“Procrastination is probably my worst habit out of many. Especially when it comes to paperwork.”
– Tom Conti
Many of us can relate to that sentiment. Paperwork is a not the most thrilling part of the job, but forms can make your life easier as a landlord and a few of them are necessary. We’ve compiled 7 must-have forms that every landlord should have.
1. Rental Application
When filling vacancies, every landlord needs a thorough application that gathers a prospective tenant’s details regarding their income, employment & rental history, and personal information that can be used to pull a credit and criminal history check. An online application can be a great substitute for the paper version. Here are just a few benefits of online applications:
- You won’t have to decipher messy handwriting.
- Secure forms can encrypt a tenant’s private information, so you won’t have to worry about how to store it.
- Tenants can apply on the go from a computer or mobile device.
- You can access applications from anywhere, at any time.
- Some online applications are integrated with the screening report, so you can save yourself the extra step.
A rental application can give you valuable information about your tenants, so you’ll want to find a way to organize applications so you can easily access them. Make sure that you are following local, state, and federal laws regarding Fair Housing in regards to the information you are asking for and how you’re storing personal information.
2. Lease or Rental Agreement
Gone are the days when lease could be settled with a handshake and a verbal agreement. A written lease protects you and your tenant from misunderstandings about the terms of tenancy and can be a great tool for discussing expectations and responsibilities. Both the landlord and tenant should discuss the details of the lease and sign the document. It’s a good idea to have a real estate attorney look over the lease to ensure it complies with federal, state, and local laws. Make sure that your lease has policies regarding the following:
- Length of lease
- Pet policies
- Renter’s insurance
- Right of entry
- Rent payments
- Altering the dwelling
Looking for a state-specific rental agreement? Create state-specific forms in minutes with this online lease agreement and form builder from Law Depot.
3. Move-In/Move-Out Inspection Sheet
When a tenant moves in and moves out, an inspection should be made of the property to assess its condition. Each room should be checked by the landlord and tenant to see if any damage or notable wear is present. The condition of carpets, appliances, light fixtures, etc. should be noted on an inspection sheet, which is a formalized way of documenting the condition. Both parties can sign the document and have a copy for themselves. There are some simple, basic versions, which are essentially a physical checklist. There’s also a rising trend in the rental market to switch to online versions, which allow you to easily upload photos and share the report via email or text. If you haven’t used a condition/walkthrough inspection report before, take a look at our article for more information: What You Should Know About Walkthrough Inspections.
4. Lead-Paint Disclosure Letter
Homes that were built prior to 1978 may contain lead-based paint. Lead from paint, paint chips, and dust can pose health hazards if not managed properly. Lead exposure is especially harmful to young children and pregnant women. Before renting pre-1978 housing, lessors must disclose the presence of known lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards in the dwelling. The Environmental Protection Agency has more information about this type of statement and you can find more information here.
5. Tenant Welcome Letter
Some landlords let renters know that they’ve been approved by sending a welcome letter that confirms their selection, invites them to sign the lease, and provides some relevant information. A welcome letter can include move-in date, amount of money due at move-in, and information about setting up the utilities for the unit.
6. Warranties for Appliances
It’s a good idea to keep all of the warranties for appliances and recent repairs together and to store them somewhere handy. You’ll want to have all of that information in case something needs repair. Don’t forget to track all of your repair costs along with the rest of your expenses so that you have them when it comes time to file your taxes. Looking for more tax tips? We’ve got some in our article Tax Deductions Every Landlord Should Know.
7. Adverse Action Letter
An adverse action is defined as “any action by a landlord that is unfavorable to the interests of a rental applicant or tenant.” This can include denying a rental applicant based on the results in a credit report. An adverse action letter, formally informs an applicant that they have been denied based on the results of the report, that they can request a free copy of the report within 60 days of the notice, and that they can dispute information in the report by contacting the credit reporting agency. The contact information for the reporting agency is also included for the applicant. The Federal Trade Commission has information on specific instances when you should provide this information to your tenants, which you can read about here.
Don’t forget to check with your local government…
This is not an exhaustive list, and we recommend checking with a real estate attorney if you have specific questions regarding legal forms. Your city may have specific disclosures that must be provided to tenants, which you can usually find on your city’s official website. For instance, here in Fort Collins, there are occupancy laws that dictate that renters must be informed of the maximum number of people that may occupy the house. (Are you a Fort Collins landlord? Read more about the “U+2″ law here.)