New Tenant Orientation

A good beginning for a new tenancy starts with the tenant’s clear understanding of the tenant’s obligations under landlord-tenant statutes and the landlord’s lease agreement. Both landlord and tenant have legal rights, responsibilities and duties. There can be no assumption on the landlord’s part that a new tenant fully understands his tenant duties and responsibilities. It is incumbent upon the landlord to provide information to the new tenant to help the tenant perform to rental standards and fulfill tenant obligations. It is to the landlord’s benefit to provide instructions to the new tenant to ensure property management health, safety, and security standards are maintained in compliance with the landlord’s duty of care to his tenants. A new tenant orientation helps the tenant to more quickly adjust to rental practices and get settled into his new home.

How tenant orientation is handled by a landlord may depend upon applicable landlord-tenant statutes, property type, property location, and business necessity. Landlord-tenant statutes will determine the requirements and the sequencing of events for new tenant move-in. As examples, in some states the landlord and tenant are required to jointly conduct the move-in inspection and checklist, while in other states the new tenant is responsible to inspect the rental unit, note conditions, and return the checklist to the landlord after tenant move-in. A few states do not require move-in inspections, but a landlord should keep in mind that a documented inspection of the rental property’s condition at move-in can help provide defense against a tenant’s potential liability claim at a future date. The type of property, such as multi-family housing, may require more detail regarding rules and regulations than would a single family residence. Large properties, properties in metropolitan areas, properties governed by rent control ordinances, and planned unit development properties may also have significantly different requirements for tenant orientation.

To deliver a consistent tenant orientation message in a non-discriminatory manner fully compliant with fair housing laws and other applicable regulations, a landlord may consider using a prepared script to ensure that all issues are covered in the same manner and detail with every new tenant. It is critically important that every tenant receive the same information in the same way to avoid possible tenant claims of discrimination and unfair treatment. The same rules and regulations must apply to all tenants at the rental community. Using a prepared script a landlord can ensure that the tenant is provided basic but important information on rental policies, rules, and regulations.

The following discussion assumes that the landlord is acting as his own property manager in conducting a new tenant orientation. Those properties managed by a professional property management company may have different procedures for conducting a new tenant orientation.

Key rental policies are discussed in detail during the review and signing of the landlord’s lease agreement. Rental Rules and Regulations and common housekeeping items are usually discussed during tenant orientation. A tenant “Welcome Letter” prepared from orientation materials should be given to the tenant at close of tenant orientation. A copy of the letter should be signed, dated, and kept in the tenant’s file as acknowledgment of orientation information and the tenant’s understanding that tenant duties and responsibilities are governed by landlord-tenant statue, lease agreement, and rental rules and regulations.

Orientation discussion items (with examples as needed) may include:

Landlord Identification and Contact information – The name of the rental business and the landlord name, address, phone number, and email address.

Emergency Contact Information – The name and contact information of a person authorized as a 24/7 emergency contact if other than the landlord or when the landlord is not available.

Defined Emergency – A situation that threatens harm to persons or property that would require response from emergency personnel such as medical, fire and police.

Business Hours and After-Hours Information – office hours for rental business, e.g., Monday to Friday, 9 to 4:30.  After-hours requests and questions may be referred to the landlord’s message service, the landlord’s website, or the tenant portal web address.

Renters Insurance Requirement – If not prohibited by state law, purchase of renters insurance is a requirement for tenancy. The tenant is reminded that the landlord’s property insurance does not cover the tenant’s personal property or tenant’s negligence in the event of theft, accident, fire, injury, or other harmful event.

Rents – Rent policies as referenced in the lease agreement should include (1) when rent is due, (2) the rent amount, (3) form of payment) (4) manner of payment, (5) grace period, (6) late charges, (7)  when late charges accrue, (8) NSF charges, and (9) other rent issues such as no post-dated checks.

Security Deposit – State landlord-tenant statutes regulate the collection, handling, and return of security deposit funds. At tenant move-out the security deposit will be applied to costs of cleaning, damages, and/or unpaid rent. A statement that security deposit may not be applied to the last month’s rent should be included within the lease agreement.

Security and Safety – Instructions for operation of door and window locks or other security measures should be provided. Tenant requests for additional safety devices or installation of alarm systems must be in writing and authorized per landlord requirements.

Inspections – Annual property inspection of unit and grounds is required with landlord providing reasonable notice for inspection per landlord-tenant statute requirements. Other inspections may be conducted for health and safety issues and as specified by local building codes or ordinances with advance notice to tenant.

Smoke Detectors/Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms should be tested monthly. Tenants should never disable any detector or alarm unit. Tenant is responsible to replace batteries in units as required. Landlord should be notified promptly of any problems.

Fire Extinguishers – A fire extinguisher is provided for each rental unit.

Maintenance and Repair – The condition of the rental unit has been documented at the time of the tenant’s move-in. Tenant is responsible to keep the rental unit in good condition throughout the tenancy. The checklist may be updated during the tenancy if damages are discovered or repairs made to the unit. To maintain unit in good repair tenant should promptly report maintenance/repair issues to landlord. Tenant has been instructed in basic maintenance of appliances and equipment furnished with unit. Tenant has been instructed regarding operation of water shut-off valves and electrical panel breakers during property inspection.

If tenant is responsible for routine maintenance tasks, specific duties and instructions are detailed in the lease agreement.

Keys – The tenant is held responsible for the return of all keys issued at time of move-in. requests for additional keys or rekeying of locks must be made in writing to landlord.

Parking – Only listed and operational vehicles are allowed in designed parking areas. Parking of over-sized or utility type vehicles is prohibited.

Guests – Landlord written approval is required for long-term guest stays. Lease terms and conditions should be referenced for specific details.

Pets – Pets are only allowed with prior written approval from the landlord. Breeds or types of animals not covered by landlord’s insurance policy should be prohibited. Refer to the Pet Addendum for specific pet restrictions and requirements.

No Smoking – No smoking is allowed in rental unit or in common areas.

Laundry and Storage – Laundry facilities and storage areas are furnished as a convenience for tenants. Landlord will not be responsible for loss or damage incurred as a result of tenant’s use of facilities or storage.

Trash Removal – Information or instructions given for trash removal depending upon landlord or tenant responsibility. For example, if the landlord provides trash service, tenant can be advised of trash scheduled pickup day and recycling requirements.

Landlord Notifications for Entry – Landlord will notify tenant per requirements in landlord-tenant statutes for request to enter the rental unit according to permissible reasons by statute.

Move-Out Notification/Procedures – Tenant will notify landlord in advance (e.g., 60 days) of tenant’s intent to move at expiration of lease. Tenant will need to contact landlord for Tenant Notification of Intent to Move form and follow landlord’s policy for cleaning and return of unit to good condition to landlord.

Other Terms and Conditions in Lease Agreement – Reference should be provided to other lease terms and conditions that are of importance to the tenant for compliance with rental standards.

The goal of a new tenant orientation is to provide the tenant with the necessary information and instruction to understand what is expected of him and what he can expect from the landlord during the tenancy.

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