Law of the Land(Lord): Setting Restrictions on Your Rental Properties

By Aaron Swartz on May 18, 2023

Our lives are full of rules. They structure our world, organize our lives, and usually work to protect us. When you as a property manager begin to consider rules for your tenants there’s a lot you need to consider. What kind of restrictions should you put in place? What is the purpose of setting up those restrictions? How do you ensure your restrictions are followed? What are some important ones to include? To walk you through some of the basics of setting up rental restrictions for your properties, we’ve organized this article to explain what you need to know before taking any action.

Photo via Pixabay

Why Do You Need Restrictions?

The first question you should really be asking yourself — even before you draft up a list of rules you want to put in place on your properties — is why you’re making rules in the first place. Rules without purpose are a pain and will negatively impact your experiences with tenants, so the rationale behind them really does matter. There are plenty of reasons to set rules in place but here are some we consider the most important:

  • Protecting your property

  • Setting clear expectations for your tenants

  • Giving you the right to take legal action (if necessary)

  • Protecting you from your tenants

At the end of the day, your rules should either be protecting you or your property in some way. Otherwise, what’s the point? Any rule that inconveniences the tenant for no reason is just not worth having, so keep your restrictions simple, to the point, and effective.

How Do You Ensure Restrictions Are Followed?

Now that you know what makes a good restriction, how are you supposed to ensure your tenants are following your rules? Well, there are a few things you should be sure to do. First, make sure all restrictions are part of the lease so that tenants not only know exactly what they’re signing up for but they’re also legally culpable for breaking them. Similarly, make sure your lease includes consequences for breaking rules and protects any action you take in that regard. All of this is important to the framework of your property management and will ensure you’re able to do your job effectively.

Recommended Restrictions

There are a lot of possible rules you could set up for your properties, and each of your units will probably have slightly different rules. There are, however, a lot of common restrictions landlords will put in place to protect their property or themselves. Here are some of those common rules you should consider for your own properties.

Pets: It’s quite common for landlords to have a no-pets policy, as pets can cause a lot of damage to the property if they’re poorly trained. Some landlords may have restrictions about specific pets — allowing cats but not dogs, or only certain breeds of dog — and this is a person-to-person decision. Consider your needs and desires before making a ruling.

Noise: Similar to pets, a noise policy is incredibly common amongst property managers. Some landlords use “quiet hours,” where the residents have to keep their volume down after a certain time of night but there are other options that make work better for you.

Altering the Property: When we say altering the property we’re describing a large swath of practices. Repainting walls, laying down new flooring, removing doors — it’s not uncommon for long-term tenants to want to make changes to their residents and make it more their own. Restrictions on remodeling vary from landlord to landlord. Some may have a blanket ban on any significant changes (“significant” being defined in the lease) or some may have a policy for what the apartment must look like at move-out (i.e. white painted walls, original flooring, etc) to guide any renovation. You have a lot of agency when setting restrictions on this topic but it’s well worth considering adding at least some rules.

Subletting: Subletting is when a tenant in one of your properties rents out some or all of the space they’ve rented to someone else — a rental within a rental in some ways. Subletting is often not desirable to landlords, as it gives them less control over their properties, making it a common restriction placed in their leases.

Number of Residents: While you cannot place any overly miserly restrictions on the number of residents in a space — federal law usually mandates two people per bedroom — you can still restrict the number of people living permanently in one of your properties. More people increases the chance of damage and significantly ups the amount of wear and tear your unit will handle, so restricting the number of residents may be in your best interest.

Rules are important to consider, especially when you’re the one making them. As a property manager, it’s your responsibility to set fair and responsible restrictions on your tenants to make sure they’re not harming you or your property while not overly exerting your control over them. This article should give you a good idea of the basics of setting restrictions on your rental properties in a way that will make both you and your tenants happy.

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