Residential Landlord Basics

  1. Use a detailed lease
  2. Require a credit and background check
  3. Do not forget the move-in inspection
  4. Serve a 3-day notice if rent is late
  5. Conduct repairs in a timely manner
  6. Keep up to date with local and state landlord/tenant laws
  7. A partnership between attorney and client

#1 Use a detailed lease

One of the most common mistakes landlords make is using a generic or boilerplate (over the counter) lease. These leases often have general terms that are not state-specific and/or adequately detailed. Preparation and use of a detailed lease should include terms for deposit (refundable or not), names of all tenants, use and misuse of premises etc. A specific lease can go into detail about parking, maintenance, noise, pets, utilities and so on. A detailed lease can address potential problems and concerns that sometimes plague tenancies.

#2 Require a credit and background check

Landlords work hard to purchase a real estate investment and sometimes harder to maintain and protect it. A credit check and background check will give you immediate information on individuals who will reside and essentially be partly responsible for your investment. Remember to request these checks on all adults residing in the property and to check their identification to ensure they are who they claim to be.

#3 Do not forget the move-in inspection

A common mistake or lapse is failing to get a signed and dated move-in inspection. Make sure the tenant completes a move-in inspection checklist either before or immediately after moving into the property. If you disagree with the tenant’s description of a certain part of the premises, then discuss it to your satisfaction.

#4 Serve a 3-day notice if rent is late

Don’t fall into the habit of overlooking late rent. If landlords ignore late rent, tenants may get into a habit of sending it late each month. When a landlord attempts to charge late fees or enforce the terms of the lease, it may be too late or the tenant may not take it seriously.

#5 Conduct repairs in a timely manner

A landlord has specific duties required by the state. A landlord is required to repair certain items immediately and other items within a specific time period and finally some repairs may be the duty of the tenant. Failure to investigate and repair these items can be breach of a lease and can result in a rent reduction in some situations.

#6 Keep up to date with local and state landlord/tenant laws

Seattle has specific ordinances that apply to rental properties in its jurisdiction. The State of Washington likewise has specific laws that often change year to year. It is a landlord’s duty to follow these laws and to ensure compliance with local and state regulations.

#7 A partnership between attorney and client

Tenants will appreciate and respect your property if you show them respect and basic fairness. Even when you need to impose consequences upon an irresponsible tenant (such as a 3-day notice or even an eviction), treating the tenant with simple respect often helps to make the process go smoother and avoid damaging accusations by a bitter tenant. Such accusations, whether true or not, can cost you time and money. A landlord can promote a good landlord-tenant relationship with communication and friendliness.

We make no promises or representations about the accuracy of this information, or how it applies to your particular case. These articles are designed to give you ideas to co
nsider and discuss with an attorney, but are no substitute for legal advice, and must not be used as such.