Landlords who have problems with tenants in New Hampshire face numerous challenges. New Hampshire laws contain protections for tenants in virtually every aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship: from handling a security deposit to collecting rent, maintaining the premises, or seeking an eviction. This occurred due to Landlord abuses over the years. The law tends to overcompensate where there have been egregious offenses in an area of law.
Even a careless misstep by a landlord can have serious consequences, especially in an age in which tech-savvy tenants have become aware of laws protecting them.
Although the law that landlords are expected to know is complex, this site provides an introduction to some issues that landlords must be aware of in order to keep their rental units in order.
Landlords who are unsure of how to manage their property should consult an attorney. An experienced attorney can draft a thorough rental agreement, protect the landlord's assets, protect landlord and tenant rights to avoid needless litigation and corresponding expenses it involves. Moreover, we can develop checklists for safe and efficient management practices. A relatively small investment in legal advice can give landlords peace of mind and the confidence they need to manage their property in an effective and legally-sound manner.
- Protect Your Assets: Start an LLC
Too often, landlords fail to see themselves as business owners. In fact, many become landlords simply because they want to maintain a home that they inherited or bought as an investment with the hope of selling it for a profit in the future. But whether they appreciate it or not, landlords are business owners. As such, they should take steps to protect their assets.
Starting a limited liability company (LLC) or other business entity has many advantages. Most importantly, it can separate a landlord's rental property from his or her personal or family assets. This separation could become important if the LLC became subject to liability--if, for example, a tenant became injured by a defect in the premises or sued the landlord for some other reason. Without an LLC, the landlord's personal assets could be at risk. Properly done, an LLC can offer a reassuring level of asset protection.
- Get a Good Rental Agreement
Attorneys everywhere have noticed something: fewer and fewer landlord clients are having rental agreements professionally drafted. Increasingly, they turn to internet searches and online samples for free or cheap forms. Not surprisingly, attorneys everywhere are noticing something else: more and more landlords are coming into their offices with problems stemming from their efforts to save a few dollars which in the end can end up costing them thousands of dollars.
A rental agreement is too important to entrust to Google. It is the contract that will govern the landlord-tenant relationship and rights of each party. Even a facially simple one-year lease is usually a contract for several thousand dollars. Though some online forms could possibly be satisfactory, it takes a professional eye to weed out the good contract from the problematic one. Even if you do not want your rental agreement drafted from scratch, it is usually worth paying a modest fee to have an experienced attorney look your lease over and make changes. A small investment in professional advice can go a long, long, way.
- Starting the Landlord-Tenant Relationship
Landlords and tenants alike tend to be optimistic when the rental relationship begins. Tenants and landlords who are courting one another inevitably lose sight of their business relationship and trust the other party to meet their expectations. Too often, when the courting is over and the marriage turns sour, landlords wish that they had taken early steps to protect themselves.
A savvy landlord must be disciplined and have a checklist to follow when opening a lease. Landlords should carefully document the condition of the home by taking numerous pictures. They should give the tenant the chance to inspect the premises and document any damage or lack thereof. They should show the tenant how to turn off the main water source in case of a leak and how to perform routine tasks such as changing light bulbs or removing screens. They should go through the terms of the lease in detail so that the tenant is not surprised by any fine print in the future. They should collect a security deposit and ensure that it is handled appropriately. Depending on the age of the building, this checklist might include making legally-required disclosures of lead paint or other hazardous materials that can harm or injure tenants that may result in significant liability and exposure in the future.
Whatever a landlord puts on his or her checklist, it is important to be disciplined. They should not make casual oral promises or dismiss written terms of the rental agreement as insignificant. Above all, the landlord should document everything. Having a file with a signed rental agreement, pictures of your property at the time the tenant moved in, correspondences with the tenant, and any other important documents may come in handy. If the relationship goes sour, your attorney will be grateful for your diligence. And so will you.