Essential Paper Trails Every Landlord Needs
Managing all of the paperwork that goes into a rental unit can feel overwhelming. In the digital age, it’s tempting to let essential paper trails fall by the wayside in favor of digital versions of all of the traditional paperwork.
Physical copies of these documents are safer than their digital versions and don’t take up much space. When you cultivate comprehensive paper trails for a rental unit, you can better protect yourself from all manner of unforeseen circumstances.
The lease agreement is the backbone of the landlord/tenant relationship. With that in mind, both parties need to retain a copy of this agreement.
Signees can readily share digital copies of the contract with legal representatives and roommates, but paper copies are safe from later modification. All interested parties can reference their paper copies should any complaints about the other party’s behavior come to light.
If your apartment complex or rental unit requires renters’ insurance, both tenants and landlords should have a copy of the policy on hand. Tenants can reference their policy when it comes time to renew their lease or should a disaster arise.
Landlords, in turn, can refer to these policies should they have questions about what they may be required to cover in the face of poor weather, robbery, electrical failure, or other eventualities.
Move-in and Move-Out Inspections
When a tenant moves out of a rental property, it is up to the landlord to ensure its remaining value. A move-out inspection helps landlords take stock of any damage the old tenant may have left behind.
Once this damage has been repaired, a landlord can complete a move-in inspection, letting new tenants know what kind of conditions they’re moving into.
Both these inspections need to be kept on a rental unit’s file. Moreover, landlords should provide both in-office parties and their tenants with copies of the assessments mentioned above.
In doing so, old tenants can better understand any fees that may be coming their way. Likewise, new tenants can brace themselves for any unrepaired damage that might affect their living experience.
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Upon moving into a new rental property, tenants have the right to complete a property inspection. Tenants can then submit these inspections to their landlords for later reference.
There are two ways tenants can submit their independent inspections. If landlords have the appropriate documents on hand, tenants can fill out the applicable forms and present them in person or via email. Alternatively, tenants who are invited to complete an inspection on their own time may create a custom document.
In either case, landlords and tenants alike should retain a physical copy of a tenant’s independent inspection.
Paper Trails in the Digital Age
In the era of email and text, it’s easy to fall out of the paper trails habit. Emails, after all, have a relatively long lifespan, as do some text messages. Unfortunately, relying on digital paper trails can put landlords, tenants, and their rights at risk.
While it is difficult to modify this information, you can easily lose it or see it altered by an ambitious hacker. If someone attempts to misconstrue a conversation you had, you may find yourself losing a significant amount of money or ending up on the wrong side of the law. Luckily, tenants and landlords alike can protect their digital information. Anyone with access to a printer can print out emails and digital contracts for physical filing.
To secure text chains, interested parties can screenshot their messages and export those messages to their computers. From there, it’s as simple as printing out a conversation to preserve it forever.
This kind of labor may seem excessive, but it’s essential if you want to protect yourself from fraud.
Organizing Your Paper Trails
Paper trails may have fallen out of fashion, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not important. When you retain physical copies of your rental lease, renter’s insurance, inspection notices, inspection results, and tenant/landlord exchanges, you protect yourself against rights violations. As a landlord, your most important paper trail relates to renters’ payments and balances.