As experienced Boston property managers, we have seen lease agreements that are as short as a single page and lease agreements that look like the draft of a novel.
There are all different kinds of leases. If you’re renting out your home month-to-month, you’ll have a dramatically different contract than a landlord who is renting out a home for the long term. Your lease will vary depending on whether you allow pets, whether your home is old or new, and whether you’re in a homeowners association.
There are a lot of details that go into lease agreements.
If you’re working with a Boston property management company, there’s good news. Your professional management partners will handle every aspect of the lease on your behalf. You won’t have to go hunting for the right paperwork and forms. You won’t have to puzzle over whether you need a witness or a notary. Your property managers can be relied upon to have a lease that’s legally enforceable and compliant with Massachusetts law. They’ll discuss it with you and in detail with your tenant so nothing gets missed.
If you’re managing a Boston rental property on your own, you may struggle to find a good lease template. There are lots of options online, but you need to be careful. You’ll find a lot of samples that aren’t exactly enough of what you need. The purpose of the lease is to protect you, your property, and your tenant. A generic lease on the internet isn’t necessarily going to do that. Plus, most of those sample lease agreements aren’t state-specific the way they need to be. Using a Florida lease in Massachusetts is not going to give you the protections or the rights that you need.
In today’s blog, we are talking about the most important things that must be included in your Boston lease agreement. This is certainly not a complete list of what your lease agreement should reflect. It’s simply a starting point.
Identify the Owners, the Tenants, and the Property Managers
The first item on your lease agreement may seem fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many leases require people to search for names. Identify the parties signing the lease agreement.
The tenants listed should be every adult who will be financially responsible for rental payments and the property. Include the names and contact information for all of your tenants and any additional occupants who aren’t necessarily responsible financially, such as children. You still want the names and ages of those kids, but they’ll be listed as occupants and not financially responsible tenants.
After identifying the residents, the lease agreement should include the name of the property owner or owners. When you’re working with a Boston property manager, it’s critical to include their name and contact information. That’s the person tenants will want to reach if something goes wrong.
Make sure the lease establishes that only the listed tenants are permitted to live in the property. You don’t want to invite unauthorized residents to move in when they have not been screened.
Provide the Length of the Lease and Renewal Terms
A rental agreement is typically what’s used when you’re only renting a property for a few months. When you sign a lease agreement, it’s typically for at least a year – sometimes longer. You’ll want to establish that time period in the lease agreement by providing a start date and an end date.
Then, it’s important to specify what happens at the end of the lease term. In some cases, the agreement switches automatically to a month-to-month tenancy. Or, you might require that the tenant signs a renewal or vacates. Indicate how much time is required for notice. It’s typically 30 or 60 days.
Rent Collection Policies and Security Deposit Details
To increase the likelihood that rent is collected on time, make sure your lease agreement includes your rent collection policy. You’ll want to establish how much rent is due and when it must be paid. Include any information about whether there are grace periods and late fees. A good rent collection policy will reference how rent should be paid, whether that’s online or by check. Always include the consequences of late or missing payments – right up to the potential for eviction.
Security deposits must also show up in the lease agreement.
Mention any deposits that were paid, such as the security deposit. Reference how much was collected, where it’s being held, and what will have to be done at the end of the lease term in order for the tenants to receive a full refund of that deposit. If there’s a pet fee or additional move-in funds collected, document what was paid in the lease agreement.
Lease Agreements Should Identify the Property and Appliances
You and your tenants will agree to the condition of the property in writing when the move-in inspection is completed. The lease should also reference what type of property it is, and what’s included, such as appliances or garages.
This does not need to take up more than a paragraph. Simply reference the rental home as a condo in an HOA community or a single-family home with an attached one-car garage. Mention whether there’s a washer and dryer, a refrigerator, or a swimming pool.
Include Instructions on Maintenance Responsibilities
A good lease will include language that explains who is responsible for what when it comes to maintenance, upkeep, and cleaning. This will eliminate any confusion with your tenants about what they’re expected to be doing and what they can expect you to take care of.
It’s also important that your lease includes the process for reporting maintenance. You want to be clear about how maintenance is paid for. Typically, owners will take care of general maintenance, but if a resident or their guest causes a window to break or a toilet to back up, those damages will be billed to the tenant. If you want your tenants to be responsible for landscaping or snow removal, you’ll need to include that in the lease agreement as well.
HOA Rules and Requirements
More and more rental properties are turning up inside of HOA communities. If you’re renting out a home in an HOA or a community association, they will have their own set of rules and regulations. Make sure your lease agreement includes them.
Most HOAs will restrict parking on the streets. There will be rules about flags, lawn care, pets, and guests. Some associations will require a separate application or a deposit for things like pool keys. You want your tenants to be informed, so make sure they have all the information they need. Attach a copy of the HOA rules and regulations if you can.
Strong Lease agreements are Clear about Rules and List General Policies
The lease should also include a list of rules and regulations that tenants must follow while they are residing at your property. Make sure to reference in your lease agreement:
- Pet policy. Even if you allow pets, you will likely have some restrictions in place. You may have a limit on how many pets you’ll allow and how large they can be. There should be breed restrictions. Your pet policy should include any pet fees, pet deposits, or pet rent. Include expectations for how the animal will behave at the property and around neighbors. If you don’t allow pets, make sure you have something in the lease that’s very clear about this.
- Smoking policy. We believe a no-smoking policy is the best way to protect the condition and integrity of your home. Designate outdoor spaces for tenants who want to smoke or vape. This policy should extend to marijuana as well as tobacco.
- Prohibition against criminal activity. You don’t want any illegal activities taking place on your property and if they are discovered, they should be grounds for immediate termination of the lease and eviction.
- Circumstances under which a landlord can enter the property. Your tenants have a right to privacy and the enjoyment of their homes. You’ll want to enter for an annual preventative maintenance inspection, perhaps, so make sure this is written into the lease agreement. Include specifics on how much notice you’ll provide. Your lease should also permit you to enter if there’s an emergency and the tenant is not home.
Policy on rental increases. Note in your lease agreement how often you can raise the rent and how much notice you’ll provide before the new rent goes into effect.
When we’re reviewing lease agreements for the Boston rental properties we manage, these are always the things we look for first. There may be legal addenda you need to include as well, depending on the age of your property and the materials that were used in its construction. This is why it’s so important to work with an attorney or a professional Boston property manager. You want to make sure the lease covers everything it needs to.
We are happy to help you with drafting and executing a legally compliant lease agreement. For this and all of your Boston property management needs, please contact us at Platinum Realty Group.