Have you ever found yourself digging through piles of papers trying to find rental paperwork that you swore you kept? Landlord documents can be hard to keep track of, but having your documentation in line is key to being successful in the business.
If you can’t find the hard copy of your lease agreement, you may find yourself unable to enforce your policies with a tenant who is out of compliance. In an even more dire situation, you could find yourself trying to prove an eviction case in court only to lack the rental documents you need to make your case.
The only way to avoid ending up in these trying situations is to ensure that you have your documents in order, on file, and backed up. Many landlords do all record signing online to keep backups in the cloud, but you should back up your rental paperwork no matter how it’s collected.
Today, learn why you should hold onto paperwork, what you should hold on to, and what to do if you misplace something important.
A Table Of Contents On Landlord Documents
Are you comfortable with the documents you collect and file for each rental? Do you feel that you have everything you need? Be sure to follow along with today’s article:
- Why Landlord Documents Matter
- What Rental Documents You Should Keep On File
- Organizing Your Rental Paperwork
- FAQs On Landlord Documents
- Build Your Business With Better Documentation
Before you start reviewing which rental documents you should be keeping, let’s talk about why you should be looking into this in the first place. What is significant about having documentation on file, and why might you regret not keeping certain things?
There are a few primary reasons that most landlords and property management companies keep a solid record of their lease agreements, payment notices, and other vital documents.
The number one reason to keep things on file is to hold everyone involved in an agreement accountable. Having a copy of your rental agreement to reference ensures that you will never be unclear about what was and was not in the original contract. Additionally, you can easily reference specific parts of the agreement if you have an issue with a tenant.
Accountability is essential in this industry, and you want to ensure it as much as possible.
During your career as a landlord, you’re likely to need to appear in court for a rental disagreement. Whether you are trying to evict a tenant or keep a security deposit but they disagree, you will want to have as many rental documents on hand as possible.
While verbal agreements are valid, having a hard copy with the signatures of all parties will ensure that your point is made. Keeping everything on file will enable you to prove what you say with evidence that the tenant is aware of the same terms you’re claiming. This can be a game changer in complex eviction cases—you don’t want to be without copies of your agreements.
Another reason to have documents on file is to keep better books for your business. Leases can help you determine when renewals will happen and similar data-focused financial changes. Security deposit and rent receipts can help you track money collected and ensure it is all adequately recorded and returned correctly.
Finally, let’s talk about something often left out when discussing documentation: the idea of consistency.
Working as a landlord can be overwhelming at times. There’s a lot to keep track of, and you’re often handling everything independently. It can be hard to be sure that you got everything done and have all the information you need.
By setting up a consistent system for forms and documents to be signed, filed, and backed up, you can help establish consistency for your business. Not only does a document filing system help ensure that you have all the paperwork needed, but it can also keep your business organized, focused, and on the path to massive growth.
Now that you know why you should be keeping rental paperwork on record, let’s talk about which documents should be included in your plans. What papers are most important to keep on file? These four categories are the bread and butter of landlord documents.
Of course, the #1 document that you need to keep on file is the lease agreement. Keep the hard copy throughout the entirety of the lease period and for the next year in case any issues arise. It’s also a good idea to keep a digital scan in case something happens to the original. After the lease is over, you can destroy the hard copy and keep only the digital copy to declutter.
If you and your tenant add any amendments to the lease throughout the lease period, you should add these to your lease agreement on file and keep the signed copy. Scan a digital copy as well. These amendments become part of the original lease and should be considered just as important.
Move-in, move-out, and general rental inspection reports should always be kept to have a clear record of the property’s condition before, during, and after the tenancy. This is important if you need to prove a reason to keep the security deposit and is suitable for planning repairs after a tenant moves out as well.
Everything from nonpayment of rent to non-renewal notices should be kept on file. Record when the notices were sent, when they were received if certified mail was used, and what follow-up will occur next. These notices are critical if you need to have a court hearing, so you must keep them.
Getting rental paperwork in order can seem like an absolute nightmare, especially when dealing with a backlog and documents you haven’t seen for years. It’s okay to take your time getting through these past documents, but right now is the time to get prepared for the future.
Landlords find great success setting up templates that they can use for all of their rentals. These templates can be easily adjusted to fit each property, and it’s much easier to organize your documents when you know precisely what you are using and what it looks like. Starting with a great template system will be easier than ever to get organized.
Here at RentPrep, we’ve invested in creating various template documents for landlords like you to use. Access our complete landlord form mega pack here and start organizing your future rental paperwork today.
In most cases, there are only two documents that you may be legally required to give to your tenant:
- Security deposit receipt
- Lead disclosure form
An official lead disclosure form is required on a national level for any housing built before 1978 due to the risk of lead paint being at these properties. Leaded paint can be a severe risk to those living on the property if they are not aware. That’s why landlords must supply this form to their tenants if the property fits the guidelines.
Many states and local governments require that tenants are given a security deposit receipt for any deposits paid. Often, this receipt needs to include where the money is being held. Providing the bank’s name might be enough, but some states have more specific guidelines about what must be given to the tenant.
Be sure to review your local landlord-tenant laws to avoid missing out on any vital documentation. Connecting with local landlords is a great way to double check your information, but you always want to read through the source when possible.
The primary thing you need to get from your tenant will come while they are applying to rent the property. You will want to get their rental application, permission to run a background check, applicable pay stubs or W-2s, and any reference letters they have decided to supply.
Once you have decided to rent to an individual, you may also want to collect proof of renter’s insurance. Many landlords require their tenants to have renter’s insurance to prevent disaster from catching them off guard and to protect the property, but that is not always a requirement. If a tenant does have renter’s insurance, you will want to have proof of insurance on file.
If you or your tenant lose rental paperwork, it’s essential to reach out to the other party to help get another copy made. Tenants who misplace their lease should be provided a new copy without issue. Without a copy of the lease, it can be hard for any party to require accountability from the other party.
If both parties have lost their physical copies of the lease, they can agree to move forward with a verbal agreement or write up a new lease. If both parties agree, that’s okay.
Losing a lease, however, can make it hard to enforce rules that tenants don’t want to follow. If this is the situation you are in, it might be time to go to court with the tenant to figure out how to proceed.
Make sure that you always take a picture, scan a copy, or save a digital copy of lease agreements after they are signed. Having backup copies is essential for protecting your business long-term.
There is no requirement to have a written lease agreement in most states. Verbal contracts are commonplace in many areas, and they will continue to be used. However, we recommend having a written agreement in place if possible.
Having a written agreement makes it significantly easier to ensure that both parties live up to their side of that agreement. The language is binding, and both parties will have to do what they agreed to or face the consequences. This accountability will help secure the success of your business and protect your investment.
While landlords are not legally required to keep physical copies of their rental documents, keeping certain documents in both digital and physical forms can be beneficial. In particular, you will likely want to hold on to the physical copies of any documents that you and your tenant sign.
The signed copy may be necessary if any issues arise with the agreement. A scan or digital photo of signed documents is permissible for court in most situations, but the original hard copy will always be better to have available.
For other documentation, such as the rental application or notices that you send out to all tenants, you can keep these in just the digital form. Make sure, however, that your files are organized and backed up regularly so they can be accessed as needed.
For some people, the paper management aspect of being a landlord is confusing and even overwhelming. However, you must keep landlord documents on hand that provide stability, security, and protection to your investment.
Without documentation, you may struggle if you encounter any of the following situations:
- Needing to enforce a policy from your lease agreement
- Filing for eviction and showing what the rental agreement says
- Tenants asking for copies of important papers
Even if you never end up in one of these situations, it’s always better to have documents on file throughout a tenant’s lease period. This security may never be needed, but it’s a great backup to have if something should go wrong. Take time to organize how you document your rental properties now so that you don’t regret it in the future.