5 Expert Property Management Tips to Write a Strong Lease Agreement

Expert Property Management Tips for Writing a Strong Lease Agreement

The way you structure your lease agreement is going to set the tone for the entire term of your Potomac tenants’ stay.

In fact, the lease is often considered the crux of your entire rental property business.

However, drafting your own lease agreement from scratch can be challenging if you self-manage your rental properties and don’t know what to include.

Lease agreements need to have a lot of information built into them to make sure they’re strong enough to enforce with your tenants and in court, should a landlord-tenant dispute ensue.

That’s why knowing the basic steps for creating a strong lease agreement is crucial for maintaining a successful rental property business.

If you are wondering how to create an airtight lease agreement that addresses all of your needs, and protects yourself, your investment property, and your tenants, keep reading for pro tips.

 

1. Hire an Attorney

Hire An Attorney to Write a Strong Lease Agreement

If you are not using Potomac property management to help you draft a solid lease agreement, the next best thing to do is enlist the help of a local, experienced real estate attorney.

Having a lawyer on hand to help you draft your lease agreement is a good idea.

Why?

Because in addition to federal rental property laws you must follow, every state and city has their own specific landlord-tenants laws that you also must abide by in your written lease agreements.

The last thing you want to do is include something in your self-drafted lease agreement that violates a law.

Worse yet, you don’t want to have such a loosely stated lease agreement that clauses you have included can be used against you by knowledgeable tenants looking to take advantage of those not well-versed in the law.

Having an attorney look over a finalized lease agreement is not going to break the bank, and can end up save you lots of time, money, and hassle in the long run.

It is always a good idea to educate yourself about the rules and regulations that apply to you and your rental properties, so that you can always protect your own interests, whether you have a property management company or real estate attorney helping you out.

 

2. Have Multiple Copies of Your Lease

The beauty of modern technology and digital bookkeeping is a bonus for keeping your business organized and secure.

However, digital lease agreements have the potential to be altered, whether by accident or on purpose, by either the tenant or the software.

It is critical you have a paper copy of the lease agreement kept on file at all times to refer to in the case of a dispute. This way your tenant cannot make the claim that a clause in the lease agreement says something entirely different from what you originally drafted.

It is important to have your Potomac property manager discuss this paper copy lease agreement with your tenant at the time of move-in, as well as have them sign the document so you have hard proof that everyone involved knew exactly what was expected of them at all times throughout the lease term.

 

3. Address Lease Changes

Address Lease Changes With An Addendum For Your Rental Property

Sometimes lease agreements change during the course of a tenancy.

However, in order to create a strong lease agreement that prevents changes of all kinds from sneaking into the lease agreement, you must include a clause stating that any changes to the lease agreement will only be considered valid if in writing.

Do not give your tenants the power to “add” lease changes to the original lease agreement from verbal conversations you or your property manager have with them. This can lead to a lot of miscommunication, and changes to the lease you did not approve.

For example, your tenants may have moved into your rental without any pets. And, the lease agreement may clearly state no pets are allowed.

However, perhaps halfway through the lease your tenants approach you or your property manager with a request to get a puppy. And, you agree to this.

Make sure to add a pet policy provision into the lease agreement and have your tenants sign it so they know the rules regarding this new lease clause. Include things like breed and size restrictions, pet deposits and fees, and the consequences if the pet damages your property during their lease term.

If you don’t do this, you could end up with 10 dogs roaming your rental property damaging everything from the interior of your property to the exterior landscaping, all because you verbally said to your tenants that they could have a dog.

The pet policy is just one example of how your written lease agreement can falter if you allow verbal changes to change it.

Protect yourself and your investment by only allowing written changes to be incorporated into the original lease agreement.

 

4. Make Your Writing Clear

Your lease agreement should be extremely clear for anyone that reads it.

Use simple terminology, make it short and to the point, and never leave any open-ended clauses that allow room for interpretation.

If things are not clear, and your tenant can poke holes in each lease provision, chances are the written document you thought was in place to protect all parties will actually be used against you.

Some of the most important provisions to outline clearly in each lease agreement you draft include:

  • Security deposit collection, use, and return procedures
  • The rent amount, when it is due, and the consequences for late or non-payment
  • Maintenance and repair procedures, what will and won’t be covered by you, and what the tenants are responsible for
  • Whether temporary alterations are allowed, and which ones
  • What to do in the case of an early lease termination
  • Your right of entry procedures, complete with notice information
  • Roommate, use of property, and code of conduct rules
  • What happens should any lease provision be breached throughout the lease term

 

This is not a comprehensive list of the important lease clauses to include in your lease agreement.

Rather, it is a list of some of the most important ones that have the potential to create many legal problems for you, should they not be addressed correctly.

 

5. Customize Your Template

Customize The Template For Your Lease Agreement

Using a lease agreement template is okay, especially if you self-manage your rental property. However, you should be aware that lease agreement templates are not one-size-fits-all forms that apply to every landlord in the country.

Both Maryland and Potomac have specific rules and regulations you must follow when it comes to lease drafting. That’s why customizing your template to fit your individual needs, and address the state and local laws is a must.

 

In Closing

If you are looking for a high-quality property management company in Potomac, MD to help you write a strong lease agreement for your rental properties, contact Bay Management Group now.

We have the knowledge to make sure your lease agreements are legally compliant. We will take the time to address every personal provision you want to include in your agreements, and make sure that your tenants understand exactly what is expected of them at all times during their tenancy.


Top Addendums to Include in a Lease Agreement in Columbia, MD

Top Addendums to Include in Your Maryland Rental Property Lease

Drawing up an airtight lease from the very beginning is one of the most important things you and your Columbia, Maryland property management company can do.

Doing this prevents any confusion amongst the parties regarding what is to be expected throughout the lease term, and helps to protect both property owner and tenant.

If you are currently self-managing your rental property, you might want to consider beefing up your lease drafting skills.

In fact, unless you have a finely tuned lease template, now might be a good time to enlist the help of a professional property manager in Columbia to put one together.

Knowing what to include in your lease agreement can be challenging, especially at first. And, the truth is, basic lease agreement templates found on the internet do not always address your most pressing needs.

This can lead to a lot of confusion and heated discussions between you and your tenants throughout their lease term.

That’s why today we are going to examine what a lease addendum is, and some of the top ones all property owners should include in their lease agreements.

 

What is a Lease Addendum?

Typically speaking, a lease addendum is a lease provision that changes, clarifies, or nullifies a part of an original lease document. Once added, it becomes a legal part of the signed contract, and is enforceable.

That said, there seems to be some confusion between the terms lease addendum and lease amendment. We are here to clarify.

 

Lease Addendum

This is an additional lease clause or provision attached to the lease agreement template that adds or excludes certain terms.

At the time of signing, the lease addendums are included and agreed to by all parties.

A great example of a lease addendum is a provision outlining the right of entry by the property owner. Entry by a landlord throughout the lease term is not unusual, and needs addressing in the lease agreement.

Sometimes, a separate clause is drafted and added to the back of the general lease agreement so both the property owner and tenant understand what constitutes a legal entry of the premises.

 

Lease Amendment

On the other hand, if you and your tenants have already agreed to sign a lease agreement, and then want to add a provision or clause altering the original document, this would be considered a lease amendment.

A perfect example of this is a pet policy.

Keep in mind, this can be included during the initial drafting of the lease agreement as an addendum.

However, if the original lease made no mention of a pet policy, because your tenants did not have any pets, and halfway through the lease they decided to adopt a dog, an amendment to the lease agreement will be needed.

This will outline any rules you have regarding pets in your rental, and will be signed and attached to the already-finalized lease agreement.

 

Top Addendums to Include in Your Columbia Lease Agreement

1. Smoking

No Smoking Addendum is Popular With Maryland Rental Property

Whether you decide to make your Columbia rental property smoke free or not is a personal decision. However, if you wish to prevent smoking in your property, make sure to include a no-smoking addendum to the lease.

Clarify whether this policy applies to guests, and what the consequences are (including loss of security deposit) for breaching the agreement.

 

2. Pest Control

Pest control is a huge point of contention between landlords and tenants. There is plenty of debate over who is responsible for pest control, who is in charge of resolving a pest infestation, and who decides what constitutes an inhabitable living condition.

That’s why including a detailed pest control addendum is crucial to avoiding a landlord-tenant dispute. Just make sure to investigate your local laws regarding pest control, and clearly outline each party’s responsibilities.

 

3. Renters Insurance

Another critical lease addendum all Columbia property owners should include in their lease agreements is the requirement of renters insurance. It’s inexpensive, easy to get, and covers your tenants in a variety of situations, so you don’t have to.

Renters insurance typically covers the loss of your tenant’s personal property in the case of an emergency. It also takes some, if not all, of the liability off you if someone is injured while on your property.

Paired with your homeowners insurance, this provision is great for protecting your investment.

 

4. Roommates

Roommate Addendum Popular in Maryland Rental Properties

Your tenants need to understand your stance on roommates.

It is important you outline details regarding short- and long-term guests as well. After all, you don’t want to end up with adult tenants in your property that have not been screened, or are not paying rent.

In addition, you may want to include a separate lease addendum addressing the issue of subletting your rental. This way, you don’t end up with brand new tenants you have never met in your property mid-term.

 

5. Maintenance

Maintenance is a hot issue for tenants that lease your rental from you.

They want to know that at any time, no matter how minor the issue is, you are going to be available for maintenance and repairs.

Outline exactly what you will be responsible for, who to contact in the case of minor and emergency matters, and what type of maintenance and repair service they can expect.

In addition, do not fail to mention financial responsibilities of both parties, as well as maintenance issues that will be the responsibility of the tenants to handle (such as landscaping, filter changes, etc.).

 

6. Utilities

Include a Utility Addendum for Your Maryland Rental Property

Some property owners may offer covering the costs of some utilities as an incentive bonus for their tenants.

Or, you may choose to make your tenants responsible for all of the utilities.

Regardless, ensure your tenants know exactly what utilities they are to have placed in their own name.

In addition, any utilities that must remain under your name as the homeowner, but that you would like the tenant to pay, should be explained in this addendum.

This way, there is never any confusion as to who will pay for what, and when.

 

7. Move-Out Instructions

As much as you would love to have your existing tenants renew their lease with you forever, this is not a reasonable expectation.

That said, having clearly defined move-out instructions is the key to a smooth end of lease transition. Here are some things to include:

  • Forwarding address requirement
  • Key turn-in process
  • Cleaning procedures
  • Charge estimates for incomplete tasks
  • Charge estimates for broken or missing items
  • Supply costs and labor charges
  • Utility statuses
  • Move-out inspection process

 

Make sure your tenant understands the entire move-out process so that you don’t end up with a tenant that has disappeared with all of your keys, and has left a filthy rental behind that you have to take care of.

 

8. Early Termination

Early Termination Addendum Maryland Rental Property

Speaking of the end of a lease term, another lease addendum that is strongly suggested you include in your Columbia lease agreement is the early termination clause.

There might be an instance where your Columbia tenant needs to break the lease agreement early.

And, while this is not ideal, it is in your best interest to outline the terms regarding an early lease termination to preserve your losses as much as possible.

 

Other Important Lease Addendums

As you continue building your rental property business, and you gain experience, you will quickly build a solid list of lease addendums to add to every lease agreement that gets put into place.

Here are some other important ones to consider:

  • Appliances (including maintenance)
  • Lock changes
  • Fees and violation consequences
  • Use of rental for home business
  • Alterations
  • HOA terms
  • Right of entry
  • Extended absence procedures
  • Pet fees
  • Rent collection procedures

 

Many of these lease addendums may very well be a part of your basic lease agreement.

However, for those times when you need to add something specific onto an existing lease agreement before you and your tenants sign and begin the move-in process, it’s good to know what types of things can easily be turned into lease addendums.

 

If you own rental property and are in need of an experienced property management company in Columbia who knows exactly what should be included in a lease agreement, contact Bay Management Group now.

We have the expertise to draft airtight lease agreements, complete with every lease addendum you could possibly need. We guarantee that both you and your tenants will know exactly what is expected of each other, and that you and your investment property will be protected to the fullest extent of the law.


5 Mistakes You Could Be Making With Your Lease Agreement

5-mistakes-you-could-make-with-lease-agreement

Becoming a successful investment property owner in Chevy Chase, MD takes a lot of real estate expertise.

You must be familiar with how to:

  • Finance and purchase rental properties
  • Place high quality tenants and collect timely rent payments
  • Maintain and repair your property whenever an issue arises
  • Keep your tenants satisfied so they will want to renew at the end of their lease term

However, one of the most important things to know and understand as a Montgomery County property owner is how to construct the perfect lease agreement.

Knowing how to protect the interests of you and your investment property via a signed lease agreement is crucial to avoiding legal problems in the future.

But do you know what common mistakes even the most experienced landlords make when drafting a lease agreement for their rental property?

If not, you are not alone.

Many property owners do not have the help of an experienced property manager to draft thorough lease agreements that touch upon everything that is important to the owners.

And, unfortunately, as a result, these mistakes cause harm to their rental property business.

Today we are going to examine some lesser-known mistakes you might be making with your lease agreement, in hopes that you can become the successful property owner you desire.

 

5 Mistakes You Are Making With Your Montgomery County Lease Agreements

So many things go into drafting into a solid lease agreement.

Whatever provisions you decide to add, be sure to always include the following basics:

  • Tenant names and personal information
  • Lease term start and end dates
  • Rent collection amount and procedures, including late-payment penalties
  • Security deposit and pet fee deposit amounts
  • Additional fines, fees, and charges your tenant is obligated to pay
  • Property access information
  • Proper use of the property and consequences for breaking the rules
  • Signatures of both parties

Failure to include any of the above is automatically considered a major lease agreement mistake. This is general information that all lease agreements should include, no matter what.

However, some things are more landlord-specific that can be considered a mistake as well, if not drafted correctly into your lease agreement.

Read on to find out if you are making any of these lease agreement mistakes so that you can fix them come the next time you place a tenant in your Chevy Chase rental property.

 

1. Using Outdated or Incorrect Forms

using-outdated-or-incorrect-forms-causes-problems-lease-agreement-chevy-chase-rental-property

For those that self-manage their Chevy Chase rentals, it is important you take special care when deciding which lease agreement forms to use in drafting a lease agreement for your rental property.

Found all over the internet, so-called “standard” lease agreement forms can be a dangerous thing to use without making sure they comply with your state’s laws.

Here are some of the problems you may encounter when using a cookie-cutter lease agreement form:

  • Lease provisions you want included may not be on the form you are using, and are thus unenforceable
  • Overly strict clauses may be included that place an undue burden on both you and your tenants
  • Incorrect rules and regulations may be written into the lease agreement unbeknownst to you or your tenants that can cause a dispute later on

If you are not using a reliable property management company that knows how to draft a legally compliant lease agreement highlighting all of the provisions you want, make sure the standard form you use is up-to-date and is compliant with federal, state, and local laws.

 

2. Not Including Insurance Requirements

Though not a legal requirement, Bay Management Group encourages all of our property owners to require their tenants to have renters insurance prior to moving into their rental property.

Here is a quick roundup of reasons why renters insurance is so important, and how not including this in your lease agreement can be a huge mistake:

  • It lessens your chances of losing a lawsuit if your tenant’s personal belongings are damaged, or a tenant or their guest is injured on your property
  • Renters insurance covers damages that may otherwise come out of your homeowners insurance (or worse, your own pocket)
  • It decreases the chances your tenant will leave mid-lease in the event of an emergency because everything including damages, temporary shelter, and food costs are covered
  • It helps you place higher quality tenants that are okay with paying the small monthly fee for added protection

 

3. Not Requiring a Cosigner

require-cosigner-chevy-chase-tenant-has-bad-credit

Not requiring a tenant to have a cosigner, and still approving them to reside in your rental property, can be a major mistake.

When you are screening tenants to place in your Chevy Chase rental property, it is important you ensure the tenant has the following attributes:

  • A verifiable income that meets your monthly demand
  • Creditworthiness
  • Proof of employment
  • Quality references including employers, personal, and prior landlords
  • No criminal history
  • No prior evictions

In an ideal world, every tenant that is interested in leasing your property will make plenty of money, have verifiable references, employment, and previous renting history, and will not have a criminal background.

However, in the case that only some of this is true, building a required cosigner clause into your lease agreement will better protect your interests in the long run.

By allowing your tenant to have a cosigner, you will have better protection should your tenant not be able to pay rent, incur damages beyond normal wear and tear, or have roommates that do not fulfill their part of the lease obligations.

 

4. Failing to Outline Tenant Responsibilities

While residing in your Montgomery County rental home, your tenants are responsible for the general maintenance and upkeep of the property. After all, they will be residing in it for some time and should care for it as though it is their own home.

However, failing to outline in the signed lease agreement exactly what your tenants are responsible for is a mistake on your part.

Sure, you are obligated to provide a safe and habitable home for your tenants. But what about things such as:

  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Pest extermination
  • Simple maintenance such as light bulb replacement, air filter changes, and smoke alarm batteries
  • Landscaping
  • General cleanliness both inside and outside of the property

These are all things that many tenants will take care of without you asking.

However, in order to protect yourself from a dispute in the future, it is best to spell it out for your tenants in the lease agreement.

Additionally, consider adding some general maintenance tricks and tips into the tenant welcome package you should provide your tenants upon move-in.

 

5. Rules Regarding Roommates

set-roommate-rules-lease-agreement-chevy-chase-rental-property

If you are going to allow roommates in your Montgomery County rental property, it is imperative you draft the lease agreement to include some of the following information:

  • Adult Tenant Screening. Require a full background check on any adult that will be residing in your property, regardless of whether they contribute to the rent each month or not.
  • Security Deposit Information. In addition to the general language that goes into a basic lease agreement concerning a security deposit, include additional information outlining that any unpaid rent or damages to the property, regardless of who is at fault, will be taken out of the security deposit at the end of the lease term.
  • Liability Clause. Failing to add a clause concerning joint and several liability is a big mistake on your part if you allow roommates in your property. You want to ensure that if one roommate disappears, the other will be held fully responsible for rent each month, as well as damages at the end of the lease term.
  • Breach of Lease Provision. Your tenants must be aware that the behavior of one roommate affects the entire group of people living in your property. Include in your lease agreement that you have the right to terminate the lease for all tenants residing in your property, even if only one person breaches the lease.

 

In the end, drafting a lease agreement is a large task. And, for those that are unaware of the complexity that comes with lease drafting, it is easy to make mistakes that carry far into the lease term and actually harm your rental property business, investment property, and bottom line.

If you own property in the Montgomery County area and need an experienced property management company to help you draft the perfect lease agreement for your rental property, contact Bay Management Group today.


What to Do When You Find an Unauthorized Person in Your Rental Property

Discovering an Unauthorized Tenant in Your Rental Property Can Be Quite A Hassle

Discovering that an unauthorized person is living in your Montgomery County rental property can be a very stressful situation.

It is your responsibility, as a rental property owner, to maintain the property that your tenants reside in. It is also your duty to ensure that whomever is living in your investment property is authorized to be living there.

Unfortunately, despite having a rock solid lease agreement in place, there will be times when your tenant’s guest(s) may overstay their welcome, a tenant may sublet your property illegally to other tenants, or you may simply find yourself dealing with a squatter that refuses to leave.

Today we will discuss which steps you should take upon finding out that an unauthorized person is living in your rental property. This way should you or your Maryland rental property management company face an unauthorized person, you will be well equipped to handle the situation efficiently, and most importantly, legally.

 

What Constitutes as Unauthorized Occupant in Your Rental Property?

Defining an unauthorized tenant can be a tricky thing. Some property owners do not care whether their tenants have guests that stay for long periods of time. More so, some property owners do not mind if their tenants take in additional people who pitch in for the monthly rent. The way these types of property owners see it, so long as the rent is paid that’s all that matters.

However, for those of you that do care whether an unauthorized person is staying in your Montgomery County rentals, you must first understand what constitutes someone as “unauthorized.”

Most lease agreements provide that only the tenants on the lease, and no one else, can occupy the rental home. This would mean that any other person residing in the rental for any length of time is technically considered “unauthorized” according to the lease terms.

Nonetheless, there are some more specific ways to label a person as unauthorized in your Montgomery County rental.

 

Long-Term GuestLong-Term Guests Can Be Considered Unauthorized to Reside in Your Rental Property

According to Maryland law, a guest can be a visitor or family member that has taken up residence in your rental home with the permission of your tenant. They may stay for long periods and share in some of the minor expenses, but they do not contribute to the monthly rent.

To add to that, some property owners will consider long-term guests as those who have taken up residence without their permission, even though their tenants invite them to stay. Some of these guests even going so far as to change their mailing address to match that of the property.

In the end, the point is that a long-term guest, often extending their stay past 30 days, is someone who from the outside may look to be an actual tenant.

 

Sublet TenantYour Renter May Have Found Someone to Sublet Your Rental Property

If your tenant has allowed another person not on the original lease agreement to take up residence in your rental property and fulfill the responsibility of paying the rent each month, your rental home has officially become the casualty of a sublease.

 

Squatter

Squatters, also referred to as trespassers, are people who enter your rental property without the permission of property owner. This typically occurs in one of two ways:

Your Rental Has Been Subleased

In this case, your rental home has been subleased to tenants other than the ones who signed the original lease agreement with you. Unfortunately, you might not realize this is happening until you begin eviction proceedings on your original tenant, who in the meantime has been collecting the monthly rent from their sub-tenant and pocketing it.

Your Tenant Refuses to Leave

If your tenant refuses to leave your property under legal circumstances or does not pay rent, they too are considered squatters.

The true definition of a squatter is someone who breaks into your vacant property, has utilities turned on, and begins living there. However, this complex issue involves many federal, state, and local laws. That said, if a Maryland property owner attempts to evict a squatter illegally, or the squatter remains in the property for 20 years with no attempt at concealment, the squatter may retain some rights of their own, making your problems worse.

 

How to Handle an Unauthorized Person in Your Montgomery County Rental

How to Handle an Unauthorized Person Living in Your Rental Property

Now that you have a general idea about unauthorized people in your rental property, let’s look at how to handle this situation should it arise.

Handling a Long-Term Guest

Some property owners build guest restrictions into their lease agreements to prevent over-stayers that are not contributing to the monthly rent. Often termed the “Use of Premises” clause, this might include a 10-day limit on guest stays in any 6-month period. And, should a tenant wish to house a guest for longer than that, the agreement requires written approval from the property owner. In addition, some property owners outline the consequences for “hiding” long-term guests in their home by threatening fines, rent increases, and even eviction.

The reason it is important to incorporate these seemingly strict rules into your lease agreement is because guests are not subject to the terms in your lease agreement. Therefore, you or your Montgomery County property manager cannot hold them accountable for rent or for breaking any of the lease provisions.

This lease provision is necessary because someone, whether it be the original tenant, or the long-term guest, has to be held accountable for the rent each month.

 

Handling a Sublet Property

One of the most surefire ways of avoiding a subleasing nightmare is by strictly forbidding the subleasing of your Montgomery County rental. This way, should your tenant continue to do so anyway, you will have a strong defense in your case.

However, should this scenario play out and you find yourself dealing with an unauthorized tenant, there are some important things to keep in mind while you begin the process of getting the unauthorized tenants out of your rental.

  • Should you allow subleasing as part of the lease agreement, include airtight clauses requiring your permission or that of the property management company. In addition, require all sub-tenants be screened as your original tenants were. Lastly, require all parties sign the newly drafted sublease agreement.
  • Never collect rent from an illegal sub-tenant. Once rent is accepted, there are certain tenant laws that activate protecting the sub-tenant regardless of whether they are legally allowed to be in your property or not.
  • If you do not want to allow subleasing, state so in your lease agreement. Some states will not accept your claims of an unauthorized person if you do not state outright in your lease that subleasing is not allowed.
  • If you are going to evict a sub-tenant, make sure to follow the correct procedures for a legal eviction to avoid getting yourself into trouble as well.

 

Handling a Squatter

If you ask someone to leave your rental property—whether that be an unauthorized guest or a squatter who refuses to leave—and they do not vacate the premises, you are entitled to seek an eviction by filing a “wrongful detainer” action in District Court.

A “wrongful detainer” means someone who holds possession of real property, such as a house, apartment, building, or land, without the right of possession. Keep in mind however, you cannot file a “wrongful detainer” to evict current tenants or those who are holding-over.

Here is an outline of the process should you initiate a “wrongful detainer” action:

  • You will file a complaint in the District Court
  • The court summons the person accused of wrongful possession of your property
  • The person will appear in court and explain why they are not in the wrong
  • If the court sides with you, you will then be granted a warrant of restitution
  • You will then schedule a date with the sheriff to have the person/persons evicted from the property

Again, it is very important you follow exactly the legal regulations for properly evicting an unauthorized person in your Montgomery County investment property.

 

Before you find yourself dealing with an unauthorized person in your Montgomery County rental property, it is a good idea to look into employing a knowledgeable and experienced property management company to help you manage all things property related.

Contact Bay Management Group today and let us take care of business for you.

We can draft airtight and legal lease agreements, handle tenants who don’t pay rent or sublease your property without your permission, and set the ground rules for long-term guests. In addition, we will back you in court should things go that far.

Having a property manager from Bay Management Group will give you the peace of mind any unauthorized persons in your rental will be handled efficiently and legally.

 


Dealing with a Tough Homeowners Association for Your Rental Property

 

What To Do if You Own Property in an HOA (homeowners association) That Is Tough To Deal WithHomeowners associations (HOAs) are gaining popularity all across the state of Maryland and property owners are flocking to purchase property that is part of an HOA.  Take a look at this list to get an idea of just how many HOAs there are in existence right now, with additions consistently being made.

So why the increase in HOAs?

Homeowners associations appeal to many property owners because their aim is to maintain property values, serve the best interests of those in the community, and keep some order amongst a diverse group of people.  And, as a property owner that leases a home, these are great benefits.

You want your home to maintain value.  You want your tenants to have their best interests served.  And of course, you want a peaceful neighborhood so your tenants want to stay.

 

However, HOAs have a reputation for being difficult to deal with.  And unfortunately, this difficulty trickles down to property owners, their property managers, and even their tenants.

Thankfully, we have some great tips for handling a tough HOA that you and your tenants can take advantage of to ensure the best possible leasing experience.  In addition, if you employ Montgomery County’s leading property managers to care for your property and tenants, these tips can pass from manager to tenant easily during the move-in period.

Today we will look at what exactly a homeowners association is and how best to handle one if they are tougher than the norm.

 

What is a Homeowners Association?

A homeowners association, or HOA, is a legal entity created to manage and maintain the common areas of a community.  These common areas include places such as pools, clubhouses, landscaping areas, parks, streets, and roads.

And, as mentioned earlier, they are quite popular.  As of 2012, nearly 60 million Americans live in a community that is regulated by a homeowners association.

HOAs are typically established in communities that include condominiums, single-family homes, or townhouses.  And, as the leaders of the community, HOAs provide rules, called the “Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions” (CC&Rs), regarding what can and cannot occur within the common areas of the community.

Here are some of the key traits of a typical HOA:

  • They are usually non-profit corporations
  • They have the authority to enforce the bylaws within the CC&Rs
  • Membership of the HOA is mandatory for all those living within the community
  • Mandatory dues are collected monthly from property owners
  • There is an elected board of members, most of which are volunteer homeowners of the community
  • Many HOAs hire a property management company to conduct things such as maintenance, bookkeeping, and dues collection

 

In addition, HOAs provide services such as maintenance of common area landscaping, neighborhood security, activity organization for residents, and approvals for exterior home improvements property owners want to make.

 

How to Handle Strict HOA Rules

The Do's and Don'ts of How To Deal With a Tough Homeowner's Association (HOA) in Montgomery County, Maryland

All HOAs expect residents, whether owners or tenants, to abide by the community’s CC&Rs.  However, as a Montgomery County rental property owner, it is your responsibility, or that of your property manager, to ensure your tenants follow the HOA’s regulations.  In fact, here are some things most HOAs will want property owners to provide any tenant that leases their home:

  • A copy of the HOA’s CC&Rs
  • HOA rules and regulations must be a condition in all lease agreements
  • Property owners or their property managers will be held responsible for tenant violations
  • Tenants must communicate with HOAs via the property management company
  • Multiple tenant violations can lead to termination of residency

As you can see, there is a lot of responsibility that falls onto property owners and their property managers when leasing a home that is a part of an HOA.

Here are some ways you can lessen that burden and ensure a smooth tenancy that satisfies both your community’s HOA board members and your tenants.

Know Your HOA Bylaws . . .

. . . and follow them.  It is a good idea as a property owner to read your HOA’s CC&Rs thoroughly.  Your Montgomery County property manager should do the same.  This prevents any unusual violations, such as parking in your driveway, from occurring.  After all, violations result in fines and possibly termination of your tenant’s stay.

Communicate with Your Neighbors

One of the benefits of owning property within an HOA community is that all of your neighbors are in the same HOA as well.  Everyone is following the same rules set forth by the HOA and everyone pays the same monthly dues.

In the case your HOA begins enforcing rules that you feel are unnecessary, or hiking monthly dues beyond that of what is reasonable, reaching out to neighbors you already know to voice your frustrations will be a lot easier.  Plus, you can all band together and make a common complaint against the HOA board.

 

Get Approval for All Changes

Yes, this can be tedious, and often seems unfair.  However, living in an HOA means you must have approval for all exterior changes to your home and landscaping, backyard included.

To make things easier with a tough HOA that enforces every single bylaw perfectly, just get approval first.

Getting approval will protect you from fines, complaints from neighbors, and legal trouble.  In addition, it is important that your property manager enforce this with your tenants as well.

Make sure your tenants are aware they cannot make any changes, even small ones such as adding a pet fence in their backyard, without gaining prior approval.

 

Pay Your Dues on Time

To Avoid Issues, Be Sure to Pay Your HOA (Homeowner's Association) Dues On Time

This seems obvious, but a quick way to get on the wrong side of a tough HOA is not paying your dues.  If you refuse to pay your HOA dues, or even just fall behind, your HOA may have the power to foreclose on your home.  Chances are very slim that late dues would result in the foreclosure of your home, but that hefty price for falling behind on dues is not worth the risk.

 

If You Get Fined, Pay Up

Maybe you have fallen victim to the toughest HOA in the country.  As unfortunate as that is, if you receive a fine and the HOA acted within their power to impose such a fine, the best option is to pay the fine.

However, there are three additional options for dealing with an HOA fine if you adamantly believe you shouldn’t have to pay it:

  • Ask for a variance. This means you or your property manager are requesting the HOA make an exception to the bylaw violation.  If the HOA does not initially agree, they may hold a hearing where other homeowners can come to hear your case and make a decision.
  • Take legal action. If the HOA was in violation of their power, with the help of your property management company, you can file a lawsuit against your HOA in response.
  • Don’t Pay. Although not recommended, you can refuse to pay the fine.  However, if you are dealing with a tough HOA, risking additional fines and a possible foreclosure is simply not worth it.

 

In the end, dealing with an HOA can be difficult at times. However, there are some wonderful benefits in owning property in a Montgomery County HOA that you may feel are worth the potential extra hassle.

If you are looking to take some of the work off your shoulders, and the stress of dealing with a tough HOA does not sit well with you, contact Bay Management Group today.  Working solely in property management and ready to take on the task of managing your property, tenants, and tough HOA, BMG will assure you peace of mind.

Bay Management Group is knowledgeable about how to draft solid lease agreements that include HOA regulation compliance and will protect you should any legal issues arise.

In addition, we are exceptional at taking care of tenant screening and placement, maintenance issues, rent collection, and everything in between that involves your property and tenants.

So, contact us today and start handling that tough HOA in a proactive and beneficial way.


Unusual, But Legal, Pets Your Tenant May Own

ask-your-property-manager-allowed-petsPets are a part of many people’s lives. For some, pets are just as much a part of their family as their own blood relatives. 

In today’s world, there certainly is no shortage in the number of tenants that own pets and want to lease your Montgomery County rental property.  And, should you be the type of landlord that wishes to allow pets in your investment property, there are some things you should be aware of.

Today we are going to discuss unusual, yet still legal, pets that your tenants may own.  Knowing some of the exotic pets your tenants may request to reside with them will help you decide whether to allow pets in your Montgomery County rental home.

 

Exotic Animals as Pets

For most people, owning a golden retriever to play catch with, an independent cat that comes around only to eat and sleep, or a tank full of colorful fish that float around without a care in the world will suffice when it comes to pet ownership.

However, there are other people who desire to step outside of the typical pet and opt for something a bit more unusual, possibly even exotic.

But what exactly is an exotic pet?

In general, exotic pets are those other than dogs, cats, farm animals, and common “pocket pets” like guinea pigs, rabbits, and small rodents such as rats, mice, and hamsters.  Small reptiles including turtles, lizards, and snakes are also exotic, though they are rarely banned in any state.  Parrots too are considered “exotic,” while other bird species are thought of as common household pets.

Each state has its own regulations regarding exotic pet ownership, and Maryland is no different.

Let’s look at the pets your Maryland tenants cannot legally own while residing in your rental property, or any other property for that matter.

  • Wild felines
  • Bears
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Foxes
  • Primates of any type

It is important to note here that each city, county, and even neighborhood may have ordinances in place further restricting particular exotic animals.

Your Montgomery County property management company should be well-versed in these laws before approving and placing a tenant with an exotic pet into your rental property.

Now that you’ve seen what pets are not legal, let’s take a deeper look into which unusual animals your tenant can legally own.

 

Capybara

capybara-pets-maryland-rental-propertiesAlthough small rodents are not exotic animals in America, and the capybara is indeed a rodent, there is one thing that sets this animal apart from your ordinary hamster or guinea pig, thus making it exotic.

That would be its size.

Weighing up to 140 pounds, the capybara is the world’s largest rodent.  Here are some other fun facts about capybaras:

  • They are semi-aquatic and love to spend time in the water
  • They have webbed feet
  • They eat mostly plants as well as their own droppings
  • They typically live 12 years in captivity

Though they get along well with most people, owning a capybara comes with challenges.  They require lots of time and attention, their teeth are extremely sharp, they require a pool to swim in, and their food can be quite expensive.  However, for the right person, a capybara can be a wonderful, unusual pet.

 

Chinchilla

ask-your-maryland-property-management-company-chincillasAnother rodent that is legal to own in the United States is the chinchilla.  This animal’s incredibly soft fur is what appeals to most pet owners.  In fact, they were driven to near extinction at one point because the demand for them as pets was so high.

Chinchillas eat both plants and meat and are known for being smarter than rabbits. In addition, they love to play.  However, they do not get along well with small children due to their hyperactivity and high-strung nature.

 

Axolotl

ask-property-management-company-maryland-which-pets-allowedRelated to the salamander, the axolotl is best known for its ability to regrow all of its body parts, including its jaw, spine, and even its brain.

Here are some more facts about this unusual pet:

  • Axolotl literally means “water dog”
  • The feathery branches that grow out of its head are actually its gills
  • Despite living in the water and having gills, axolotls grow lungs that they never use

For those that love to have exotic fish, the axolotl is a great choice.

 

Hedgehog

hedgehogs-allowed-some-maryland-property-managersMany people may not know that hedgehogs are actually exotic animals.  This is probably because many pets stores sell them as ordinary “pocket pets” like the ones discussed earlier – mice, rats, and hamsters.

Hedgehogs are have non-prickly quills and roll up into a ball, and away when threatened.  They spit on themselves when they encounter new smells and make squealing noises when exploring new environments. In addition, they love to socialize and bond with their owners.

The only downfall to owning a hedgehog is the fact that they are known to carry diseases, including the Salmonella bacteria.

 

Sugar Glider

some-maryland-property-managers-accept-sugar-glider-petsThis marsupial (meaning they have a pouch—just like a kangaroo) is a wonderful little pet that exhibits a very strange trait.  Sugar gliders fly through the air as though hang gliding, sometimes as far as 150 feet, using their “wings.”

Sugar gliders love to have a buddy and will socialize with their owners providing lots of entertainment.

Though they are typically clean pets, sugar gliders are not known for being easily house trained and have sharp claws that can scratch most surfaces.  In addition, they have very sharp teeth and tend to bite when threatened.

 

Pot-Bellied Pig

montgomery-county-property-manager-petsCharming and intelligent, though very large, pot-bellied pigs can be great exotic pets if in the right environment.  However, they are demanding and need a lot of one-on-one care, which many pet owners become frustrated with over time.

Pot-bellied pigs are extremely smart and mischievous, need tons of food on a daily basis, have a mean temper and can be aggressive. On top of that, they live for as long as 20 years, making them a difficult animal to handle.

Altogether, these exotic pets are a handful and require extreme commitment.

 

Tarantula

pet-spiders-allowed-montgomery-rental-propertiesThese big, tough looking spiders strike fear into the hearts of arachnophobes everywhere.  However, they are actually some of the least aggressive spiders in existence.

Here are some things you may not know about these hairy spiders:

  • They can live 20-30 years
  • Their leg span can sometimes reach nearly 10 inches
  • They have retractable claws, much like a cat
  • When threatened, they throw small barbs at their attacker
  • They do not spin webs

As a docile spider that is fun to look at, and even hold if you are brave enough, it is easy to see why they make a great exotic pet.

 

The Lease Agreement Pet Policy

Deciding whether to allow pets in your rental property can be difficult, especially knowing that exotic pets such as the ones mentioned above may be entering your investment property.  That’s why it is crucial that your Montgomery County property manager draft an airtight lease addressing all of your concerns regarding pets, particularly the exotic ones:

  • Include a detailed pet policy in your lease agreement
  • Ask prospective tenants about their pets and be sure to see the animals in person
  • Ensure that every animal has current vaccinations
  • Charge a pet fee, a deposit, or even a monthly rental add-on for owning a pet in your property
  • Specify the number of pets allowed and ban those you do not wish to allow
  • Encourage or even require tenants to get renter’s insurance

 

By defining the pet policy in the lease agreement from the beginning, your tenants will have a full understanding of their responsibilities regarding the pet and your property.  This also allows you to inform them of any consequences they may face for violating any portion of the lease agreement.

If you are considering allowing pets in your Montgomery County rental home, make sure you are knowledgeable about all types of pets your tenants may own.

Although you may not enjoy the thought of owning a 300-pound pot-bellied pig, or a flying sugar glider, your tenants might.  And since those pets are legal in most states, unless you state otherwise in the lease agreement, your tenants will be able to legally own those pets and lease your property.

 

Bay Management Group is Maryland’s leading property management company.  Our knowledgeable staff understands all state and local laws related to leasing rental homes.

In addition, we have the expertise to draft a solid lease agreement outlining all of your pet policy provisions in a legally compliant way that both you and your tenants can understand.

If you own rental property in the Montgomery and Delaware County areas, contact Bay Management Group today.  Pet policies can be a difficult thing to maneuver and no other property management company will meet your needs like Bay Management Group.

 


6 Tips to Successfully Show a Rental Property

how-show-maryland-investment-property

Showing a client’s vacant rental property to prospective tenants is one of the principal roles of a property manager.

Though emphasis is often placed on appealing to the right tenant pool, as well as the importance of proper tenant screening, the truth is that the in-person showing of the home to potential renters is just as crucial.

Staging a vacant rental property can be done easily and without a great deal of time.  With a little bit of curb appeal and a nice looking interior, you will have more tenants wanting to lease your client’s rental home than you know what to do with.

But there is more to getting a tenant to sign a lease agreement than just a nice exterior and inviting interior.

Today we will look at the top tips for showing an unoccupied rental property.  If you follow these simple yet effective steps, you will find great success in your showings.

 

6 Tips for Wowing Tenants with Your Rental Property Showing

1. Remember The Basics

Every property manager knows that there are basic staging rules for showing a potential tenant their client’s rental home.  Let’s look at those basics:

  • Do not underestimate the power of curb appeal. Make sure the yard is well maintained, the property is freshly painted, and the all-around feeling is inviting as a tenant pulls up.
  • Clean, clean, clean. Nothing turns a potential tenant away faster than a dirty home interior.  Make sure to inspect the property beforehand to make sure its cleanliness meets you and your client’s standards.
  • Redecorate or upgrade. Install new carpet, paint the walls an appealing and neutral color, fix the window treatments, and make sure all appliances are updated and working.

In the end, these selling points will make a huge difference in whether a tenant is interested in leasing a property from your client.

 

2. Pre-Qualify

prequalify-maryland-renters

As mentioned earlier, tenant screening plays a significant role in the leasing process.

Before you begin showing a property to interested tenants, pre-qualify them.  This will save you time, energy, and money and will ensure you are only showing the property to qualified tenants.

Here are some great topics to ask about when someone calls to set up a property showing:

  • Their credit score
  • Reason for moving
  • Estimated move-in date
  • Whether they have pets
  • Smoker or non-smoker
  • Number of people moving in
  • If they have references
  • Eviction history
  • Estimated income
  • If they have any questions

Keep in mind that pre-qualifying tenants for a property showing cannot violate any of the Fair Housing laws that are in place to protect prospective tenants.  In addition, make sure the pre-qualifying questions are the same for all prospective tenants to avoid discrimination allegations.

 

3. Be Safe

have-emergency-plan-maryland-rental-property

Before showing a rental property, put your safety first.  Every year a number of realtors, property managers, and landlords are injured showing homes to prospective tenants.

If someone calls asking to see a rental home, get his or her full name and conduct a background check on your state’s public record website before agreeing to show the property.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself from potentially harmful situations while showing rental properties:

  • Always show properties during the daytime, never after dark
  • Call your office every hour to let them know where you are
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors so they are familiar with you and your vehicle
  • Have an “escape” plan in place for when something feels “off” (for instance, take an emergency phone call outside or inform the potential tenant another agent is on the way)
  • Always leave all doors unlocked and stand by the doorways while showing the property
  • Park on the curb rather than the driveway for a quick getaway, if necessary

Gathering information ahead of time about potential tenants and being aware of your surroundings will ensure your safety as well as a more successful property showing.

 

4. Make a Good First Impression

Small, seemingly insignificant (yet very effective) things you do before, during, and after a rental property showing will leave a lasting impression on potential tenants that view the home.

There are several ways to convince potential tenants that this property is perfect and that they need to sign a lease right away.  For instance:

  • Call and confirm scheduled showings a few hours beforehand
  • Set the temperatures in the rental to be comfortable upon arrival
  • Turn on all of the property’s lights
  • Dress professionally and check your personal hygiene
  • Smile when you greet tenants, shake their hands, and formally introduce yourself
  • Show them the grounds, both on and off the property (for example the pool, gym area, laundry facility, parking structures, BBQ areas, or roof decks)
  • Have general information about the property on hand so the tenant can remember you later. Include things such as pictures of the property, square footage, monthly rent and deposit amounts, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and any extra amenities
  • Have applications ready for tenants to fill out immediately following the showing

In short, making a tenant feel welcome, at ease, and well informed about the property can go a long way in securing a lease agreement.

 

5. Be Informed

In addition to knowing everything about the property you are showing, it is a good idea to be knowledgeable about the surrounding area.  People often move to certain locations because they like the neighborhood or have heard it is great.

Emphasize the area’s selling points – nearby restaurants, shopping, entertainment, attractions, schools, parks, and roads for commuting.

The more information you can give potential tenants on the spot, without them having to pry, the better equipped and more trustworthy you will seem.  Plus, this information will help them to make a quicker decision and possibly forgo viewing other properties.

 

6. Follow Up

maryland-property-managers-should-have-emergency-plan

Property managers should base their entire showing process around customer service.  Doing so shows potential tenants that you are a reliable company that they can trust and easily contact to work out any issues that may arise with the property, should they decide to lease.

A day or two after showing the property, consider sending a follow-up email or making a call to the potential tenants who saw the property.

Make sure they have no further questions about the property or leasing process and wish them luck in finding their next home.

Although this seems trivial, a little kindness can go a long way when it comes to deciding which property to lease and call home.

In the end, the way you present yourself and your client’s property to potential tenants can make all the difference when it comes to getting a lease agreement signed.

By taking the proper steps before every showing, you ensure that your client will be satisfied with the amount of effort you put into filling their vacant rental.

On top of that, going above and beyond when showing rental properties can help motivate the most qualified tenants to lease your client’s property, making it a win-win situation for everyone.

 


The Most Common Lease Clauses Explained

Once your Bethesda property management company has found a suitable tenant for your rental home, and you have agreed on the terms and conditions of the lease, it is time to place those terms on paper in the form of a legally binding contract.draft-lease-clauses-bethesda-montgomery-countyThis contract, also known as the lease agreement, is a formality that each party must agree to and sign so that both you and your tenants are protected.

While some lease agreements are short and sweet, sometimes they can be pages and pages long, outlining every single detail that is involved with leasing your rental property.  Further, as you gain experience as a landlord, you may choose to add additional provisions into your once simple lease agreement template.

Today we will look at some of the most common lease agreement clauses and riders that many landlords outline so that both landlord and tenant understand their legal responsibilities.

Having a basic understanding of each of these lease clauses will help you in the future when you are drafting a lease agreement for your Bethesda income property .

 

The Basic 5 Lease Clauses

All lease agreements must include some very basic personal information regarding the terms of occupancy.

Here are the basic 5 lease clauses that should be in every single lease agreement:

  • Involved Parties. Every lease agreement must clearly state in full who the lease agreement is between.  In the case of your Montgomery County property, this means outlining that the agreement is between you (the landlord) and the tenant.  It is a good idea to include somewhere in this provision whether you are employing a Bethesda property management company as well.
  • Identification of Property. Outline the name of your property and its full mailing address.
  • Terms of the Lease. This clause determines for how long the lease agreement will be valid.  This includes the start and end dates of occupancy.
  • Rent Payment Terms. This will show the tenant what financial responsibilities they have for leasing your Bethesda home.  It should include the rent amount and when it is due.  In addition, any grace periods, late fees, and all details regarding the submission of payment should be included.
  • Acknowledgement Clause. This is the end portion where each involved party signs and dates the lease agreement.  This makes it a legally binding contract that can be enforced in a court of law.  If either party does not sign and/or date the agreement, it may be found to be null and void.

 

Security Deposit Clause

security-deposit-lease-clause-bethesda-md-rentalWhenever you are leasing a rental home, it is a good idea to collect a security deposit from your tenants before they move into your property.

This deposit will protect you from several things including non-payment of rent, damage your tenant causes to your rental property, and any other expenses incurred due to a breach of the signed lease agreement.

It is also a good idea to spell out in your lease agreement the terms surrounding the security deposit so that your tenant is clear about what is required to receive a refund at the end of the lease term.

You should include things such as:

  • The amount collected
  • Terns regarding storage of the deposit (i.e. an escrow account)
  • The interest rate the deposit will collect during the lease term
  • Reasons for deducting from a refund at the end of the lease term
  • The process for returning the deposit

Not sure how to word a detailed security deposit lease clause? 

If you are not relying on a Bethesda property management team to draft you lease agreement, look here for some security deposit lease clause examples.

 

Security Deposit Acknowledgement Form

In addition to having a security deposit clause built into your lease agreement, you should attach a separate form that will serve as a rider to the original lease agreement.

This rider will acknowledge the receipt of your tenant’s security deposit amount.

Here are some reasons you may want to include this official rider into your lease agreement:

  • Formal acknowledgements serve as proof you collected a security deposit from your tenant and fulfills any state requirement that you notify the tenant in writing of the deposit terms.
  • Acknowledgement also serves as proof that a tenant did indeed provide a sum of money to the landlord to be used as a security deposit.

In Maryland, it is important that you follow the outlined state regulations when it comes to collecting and refunding a security deposit from your tenants.

Your Bethesda property management company will understand the state and local laws and can help you handle this in a legally compliant way.

 

Lead Paint Disclosure Clause

Lead poisoning is a very scary and serious situation.  And unfortunately, as many Bethesda properties are older, the risk of lead contamination is higher than in some newly renovated areas.

As required by Maryland state law, if your rental home was built before 1978, you must provide any new tenant with lead poisoning education materials and proof that your home has been professionally inspected and certified as being safe and habitable.

In addition, if your home was known to be affected by lead point at one time it is your legal duty to disclose this information to your tenant before they occupy your property and have them acknowledge that they have been properly informed and warned of the dangers that lead-based paint poses.

This can easily be done using a lease agreement rider labeled “Lead Paint Disclosure Statement.”

 

Pet Policy Clause

bethesda-md-rental-lease-petsBethesda tenants may want to bring their pet, whether that be a dog, a bird, a cat, or even a large hundred gallon fish tank to their new home.

If you prefer to prohibit pets from residing in your rental home, you must outline this in your lease agreement to avoid any trouble later.

If you decide to allow pets, again it must be outlined clearly in your lease agreement so your tenants understand whether they are allowed to have a pet or not.

You should also include any limitations on the pet policy, such as breed exemptions and size requirements, tank restrictions in upstairs locations, and what will happen if any of these terms are violated.

In addition, you should mention outright whether a pet deposit is required, refundable or not, and whether an additional monthly rent fee will be added as a result of having a pet.

 

 

Opt-Out Clause

Sometimes you may want to give your tenants the option to legally break the lease agreement and move out prior to the end of the lease term.

Called an “opt-out clause,” this clause will essentially let a tenant break a lease early for an agreed upon fee that must be paid when moving out.

This type of lease clause gives your tenants the assurance that if something happens and they must move, they will be okay so long as they pay the fee.  In addition, this protects you in the case your tenant leaves unexpectedly by covering most of the expenses required for placing a new tenant in your property.

This can also help prevent tenants from just up and leaving when circumstances change, leaving you short on rent and facing the difficult process of finding your tenants and taking them to court.

 

Final Thoughts

There is a lot that goes into leasing your Bethesda income property.  And, without proper experience in lease agreement drafting, you run the risk of failing to include some of the essential lease clauses that serve as protection to both you and your tenants.

If you have a rental property in Montgomery County and are looking for a quality property management group to help you with matters such as lease agreement drafting, call Bay Management Group.

We are up to date on all rental property federal, state, and local laws and are focused on every detail related to  property management.

The team at Bay Management Group will have every detail you wish to have included, plus those you never knew should be included, placed into your lease agreement so that you have the peace of mind that everything is protected.

 


The Many Faces of Lease Agreements

As a Washington, D.C. rental property owner, you agree to lease your rental home to tenants, for an agreed upon amount of time.  This lease agreement establishes the relationship between landlord and tenant and many times involves the help of a D.C. property management company.Washington DC Tenant Rental AgreementWith a signed lease agreement, the tenant receives legal possession of your rental property in exchange for a monthly rent payment that is agreed upon at the time the lease agreement is signed.  Lease agreements set the term limit and include any provisions necessary detailing both the landlord’s and tenant’s duties.

There are several types of lease agreements that you should be aware of before you hire property management in the D.C. area and start placing tenants in your investment property.  Today we will take a look at the most common types of tenancy leases so that when it comes time for you or your property management company to draft yours, you will have a full understanding of everything that is included.

 

Types of Washington, D.C. Tenancies

There are generally four distinct tenancy types you can have structured into your D.C. rental agreement.  Though typically all four remain consistent from location to location, before drafting and signing a lease agreement, it is important you check with your local jurisdiction to make sure you are not violating any local or state laws.

That being said, if you have a quality property management company on your side drafting legally compliant lease agreements, you should have no problems with the provisions included.

Before occupation of your D.C. rental property can occur, you must first initiate the right for a tenant to occupy the real estate that is your rental home.  You do this by establishing a tenancy type.

Most tenancy type lease agreements have these main characteristics in common:

  • An agreed upon lease term with a set termination date
  • Capability of termination via proper notice
  • Possibility of eviction due to non-payment or major lease agreement breaches
  • Built-in responsibilities of the landlord such as providing a safe and habitable place for tenants

Let’s now take a look at the different types of tenancies available:

 

1. Tenancy for Years

A tenancy for years, also known as a fixed-term tenancy, specifies in a written lease agreement a definitive start point of occupation (also called the commencement date) and involves a fixed term with an agreed upon end date (also called the expiration date).
Lease Renewal Washington DC Rental PropertyThese leases automatically terminate at the specified end date and do not require notice from either the landlord or tenant to vacate the property.  If, however, the tenant wishes to extend the lease agreement another term come the expiration date, the landlord and tenant must again contractually agree and include any provision changes, such a differing monthly rent rate, for it to be enforceable.

With a fixed-term tenancy lease, your D.C. tenant has the right to occupy your rental property for the entire fixed term. so long as the pre-determined rental amount is satisfied each month and no breaches of the signed contract occur.

However, with a fixed-term tenancy, there are also some stipulations the tenant must agree to that may be considered disadvantageous.  These include:

  • Liability for all rent due for the entire fixed term
  • Consequences for vacating the property prior to the expiration date including but not limited to rent amount due, damages caused to the landlord for early lease termination, and court costs should the matter be taken to court
  • Prohibitions on subletting to cover rent obligations should an early termination of the lease agreement be unavoidable

 

2. Periodic Tenancy

A periodic tenancy sets an initial commencement date, though, the term continues for successive amounts of time until the lease is terminated via a notice to vacate from either party.  Essentially, there is no definitive expiration date in a fixed-term tenancy.

Though typically these types of tenancies go from month-to-month, it is not unusual to sometimes see an annual rent payment indicating a year-to-year tenancy or even a week-to-week tenancy (such as in the case of a vacation rental property).

This lease type can be written or oral.  In addition, before occupation of the property, arrangements are made for rent payments to be made at certain intervals of time.  These payments usually coincide with the time interval set for the tenancy.

In order to terminate a periodic tenancy, prior notice must be given at least equal to the length of the period of the tenancy itself, unless you and your tenant agree to different terms for termination of the agreement.

 

3. Tenancy at Will

A tenancy at will can be seen as one of the most flexible tenancy types when it comes to lease agreements.  For your Washington, D.C. property to have a tenancy at will in place, it would have to have the following characteristics:

  • There is no contractual lease agreement in place.
  • Possession of your property is given to the tenant with your knowledge and consent.
  • Occupation of your property will extend for an indefinite and unspecified period of time.
  • No provision of rent payment is contractual laid out.

In a nutshell, this lease agreement does not have the typical written lease agreement contracting both parties into a defined tenancy type.  In addition, at any time, without any type of notice, either party can terminate the occupation of the rental property.  This makes for easy rental agreement changes without the hassle of worrying about breaking a written lease agreement.

Though minimal at their best, this is not to say there are no legal protections when it comes to tenancies at will.  You are still required to provide a safe and habitable place for your tenant to live.  Additionally, prior notice must be given to enter the premises as governed by local statutes.

Tenants, on the other hand, are still responsible for paying the orally agreed upon monthly rent amount and adhere to the rules set in place by you, the property owner.  They are also still responsible for damages beyond that of normal wear and tear.

 

4. Tenancy at Sufferance

Washington DC Property Management Legal RightsA tenancy at sufferance is not an intentionally created tenancy type and is never written into a lease agreement.  Rather, this type of tenancy is when your D.C. tenant remains in your rental property after the termination of the lease agreement or when the term has automatically expired.

In addition, this is all before you have officially given them notice to vacate.

The element setting this type of tenant apart from a trespasser is that at one point in time your tenant legally had the right to occupy your rental property, and now they do not.

There are many situations that arise when your tenant decides to unlawfully remain in your rental property after a lease termination or expiration date has passed:

  • Tenants are no longer liable for monthly rent payments since they are not lawfully allowed to be on the premises.
  • Tenants lose all legal renters rights.
  • There are typically holdover fines or daily rates in place for situations like this that may be awarded you in court after the tenant is evicted or vacates willfully.
  • Any rent you do accept after the lease has terminated or expiration date has passed will legally be considered a periodic tenancy type that allows the holdover tenant to now occupy your property lawfully.
  • You must follow your state’s legal eviction process to remove a holdover tenant to avoid any legal ramifications on your end.

Having a tenant overstay the lease agreement you set forth at the start of the lease term can be a tricky process.  And, while there are specific steps that can (and should) be taken immediately if this situation arises, it is best to employ an expert property management group to manage your properties to ward off problem tenants capable of such things.

Thorough tenant screening can do wonders when it comes to placing quality tenants in your D.C. rental home.  And, while there is never a guarantee that tenants will not cause you problems, having a D.C. property management company on your side to help can make your life a lot easier.

 

Final Thoughts

If you are unsure about what type of tenancy type you would like built into your Washington, D.C. rental property lease agreement, give Bay Management Group a call.

Dealing solely with property management, the team at Bay Management Group is knowledgeable in all lease agreement types and can help you decide which one is best suited for your individual needs.  So, contact us today and see how they can help you draft the perfect lease agreement for your D.C. rental properties.

 


5 Things to Include in Your Tenant Manual

5 Things to Include in Your Tenant Manual

tenant-manual-property-management-baltimore

Finding a good tenant is only half of a landlord’s job. The other half is managing the property with the tenant in it, which can be a demanding task. To make it a bit easier, many property managers create a “tenant manual.” Even though the rental contract outlines most of the tenants’ responsibilities, a tenant manual can be a great additional resource for the new tenants. Below are a few main sections you should consider including in your tenant manual.

Payment and Fees

Outline all the ways you accept the rent, as well as the dates when it’s due. In case your tenants lose your bank account number or are unsure which name to put on a check, have this information available in your tenant manual. Mention what happens if the rent is past due and if you allow exceptions in special circumstances.

List any other fees and charges your tenant may expect to incur, such as a fee for a missed maintenance appointment or a check processing fee. If you offer reimbursement for certain types of maintenance performed by the tenant, be sure to describe the conditions of this offer.

Changes in the tenant’s lifestyle

The conditions and circumstances under which your tenant originally signed the lease may change over time. They may want to get a second pet, may be expecting a baby or growing tired of their roommate. Use the tenant manual to explain which lifestyle or other changes should be reported to the landlord and what are the proper procedures.

Basic property features and diagnosis of problems

There are many things that can go wrong in a house, but not all are equally serious. Some simple problems can be fixed within five minutes, while others can be stopped before they turn into a big mess. Dedicate a section in your tenant manual to listing common household problems and solutions, covering plumbing, electrical, appliances and HVAC. They may seem like a common sense to you, but your tenants might not have the same knowledge and experience in home maintenance.

Describe where the main circuit breaker, gas and water shut-off valves are located. Include information about the common issues, such as resetting a tripped circuit breaker or dealing with frozen pipes. If you know that your home or property is prone to certain problems, make sure to specifically address them.

…and what your tenant should do about it

Outline the procedure for notifying you when something happens. Even if it can be fixed by the tenant without your assistance, you might still want to know what went wrong. A circuit breaker that trips all the time might indicate an electrical issue. And don’t forget to set the boundaries for your handy MacGyver tenants – they may do the troubleshooting, but most repairs should be left to a professional.

Home care and maintenance responsibilities

Help your tenants understand what is expected of them when it comes to maintaining your rental property. For example, such things as changing batteries in smoke alarms or closing A/C vents before winter can be done by the tenant. However, what about cleaning a pool or unclogging a backed up toilet? It’s often difficult to draw a line where your tenant’s responsibilities end and yours begin.

Regardless, your tenant has at least one responsibility – to keep your property in a good shape. To help them do it, list a few best practices and reminders on how to use the fireplace, dishwasher, HVAC system and other home features and appliances, especially if appliance manuals are not available.

Referral bonuses and other offers

If you own several properties, especially within the same area or apartment complex, encourage your tenant to refer their friends or family members. Besides the benefit of proximity, you can offer them a bonus in a form of a gift card to a local restaurant or discount on their rent. Don’t forget to mention any other special offers or loyalty programs you use to reward and retain good tenants.

This tenant manual answers many questions your new tenants might have, and it can greatly reduce the number of calls you’ll be getting from them. However, it’s still important for your tenant to know that he can talk to a human, too. Make sure you include number(s) your tenants can call for different questions, including emergencies. You can also make a table showing how fast you handle different requests. For example, missed phone calls will be returned within 24 hours, appliance repair technician will visit the same day, etc. This will give your tenant a frame of reference and help manage their expectations.

 

What are some of the items you find helpful to include in your Tenant Manual?