Got a place for rent? Free rental agreements can work, with a few tweaks

Many a landlord has been burned by a bad renter, for lack of a proper rental agreement. Let’s say you’re an ordinary individual who’s moved up to a better house and are now renting your old place. It’s not like you’ve got lots of experience in renting, or multiple properties. You may possess a good hearted naivety, with respect to renting property, that will land you in trouble down the road. If you’ve always been responsible as a renter and homeowner, it’s not safe to assume that the rest of the world operates on the same wavelength.

You may regard renting out your home or condo to someone requires nothing more than a simple, free rental agreement you find in abundance online. You peruse a number of sites and find one which looks official and seems to cover the essentials. You download and print this free rental agreement for your potential renter’s signature. It looks to you like all of the bases are covered. You agree to take on a tenant and the tenant signs the rental agreement. They pay the first, last and a deposit. So far, so good.

Let’s say you’ve rented your furnished one bedroom condo to a tenant. During the tenant interview, you verbally indicated that you didn’t want pets and you required that only one individual occupy the premises. However, that free rental agreement you obtained doesn’t specify these details. You simply rely on your verbal conversation on the rules of the house. You assume the conversation is sufficient.

One day, shortly after the renter moves in, you learn from the condo association that your tenant was having a wild party which resulted in the police showing up and you now have a homeowner’s fine in your lap. Maybe you hear from a neighbor that your tenant’s dog is menacing kids in the neighborhood. Perhaps you find your tenant has moved in a roommate when your condo association’s rules limit tenancy in that one-bedroom unit to only one person.

Any of these scenarios can end up costing you money. Does that free rental agreement, which seemed sufficient when you rented your home, address all of these issues? If not, you don’t have a leg to stand on to collect on the fines you may have incurred due to this less-than-perfect tenant. You might be sued by a neighbor when your tenant’s dog attacks his kid. You can move to evict, but this process can get messy and it will cost.

Free rental agreements serve as a good template from which to work. However, have your lawyer look it over before you use it as-is. The amount you spend on a lawyer’s consultation, with a few tweaks to the agreement, may well be far less than the time and money you stand to lose on a bad deal.