[Note: I am not a lawyer or offering any legal advice. I am simply a battle hardened landlord providing her thoughts on lessons learned the hard way. Every area is different so it is important check you local and state laws. Good luck on your landlording adventure!]

My battle-ready lease is one of the best tools I have created to make me a successful, self-managing landlord. Over the years I have made many mistakes and have had many ulcer-inducing moments. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not having a strong lease that provided a great backbone for success–one I could refer to when the times were challenging or when I needed that written agreement, since everyone’s memories were differing.

Over the years of learning the ropes of self-management, I have found that the biggest tool in my arsenal was my lease. Having a tight lease has been a huge reason for my success, as it prevents “let’s talk about it” or “that’s not what we discussed” or “I didn’t agree to that.” I have a 16+ page lease that is very extensive and is added to as things come up. I review the lease ahead of time with the tenant. Once it is ratified by both parties, I no longer renegotiate. The lease become a binding agreement between me and the tenant.

The Benefits of a Strong Lease

In the beginning I was worried that a strong lease would make my life harder. In reality it has done the exact opposite. It has dramatically reduced most of my ulcer-inducing moments. In fact I find that my tenants respect me more because I hold their feet to the fire. It’s human nature to try to talk our way out of a situation. That’s why no ones “likes” it when you hold their feet to the fire. At the same time, since it is a written contract that everyone has agreed to, I am no longer the “bad guy.” It keeps feelings out of the business deal.

I have learned early on that there is no such thing as a “perfect” tenant until after they move out and everything has been completed. Therefore, this detailed “rule book” allows me to not think about the situation or inadvertently give anyone a break. Not only is the ulcer-inducing moments reduction amazing, but it also keeps me out of trouble with Fair Housing. Remember, business is business. It is YOUR job as the landlord to protect house and leave your emotions out of the transaction.

I have found that the standard leases I have seen available to just downloaded isn’t specific enough. While none of this information is legal advice (since I am nothing other than a jaded landlord of 10 properties), I personally have found (as always, most of the time the hard way) that if it doesn’t specifically state in the lease or the…