Rental applications, leases, and virtually every landlord form you’ve heard of – and some that you’ve never heard of, used to be in the exclusive domain of lawyers. But today, legal form books allow landlords to seize control of rental forms, and to save a bunch of money in the process
But will these preprinted rental forms work for you?
The answer is yes, if you know how to use them.
What Preprinted Forms Can Do For You
Preprinted forms can save you a significant amount of money in legal fees over having a lawyer draft a document from start to finish. In all likelihood, the lawyer will use the same basic form, but they will charge you more for it.
What Preprinted Forms Can’t Do
The value of the form you choose is based on the reputation of the rental forms publisher. Make sure to choose a service that guides you through variations, and offers updates as laws change.
Most form services DO NOT track city or county ordinances.
You will still need to have a lawyer review the completed form, at least initially. But reviewing a well-drafted lease takes far less time than drafting it – so you’ll save $$$$.
Here’s a checklist to follow to allow your preprinted rental forms work for you:
1) Start with a current, form from a reputable provider. Avoid forms posted on the Internet, forms given to you by individuals, especially if from a different state, and forms marked standard, found in stores.
2) Insert your information into the form.
3) Show the completed forms to a landlord-tenant attorney licensed in the same state as the property.
4) Make the changes the lawyer recommends,and DO NOT MAKE MODIFICATIONS to that document on a case-by-case basis unless you run it past an attorney each time. Keep a clean copy of your original form.
5) Find a way to receive updates regarding changes in the law. The lawyer may provide this service via email or newsletters, or you may be able to sign up for a subscription update service from your forms provider. You can also purchase updated forms periodically to compare to the old ones.
AAOA staff recommends Leases and Rental Agreements from Nolo, written by experts Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, and Janet Portman.
Take a tour of our Rental Forms page. Many are free!
Check out our series How to Draft a Solid Lease Agreement.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your rental housing investment, including real estate forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.