As a landlord, you will be required to do some paperwork but being prepared and keeping certain documents readily available will make your life as a landlord easier.

Once you have created the documents on this list, electronically store them in a secure, but easily accessible place such as Dropbox or Google Drive.  Electronic storage is not only safer than paper storage in case of disaster it also allows you access to the documents at any time on your computer or phone.

1. Move-in Checklist

A move-in checklist allows you to document a property’s condition immediately before a tenant takes possession.  Aside from normal wear and tear, the property should be returned to you in the same condition it was in at the time of move in.  Without a move-in checklist, a tenant can easily claim any subsequent damage was pre-existing and could challenge the costs you deduct from the security deposit at the time of move out.  For both you and the tenant’s peace of mind, prior to move in, fill out a move-in checklist in front of the tenant and you and he sign it.  It also does not hurt to take pictures or video of the property at the same time to keep on file.

Move-in Checklist

2. Rental Application

Every prospective tenant or co-signer to the lease should fill out a Rental Application because you want to run a credit check on all of those who will be living at or responsible for paying rent for your property.  You should also require each tenant’s two most recent paystubs and if a tenant is self-employed, ask for a bank statement that shows deposits going into his account.

Screening all parties responsible for the rent reduces your chances of ending up with a tenant who does not pay.  (Always run the credit checks yourself and never allow a tenant to supply his own credit report).

Running a credit check not only helps protect against deadbeat tenants but is also important because if an applicant does not have great credit you are legally allowed to ask for double the rent for an unfurnished property and three times the rent on a furnished property.

3. Emergency Contact Information

You should have each tenant provide you with at least three emergency contacts, either within the lease or as a separate document.  Having this information is not only vital in the case of injury or serious illness, but provides you additional resources to contact if the tenant abandons the property and owes you rent.

4. Lease

A Lease is a necessity when you rent out your property, no matter your relationship with the tenant(s).

Every lease should include the rent amount, when it is due, what type of payments you accept, the lease term, and the amount of the security deposit required.  The lease should list the name of all tenants and should be signed by each so that you can collect the full rent from any one of them or break the lease if any one of them violates a term.

The lease should also include when you are able to enter the property (e.g. for inspections, showings or repairs); whether or not you allow pets, and if so any restrictions in breed, size or number; as well as any occupancy restrictions you want to impose on the property.

Lease Sample

5. Addenda (if applicable)

If you forgot to include something in the original lease or if unforeseen but acceptable circumstances arise with a tenant, just create an addendum to the original lease.  An addendum should contain the new terms or changes; the date created; and should be signed by you and each tenant.  The addendum should be stored with the original lease, as once executed it becomes part of the lease.

Addendum Sample

6. Maintenance and Mortgage Records

Keep records of all maintenance and mortgage information on the property. This includes SDGE bills as well. Also, keep a record of all warranties. This can save you time and money down the road.

7. Utilities

Whether it is you or the tenant who will be responsible for paying the utilities, keep a list of all the utilities and their contact information for each property you own.   If it is you who is responsible for the utilities, such a list makes it easier for you to keep track as to what needs to be paid for each month.  If it is the tenant who is responsible for the utilities, provide the list to the tenant upon move in so nothing is overlooked.

8. Lease Renewal Letter

A lease renewal letter allows you to determine whether your tenant intends to stay and renew his lease or move out at the end of the current lease.  A lease renewal letter should inform the tenant when the current lease expires and of any rent increase if he chooses to enter into another lease for the property.  A lease renewal letter should be mailed to your tenant about two months before the current lease is set to expire and you should keep a sample letter on file to make it easy to generate when it is time to send out.  Remember, if you allow your tenant to stay after the lease expires he becomes a month-to-month tenant.

Lease Renewal Letter

9. Move-Out Letter

A move-out letter provides your tenant with instructions on what to do when it is time for them to move out.  It should include information on where to leave/deliver the keys and the date and time they are to be out of the property.   The letter should inform the tenant that the unit is to be left clean and undamaged, and include any specific cleaning requirements you may have as well as any costs you plan to impose for removing abandoned items or trash from the property.

Mail the move-out letter to the tenant several weeks before the scheduled move out and ask for a forwarding address where you should send the security deposit or explanation of any charges against it.

Move-out Letter

10. Move-Out Checklist

Like the move-in checklist, the move-out checklist should be prepared with tall tenants present and signed by both you and the tenant(s).  You may choose to create the list prior to move out day so the tenant has an opportunity to repair any damages himself or you may choose to create it after the tenant moves out so you can point out and document any damages that you will be repairing with portions of the security deposit.