Beyond a Free Lease Agreement Template: Legal Things to Know

By Real Property Associates

While it's true that you don't need a law degree to become a landlord, most property owners find they need to brush up on some key aspects of the law when they start renting properties out and writing their leases. Renters trust you to provide a safe, decent place to live that complies with all laws. In addition, understanding the law can help prevent lawsuits and fines as a result of how you operate your rental properties. 

The law sets out guidance so that renters and property owners know what they need to do during a tenancy. Regulations also govern how property owners can manage renters and enforce the lease. Today the best real property management Seattle offers goes over some key legal details to verify before renting a property out.

Your Rental Property Must Be Safe and Secure

Every rental property must follow essential rules to make it habitable for humans to live there, including clean running water, functional plumbing, electricity that works reliably and without hurting people, and access to heat when it is cold outside. At the same time, rental units should also be protected against perils through detectors for fire and carbon monoxide. In addition, they should have fire extinguishers and deadbolt locks as additional measures to keep the home secure.

While it's crucial to abide by the minimum legal standards, don't stop there. Work with a property manager to ensure rental properties are comfortable and attractive while complying with all regulations for safe housing. 

Your Tenant Screening Process Must Be Discrimination-Free

Renter screening is a valuable process that can save you a lot of trouble, but only if you use factors that genuinely impact whether a person can reliably pay their rent. For example, if you have a potential renter who has proof of income and a good track record as a renterbut who has red hair and you've had one renter in the past with red hair who caused you lots of troubleyou cannot deny their application purely out of dislike for redheads. 

happy loving young family celebrating relocation

Instead, your screening process should, ideally, only give you relevant details, including references from past landlords, background check details that impact your ability to pay, and proof of income that would be enough to pay the rent. By making your choice based on only reasonable (and legal) factors, you avoid discriminating (intentionally or unintentionally).

Your Lease Agreement Needs Disclosures and to Be Fully Legal

Property owners should talk with a local attorney specializing in rental law to ensure that their lease has all the necessary disclosures. However, you can also work with the best real property management Seattle has to offer since they also have insights into legal requirements for rental agreements. You don't want to get in trouble for an illegal lease since it can undermine your ability to enforce critical elements of the lease. 

Include all necessary details in the document, in addition to legal disclosures. If your rental rate, security deposit, and lease term aren't clearly stated in the lease, you may be asking for ambiguity that could cause trouble if you ever have to go to eviction court with a renter after a notice to vacate. 

You also don't want to pull a free lease agreement off the internet without customizing it. Free lease templates often miss critical information pertaining to local laws and your property details.

You're Responsible For Repairs

The law doesn't allow real estate investors to leave renters high and dry regarding repairs and maintenance. Learn about the standards for safe housing so that you know your responsibilities when a property needs repair. Of course, property owners also must make sure renters know that you cannot magically know about an issue if they don't communicate. However, making it simple to get a support ticket into your system is an excellent way to ensure they report needed maintenance or repairs. 

man repairing kitchen plumbing

One good way to ensure that you maintain your responsibilities is by using a move-in checklist and a move-out inspection. These tasks and documents help you to evaluate the state of the property when a new renter moves in and out. Then you can talk through any issues discovered during inspections and assess repairs to keep properties in excellent condition. 

Let the Best Real Property Management Seattle Offers Help You Comply With Laws

While a great property manager isn't a substitute for your own research or an experienced real estate attorney, learning the ins and outs of legal property rentals is much better with the right help. At Real Property Associates, we take good care of our clients, helping them avoid pitfalls and illegal behaviors. We love helping rental property owners reach their full potential, and we work hard to avoid having anything fall through the cracks. Reach out soon to learn more about our property management services!

Download our "Expert Guide to Rental Property Management" for more tips for success!

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