Every landlord should implement rules for tenants to follow. But, for new landlords, knowing what rules to enforce can come as a challenge.
Crafting Rental Rules for Tenants
While not everyone likes rules, they do serve a purpose. In rental properties, rules exist to control the behavior of tenants and maintain the integrity of the unit. By laying down rules right from the start, landlords can clearly express their expectations to tenants. This prevents any misunderstandings and disputes in the future.
But, simply coming up with apartment rules for tenants is not enough. Landlords must put these rules into writing and include them in the lease agreement. In doing so, tenants sign off on adhering to these rules and can be held responsible should they violate any of them. It also gives landlords a chance to take legal action (such as evicting the tenant) should tenants breach the rules.
Most Important Tenant Rules and Regulations to Enforce
Not all rental properties will have the same rules and regulations. Some apartments have extra features and facilities that warrant additional rules that other apartments may not necessarily need. Regardless, here are the most common tenant rules for apartments and rental homes.
1. Rules on Rent Collection
This is perhaps one of the more universal rules for renters. Every landlord obviously wants to collect rent on time, but some tenants can be difficult to deal with. As such, it is important to have standard rules for rent collection. This includes when rent is due, when it is considered overdue, how much the tenant must pay, and any applicable late fees.
For late fees, landlords can either charge a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the rent due. Keep in mind, though, that some states impose limits on how much a landlord can charge in late fees. For instance, in D.C., landlords can’t impose a late fee of more than 5% of the rent due. There are also some state laws on when landlords can charge late fees. In Massachusetts, it is 30 days after the rent is due.
The lease agreement should also indicate how tenants can pay their rent. While some landlords accept more modern methods, others still stick to the traditional mailed-in check.
2. Landlord’s Right of Entry
Every rental agreement should outline the landlord’s right of entry. Under what circumstances can the landlord enter the property? How much notice must the landlord provide? Generally speaking, landlords should provide advance notice of their intention to enter the leased property. Landlords will also need a good reason. After all, tenants have a right to reasonable privacy and quiet enjoyment. And violating tenants rights can spell legal trouble for landlords.
3. Rules on Cleanliness
Let’s face it — some tenants are slobs. And while there is nothing wrong with the occasional dirty dish here and there, tenants should generally maintain a clean apartment. A dirty or messy apartment invites pests, which can quickly become a problem for both the tenant and their neighbors. As such, one of the renters rules landlords should impose is to keep apartments reasonably clean.
4. Proper Care of Appliances
Next up on the rental rules list is proper care and use of appliances. If the apartment comes with built-in appliances and fixtures, tenants should use them with care and clean them regularly. Appliances are expensive, and it will cost landlords a lot of money to get them repaired or replaced due to a neglectful tenant. As an added way to encourage proper care, landlords can include a clause that puts the burden of paying repair costs on the tenant should they misuse appliances and fixtures.
5. Trash Removal Rules
Trash removal may seem trivial to some, so much so that having rules for it can seem over-the-top. But, improper trash removal can quickly turn from a small problem into a large one.
Landlords should set apartment rules and regulations for tenants regarding trash removal. This includes when they should take out the trash, where they should place the trash, and any other rules on recycling. Such rules will prevent the apartment from becoming an unsanitary abode and also help the landlord stay out of trouble with local ordinances. Again, imposing a fine for breaking this rule is a good way to encourage adherence.
6. Rules on Yard Maintenance
The lease agreement should also include any yard maintenance and landscaping rules. Specifically, it should clearly indicate what responsibilities tenants have in regard to lawn care. Is the tenant in charge of mowing and watering the lawn? What about trimming trees and shrubs?
When it comes to yard maintenance, there are three types of clauses landlords can use:
- Self-service. This means tenants bear the responsibility for all yard work and maintenance, including landscaping and lawn care. If tenants hire a professional, they must shoulder the cost.
- Full-service. This means the landlord or property manager is in charge of all yard work and maintenance. Typically, landlords hire a third-party company to complete this for them.
- A la carte. In an a la carte agreement, landlords and tenants share the responsibility. For instance, the landlord can be in charge of landscaping and fertilizing while the tenant must mow and water the lawn.
Of course, for multi-family dwellings such as apartment buildings, landlords usually bear full responsibility for all yard work, maintenance, and landscaping. This is because such outdoor spaces are typically not leased by individual tenants. Instead, they belong in common areas.
7. Pet Policies
Among the many possible rules for tenants, another one of the more common ones has to do with pets. Typically, landlords have the freedom to enforce their own pet policy, whether that means prohibiting certain animals or completely banning pets from the premises.
If the leased property belongs to a homeowners association, the pet policy may not be entirely up to the landlord. Instead, both landlords and tenants must adhere to the HOA’s pet policies. Both landlords and HOAs, though, can’t deny service animals, provided the tenant truly does require the help of a service animal.
8. Noise Rules
It is not unusual for a landlord to impose noise rules on tenants. Noise rules exist to maintain a peaceful environment for all tenants, especially in multi-family dwellings. As a guideline, landlords should disallow excessive noise between certain hours, normally during sleeping hours (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
9. Moving Out Rules
Landlords must also enforce rules for when the tenant wants to move out. These rules should include the following:
- Length of notice tenants should provide landlords before vacating;
- In what condition tenants must leave the property upon move-out; and,
- When tenants must surrender locks and keys.
A good way to set clear expectations between landlords and tenants is to come up with a move out checklist. This checklist must consist of everything tenants should do when they move out of the leased property. It is also imperative that landlords attach or include this checklist in the lease agreement.
10. Common Area Rules for Tenants
Many apartments and condo buildings have common areas that all tenants share. This can be as small as hallways, stairwells, elevators, and entrances or as big as gyms and swimming pools. Regardless, landlords would also be smart to establish rules for tenants in these common areas.
For more general common spaces, rules such as no shouting, no littering, and no loitering are a good place to start. But, for areas like gyms and pools, landlords should come up with specific rules designed for the space. For instance, in swimming areas, landlords should enforce a no running rule as well as a no eating or drinking rule.
When Tenants Violate the Rules
In addition to setting the rules, landlords should also clearly indicate the consequences of violating these rules. Penalties can range from a simple warning and a monetary fine to eviction. Of course, landlords should weigh the gravity of the rule and violation. For instance, failing to take out the trash one time would probably not be cause for eviction. But, multiple violations of the same rule might be.
Not Cut Out for Rule Enforcement?
Some landlords have a hard time imposing rules for tenants because they are either too meek or have already established a more personal relationship with them. A good solution to this is to hire a property manager. Property managers are trained to handle each tenant professionally, enforcing rules in a uniform manner.
Start your search for the best property management company today with the help of Rental Choice’s online directory.
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