. Outerbridge Law is a firm focused on landlord tenant issues in New York City.

To learn more about how we can help, contact Outerbridge Law today!