Candace Webb reports:
"Whether you are renting to your sister, [your] best friend or a complete stranger, miscommunication can destroy even the strongest landlord-tenant relationship. The best way to prevent this is to agree from the outset that everything must be in writing so there is no misunderstanding. A good way to approach tenants at the beginning is to remind them that requiring letters of permission for various things not only protects you but also protects them from any misunderstanding you might have about their actions. Let them know they need to put the request in writing to you and that you will respond in writing. Allowing the communication to be handled through email will be helpful to everyone involved. It is [quick and easy] and can be printed off for filing if needed...Basically, a permission or authorization letter should be requested for anything that is outside the lease or normal day-to-day living in your rental unit. Painting the walls should require written permission. And if you give permission, be sure to include whether they must return the walls to the original color when they vacate the premises...Other things that typically should require written permission include changing the [I]nternet or cable provider to include a dish or other physical changes, any structural changes to the building, additions of sheds or carports, expensive repairs or getting pets. The problem with some [I]nternet providers is that the company comes out and installs a satellite dish on the building or property, but when the tenant moves out, the company never comes back to get it. Landlords are frequently stuck dealing with unwanted dishes. If you decide to allow your tenant to use such services in your rental unit, be sure to state in the letter of permission that they must remove the dish upon vacating the premises. Most [I]nternet companies will also require a written statement from you that you give them permission to place their equipment on your property. Read their guidelines carefully to be sure the tenant is responsible for any equipment and that you the property owner will not be held liable for any damages to it. Use the same terminology when it comes to installing sheds, carports or other things on the property. The tenant must remove it when vacating, or you will have the right to keep it after a certain amount of time. Check with your state laws to determine what time frame applies and whether you can charge storage fees for it. Authorization letters are sometimes requested for intangible tenant needs as well. Things like running a business out of your residential unit or having a guest stay longer than the lease allows are common reasons for letter requests. If you choose to allow such things, be sure to include in the letter tha[t] the tenant must comply with all city, county and state rules for home-based businesses. Naming the state, county and city in the letter will avoid any claim of misunderstanding later. As you might already know, subletting is an animal all its own. It frequently happens without the landlord knowing. If your tenant is honest enough to request permission, tell him to put it in writing and include the dates requested, the reason for the sublet and the person who will be living in the unit. When you write the letter of permission, clearly address who is responsible if the subletting tenant does not pay rent or damages the property while renting from your tenant.
Requiring requests in writing and providing letters of permission is a good business practice. They give you evidence if you ever have to go to court to collect damages from a tenant. Outline details in the letter and have the tenant sign and return to you, either by email or [by] the United States Postal Service so you have proof that the tenant knew the stipulations you put on the permission. Be sure to include dates, the property address, the tenant's full name, the request details and your permission with any stipulations."
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