Lease ViolationsA strong lease agreement is a landlord’s best friend. A lease provides a binding contract to enforce your property rules and serves as the foundation for a solid landlord-tenant relationship.

Part of your job as a good landlord is making sure you approve the most qualified tenant to live in your rental property. One of the major qualifiers during your tenant screening process must include finding a tenant who respects the terms of the lease and has a history of following rental rules.

Despite your best efforts to approve the most qualified, rent-paying tenant, there will probably come a time in your landlord career where you will have to deal with a lease violation.

Here’s a look at some of the most common lease violations and how to deal with them.

Unauthorized Pets

Whether you have a “no pets allowed” or a “pets upon approval” policy, at least one of your tenants will try to sneak in a pet without telling you. Unauthorized pets are often reported by a maintenance vendor or neighbor who spots a pet when there is not supposed to be one.

Solution: If you suspect that your tenant is keeping a pet you haven’t agreed you need to follow through with the terms of your lease and notify your tenant of the violation. It is a good idea to get photographic evidence, if possible.

Typically, you will send your tenant an official notice stating the lease violation and the timeline in which the tenant needs to fix the situation (ie remove the pet). This timeline is largely dependent on your state laws and what your lease says.  In some cases, you can give your 24hrs to remove the pet while other states may require 3-7 days to remedy the situation.  

Tell your tenant that if they do not comply with the timeline to remove the unauthorized pet, you will move forward with an eviction.

Long-Term Guests

Any person who stays at your property that is not listed on the lease agreement is considered a guest of your tenant. A temporary guest transitions into a long-term guest when they take up residence on your property without permission from a manager or owner.

Long-term guests may be a boyfriend or girlfriend who spends the majority of their time at the property. A friend who needs a place to crash after moving or losing their job. Or a family member who is in town for an extended visit.

Long-term guests can become a liability to a landlord or manager when they fail to uphold the rules of your property and conditions in the lease agreement

Solution: Most lease agreements have language requiring a tenant notify management if a guest intends to be on the property longer than XX number of days. Management wants to make sure that all adults staying at the property for an extended period of time are approved and added to the lease if necessary.

A long-term guest is not necessarily a bad thing, but they do need to be held accountable for the lease terms and conditions of your property and the only way to enforce this is to have them sign an addendum adding them to the lease.

If the long-term guest refuses to sign a lease agreement you might need to move forward with an eviction of your tenant for failing to follow the lease terms regarding long-term guests.

Decorating that Causes Damage

Standard lease agreements stipulate that a rental unit will need to be returned in the same condition as move-in; failure to do so will result in security deposit deductions and possibly additional fines.

While most tenants understand that this means if they break a window, they will need to replace it. But do your renters realize how much this will severely limit their decorating abilities?

Most people want to make their house feel like a home, and adding a personal touch through decor is an excellent way to turn a boring rental property into a comfortable space. However, every nail hole from hanging picture or curtain rod that is added to a window will take its toll on the property, essentially changing it from its original pe-move state.  

A couple of thumb tacks holes in the wall or nail holes can easily be patched but what about when your tenant decides to paint? Or change the light fixture in the bathroom? And what if the tenant does a poor job with the application or installation?

All these “personal touches” are essentially damage to your property that will need to be fixed by you upon move out (even if it’s paid for by the security deposit).

Solution: You lease should include specific language about decorating the property.

Some example lease clauses regarding decorating include:

-No painting or decorating without prior written approval

-Pictures and other items are not allowed to hung on the wall

-Pictures and other items may only be hung by preapproved methods

-Adhesive picture hangers of any kind are prohibited.

-Picture hangers employing a small nail or pin are permitted, however, Tenant is responsible for the cost of any repairs or painting required as a result of hanging pictures or other objects

-Any accessories such as towel bars, coat hooks or shelves, etc may not be added without the prior written consent of the Owner.

These are just a few examples of how you can phrase your damage-free decorating requirements in your lease agreement. You need to decide what type of decorating you will allow and what is going to unacceptable.

You will most likely discover unapproved decorating that damages the property during a routine maintenance visit, or if you get an emergency maintenance call from a tenant who tried to install an unapproved appliance or item that caused significant damage.

To prevent unauthorized decorating, give your tenants a reminder handout on the day they move in that reminds them what kind of personalization is allowed at the property. If you notice a violation mid-lease, send your tenant an official notice if an item needs to be removed. You are also within your right to deduct from the security deposit the cost to remove the decoration or fix any damages once the tenant has moved out.

Give your tenants some tips for how to add a personal touch to their rental with some damage-free decorating ideas for renters.

Stop The Problem When They Start

If one your renters breaks a clause in your lease agreement, you need to handle the situation right away. Letting a first-time offense or brushing something off as “not that big of deal” will set the precedents for your tenants to behave badly.

A good landlord will inform a tenant of the infraction, site the lease term that was violated, and give the tenant a way to remedy the problem. If a tenant becomes a repeat offender you may need to move forward with an eviction.

For problem tenants or for more serious lease violations, it is a good idea to contact an attorney or property manager in your area if you need to take legal action. These professionals can offer you advice and experience for how to best handle the situation.

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