Tenant Handbook

New tenant orientation includes multiple tasks: lease signing, a review of important lease terms and conditions, a discussion of rental rules and regulations, the communication of the landlord’s expectations and rental standards during tenancy, a review of landlord and tenant duties and responsibilities as detailed in the lease agreement, the collection of good funds for rents, fees and deposits, a review of rent collection policies and procedures, a walk-through and physical inspection of the rental unit, completion of the move-in property inspection checklist, and transfer of possession of the rental unit to the tenant. Because so much detail is covered during an orientation meeting, it is a good idea to provide the new tenant with a move-in information packet that includes lease and orientation details, and provides instructions and forms for contacting customer service and scheduling a maintenance/repair visit. The move-in information packet can be in the form of a Tenant Handbook, a manual that becomes a ready reference for information for the tenant at move-in, during the tenancy, and at move-out.

A Tenant Handbook can be made available to the new tenant at close of orientation as a printed hard copy included with the tenant’s copy of the signed lease agreement, other rental documents, and keys to the rental unit. Alternatively the Handbook can be made available on the landlord’s website or through the online tenant portal.

To better serve tenants, a Handbook should be customized to the landlord’s business – lease terms and conditions, specific policies and practices, and rules and regulations. There are many rental policies and practices that could be included in a Tenant Handbook. The following outline of landlord-tenant matters is representative of some of these policies and practices that may be included in Tenant Handbooks.

Welcome letter

A welcome letter prepared by the landlord introduces the new tenant to the rental community. The letter introduces the Handbook as a useful guide to assist and support the tenant during his residency. In the Handbook, the tenant can find general information about the property, the landlord/manager information, basic rules and regulations, rent payment procedures, and instructions and forms for maintenance and repair requests. Additionally many landlords provide safety and security tips, emergency instructions, vacation tips, holiday tips, and weather/seasonal climate tips that can be helpful for the tenant’s safety and security.

If the rental property is governed by a home owner association, the tenant should be given copies of the association’s CC&R’s, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations and required to acknowledge their receipt by his signature on an acknowledgement document. The Handbook should include a reference to the HOA documents and the responsibility of the tenant to adhere to HOA regulations.

The welcome letter in the Handbook presents the opportunity for the landlord to thank the tenant in advance for being responsible in his tenant duties to pay rent on time and maintain the rental unit in good condition. The landlord hopes that the tenant will enjoy the rental unit and the amenities that are provided for his use. By encouraging the tenant to familiarize himself with the general information and the duties and responsibilities of landlord and tenant in the Handbook, the landlord hopes to avoid landlord-tenant misunderstandings and to develop a satisfactory landlord-tenant relationship. It is a best practice to ensure that the tenant receive as much information and clarification as needed to ensure his understanding of what is required to fulfill his tenant duties. After reviewing the information in the Handbook and at any time during residency, the tenant is encouraged to contact customer service/rental office/online portal with any questions and concerns.

The Handbook should contain general business information such as the address of the landlord or the property management company, business office staffing information including hours of operation, emergency/after-hours contact name and phone number, business fax number, website address, tenant portal address, business email addresses, and cell numbers used for property management. It is helpful to include community resource information and contact numbers for law enforcement, fire and safety, utility companies, and other business services that may be of help during move-in and tenancy.

The following rental topics may be included in a Tenant Handbook with full description and details of the landlord’s policy, rule, or regulation addressing the topic. Topics are listed here in outline form since most topics are quite familiar to landlords and tenants.  All rental topics are covered in greater detail in the many landlord help articles found on LandlordOnLine.com.

  • Fair Housing Compliance policy and practices
  • Tenant screening and selection policy and practices
  • Application Process
  • Lease agreement terms and conditions
  • Occupancy of rental premises
  • Only the named tenants on the lease and their minor children are permitted to occupy the rental premises.
  • Use of rental premises
  • The use of the rental premises is restricted to residential purposes only. Illegal activities are prohibited.
  • Guest Policy
    • Limitation of guest stay without approval
    • Written landlord approval needed for extended stays
  • Security Deposit
    • Dollar amount of security deposit
    • Use of deposit per statute
  • Procedures for accounting and return of deposit
    • Itemized statement of deductions
  • Deposit replenishment requirement for damage deduction before end of lease term
  • Written approval of landlord required if security deposit may be used for last month rent
  • Fees and Deposits
    • Insufficient funds fee
    • Application fee
    • Holding deposit
    • Pet rent, fees, pet deposit
    • Non-refundable fees such as cleaning fees
  • Utilities
    • Tenant responsibilities
    • Landlord responsibilities
    • Disclosure of shared utilities
  • Landlord Disclosures
    • Lead-based paint pamphlet
    • Other environmental disclosures
    • Disclosures required by state statutes or local ordinance
  • Rents
    • Monthly amount
    • Due date
    • Manner of payment
    • Delivery of payment
    • Pro-rated first month’s rent
    • Last month’s rent
  • Late Rent
    • Grace period, required by law or desired by landlord
    • Late fee policy
  • Move-in Procedures
    • Property inspection and checklist
    • Fees, deposits collected
    • Keys/access codes transferred to tenant
  • Repair and Maintenance responsibilities
  • Landlord responsibilities
  • Tenant responsibilities
    • Tenant required to keep rental premises clean, sanitary and in good condition
    • Tenant required to notify landlord of defective or dangerous conditions on rental premises
    • Tenant required to reimburse landlord for costs of repairs for damages caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests
  • Repairs and Alterations
    • Tenant alteration or repair to premises prohibited unless authorized by written consent of landlord or as provided by law
    • Tenant prohibited from altering, rekeying, or installing locks or security systems to premises unless authorized by written consent of landlord
  • Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment
    • Tenant right to quiet enjoyment of rental premises
    • Tenant, guests, or invitees prohibited against violation of laws and ordinances, committing waste or creating nuisance
  • Landlord right to access rental premises
    • Notification to tenant as required by statute
    • Permissible reasons for entry
      • Scheduled inspections
      • Property repairs and maintenance
      • Property showing to prospective tenants or buyers
      • Repairs or maintenance during tenant’s extended absence
      • Emergency situations
  • Property Inspections
    • Health, safety inspections as required
    • Scheduled property inspections for interior and external conditions
  • Lease Defaults
    • Default of material terms and conditions of lease
    • Disruptive behaviors
    • Criminal activity
    • Waste, nuisance
    • Warnings, Notices, Landlord-Tenant Remedies
  • Termination of Lease and Move-out Procedures
    • Tenant instructions regarding move-out responsibilities
    • Property inspection and checklist
    • Return of rental premises in good condition to landlord
    • Early termination of lease and buy-out option
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
    • Mediation
    • Arbitration
  • HOA
    • Tenant acknowledges receipt of HOA CC&R’s, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations
    • Tenant held responsible to comply with HOA requirements and pay landlord for any penalties incurred
  • Sublease/Assignment
    • Tenant is prohibited from subleasing or assignment of rental premises
  • Tenant Absence from Premises
    • Absences from the rental premises for more than the landlord specified number of days require written notification to landlord
  • Abandoned Property
    • Personal property of the tenant abandoned in the rental unit handled in accordance with state statute requirements
  • Hold over Tenant
  • Reverts to month-to-month,
  • Automatic renewal with rent increase
  • Other Rental Policies
    • Home-based business
    • Pet policy
    • Parking policy
    • Smoking policy
    • Lost keys, lockout policy
    • Alarms and detectors
  • Tenant acknowledgment of operable smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors at move-in
  • Renters insurance
  • Required tenant purchase of renters insurance as a condition for tenancy if allowed by law
  • Proof of insurance required at move-in

A Tenant Handbook is for informational purposes for tenant education and guidance during the tenancy. The lease agreement is the legal contract between landlord and tenant that governs the landlord-tenant relationship. A handbook does not replace the lease or any addenda to the lease. If information in the landlord’s Tenant Handbook conflicts with the lease and/or addenda, the lease and addenda prevail. A tenant should conduct his own due diligence for relevant statutes, codes, and ordinances and review his lease agreement and associated rental documents for full understanding of his legal duties and obligations by contract.

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