Author’s Note: This is not legal advice and I am nothing other than a landlord who owns six houses and self manages a total of ten. This is how I put together my lease and I hope it makes things a little easier for you. This post contains affiliate links.
As an experienced (aka jaded) landlord, I have learned the key to treating my rentals as a business is having a fantastic lease. For me, the key to having a fantastic lease is having a tight one that is very specific and leaves nothing to doubt. This allows me the best possible recourse for going after their skin in the game, (aka the security deposit) should the need arise.
Over the past couple of months I have realized that for many, creating a great lease is an arduous endeavor. Many just don’t know what to put in their lease or they may feel that no matter how much research is done something is still missing.
That’s why I created this step by step guide for you: The self-managing landlord who wants a guide to putting the perfect lease together. Someone who wants someone to teach them all the tricks and share all the secrets, BEFORE they learn the hard way.
The point of this is not for you to copy or follow this exactly because the truth is every area and market is different. You can’t copy another landlord exactly and be successful. My goal is to share all of my wisdom and then for you to pick and choose what works for you. While being a landlord has had its many moments; for us, it has been a HUGE financial blessing! In fact, our net worth is over $400,000 because of real estate. My goal is for others to also experience the same success in real estate too!
Create a Rock Solid Lease:
Step 1 – Know Your State Rental Laws
The first step is to read up on what your state requires. I put together this awesome handy guide to look up what your state rules are regarding security deposits and rents. I am a landlord who prides herself on knowing her state’s laws. For California I bought the California NOLO Real Estate book and found it worth its weight in gold. I read through it once and then kept it for reference.
Step 2 – Buy a State Specific Lease
As you noticed in Step One, each state is very state specific regarding their laws. I take a state lease and download the basic lease. Personally, I have had a great experience with Legal Zoom and I always use Legal Zoom’s lease because it gives me the state-specific language or as I call it to my tenants, state “mumbo jumbo.”
Step 3 – Add Addendums
Although it’s great, I do not find the Legal Zoom lease specific enough. Over the years I have added all of the following addendums to my leases. Being this specific has prevented debate over maintenance questions, and eliminated expenses (landscaping) while preserving my home in the best repair and expectations.
37 Addendums that I add to my lease
- Appliances included with the Rental
- Month to Month
- Direct Deposit
- Late Fees
- Pet Fees
- Assignment and Subletting
- No Smoking
- Entry By Landlord
- Extended Absence By Tenant
- Termination on Sale of Premises
- Lease Termination Provision for Military Personnel
- Tenant Assumes Responsibility for Maintenance
- Battery Operated Device(s)
- Steam Cleaning Carpets
- Professional Cleaning
- Keys, Garages/Gates
- Renter’s Insurance
- Break Lease Option (Buy Out)
- Pest Control
- Home Businesses
- Attic Storage
- Renting Site Unseen
- Appliance Maintenance
- Duct Cleaning
- Changing Locks
- Play Structures, Trampoline, Pools and Other Large Outdoor Equipment
- As-Is Appliances
Step 4 – Leasing Tips
Now that you have your lease all completed here are nine tips that I have learned the hard way when it comes to leasing:
- I Do Not Hold
- I Typically Do Not Do Multiple Year Leases
- Base the Lease Length on Moving Season
- Treat Landlording as a Business
- Put Everything in Writing
- Rent By Direct Deposit
- I only Negotiate before a Lease is Signed not After.
- Keep Your Lease Handy
- Think Twice If a Landlord is not Returning Your Call
Do you love this post? Do you wish you could have all the wording for your addendum without searching? Do you wish you could peek, or better yet, just cheat and copy an experienced landlord’s lease? Do you wish you could truly finish your lease in one hour; let alone one evening?
Then you will love my new book.
I have not only included all of my wording that I use but also give a detailed explanation to why I include these addendums. My goal is to share with you everything I have learned over the years to save you some of the ulcer-inducing moments I have learned and experienced the hard way.
Am I missing anything? What do you put in your lease?8
A very well written and thought out book. Definitely recommend buying it even for an experienced landlord. Even us old dogs can learn a new trick or two – ie break lease clause. As a landlord who has had rentals for over 30 years there were tips in the book that never occurred to me. If I had had this book when I first started I would have saved myself thousands of dollars over the years.
Authority Property Management says
Thank you for posting this as I found it useful. I will share it with my fans.
Elizabeth Bennett Colegrove says
Glad you liked it! Thank you for sharing it!
The CA NOLO book you linked has the lease in Appendix B. What was the reason you used Legal Zoom and the added amendments?
Elizabeth Bennett Colegrove says
Honestly I did not realize that the CA NOLo had a lease. I started years ago with South Carolina and was able to find a lease backbone. I used Legal Zoom because I wasn’t able to find a backbone for that state.