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Real estate investing

8 common lease violations and how to handle them

A lease is a legal agreement between a property owner and a resident, and both parties are required to comply with all its terms. So it's very important for both parties to understand the provisions of the lease and what constitutes a violation, major or minor.

Certain lease violations, such as late rent to property damage, occur more often than others. Fortunately, there are some ways to avoid them.

1. Unpermitted pets

Pets can cause harm to a property, which is why so many owners prohibit them. Nonetheless, residents will sometimes try to sneak them in. Making it clear that having pets in the property is grounds for eviction may help avoid this problem.

Owners could also decide to allow residents to have pets, and charge slightly higher rent to cover any potential damage.

However, it is illegal to disallow service animals or emotional support animals.

2. Unsanitary conditions

An unclean home is an invitation to pests. Providing clear information about expectations for trash removal and providing sufficient containers and information on trash removal schedules is crucial.

3. Smoking indoors

Owners have the right to ban smoking indoors and around a property. Smoking can discolor home interiors, cause burns, and leave a smell. Banning smoking is also crucial for fire prevention

Owners can check for signs of indoor smoking during routine inspections.

If an owner wants to maintain a good relationship with a resident who smokes, they may wish to allow smoking outside (including a roof, patio, or balcony).

4. Noise disturbances 

Residents are entitled to what is known as "quiet enjoyment" of their property, so residents aren't free to create so much noise that it impinges on their neighbors' enjoyment of their home. Owners can establish quiet hours or find other ways to set noise limits.

What is reasonable noise and what is excessive noise can be a matter of opinion, and owners are required to issue warnings before starting an eviction proceeding.

5. Long-term guests

To prevent unwanted long-term guests, owners can include a provision in the lease agreement that stipulates how many days guests are allowed to stay. A lease can provide for consequences if that number is exceeded, such as a rental fee of $500 per person per month or immediate lease termination.

It's important to make this very clear to residents because technology has made it easier to sublet the space without permission or to use it as an Airbnb.

6. Property damage

Residents are responsible for any damage beyond normal wear and tear. When conducting a walk-through, it is advisable to discuss what wear and tear means, and make clear to the resident that they are responsible for anything beyond that.

It's important to document any damage to the property. This provides proof when compared with documentation before the resident moved in. Then, the owner can get estimates from contractors of what it will cost to repair the damage, and discuss it with the resident.

If necessary, the owner can deduct the cost of the repair from the security deposit. It's a good idea to provide the resident with an itemized list of the damages along with photos.

7. Habitual nonpayment of rent

counting money

From late rent to property damage, certain lease violations occur more often than others. Here are eight common violations and how to prevent them. (Credit: Getty Images)

Nonpayment of rent is among the most challenging situations property owners can face. An occasional late payment can happen even to the most responsible renter, but recurring late payment constitutes a violation.

Laws governing how much time residents have to pay or move before eviction vary state to state.

Using an online payment system reduces the likelihood of rent being delayed or lost in the mail.

8. Property owners violating lease agreements

Residents aren’t the only ones who can violate a lease agreement; so can property owners.

For example, residents are entitled to privacy. Owners are not allowed to enter a rental unit whenever they want. Residents must be given reasonable notice.

If their rights are violated, residents can report a code violation or sue. This can result in withheld rent, lease agreement termination, or fines.

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