Landlord Tenant Q&A

CATHERINE M. MATTHEWS (R), GRI
Broker-In Charge, Callahan Realty, Ltd.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I am renting my large single family home out for the first time. What are a few things I might want to discuss with the tenants that are not in the standard lease?

A. I would suggest that you develop a set of House Rules for your property. They should most certainly be in writing and added as a part of the lease under special terms (item 11) or other addenda (item 13) both located on page 2 of the Hawaii Association of Realtors standard lease. Although not required by any law, it is good practice to review these items with the tenant at the property to be sure they understand each item and are given an opportunity to ask any questions.

In the House Rules you can spell out rules for caring for the property, such as special cleaning instructions for glass top stoves, granite countertops, self cleaning ovens, special flooring, and refinished bath tubs or showers. You can instruct tenants not to use bleach tablets in toilet tanks so it doesn’t rot out the flushing mechanism.

You can spell out the responsibilities and rules for caring for the yard; watering, trimming, fertilizing, weed control, pest control. I encourage including professional yard service for single family homes but, even if yard service is included, rules about watering and items necessary in between service should be clearly spelled out. If you have fruit trees or flowering plants on the property and would like to give permission to pick either of these items during the lease period, this should be clearly specified in the lease, including frequency and access.

You can notate where items such as shut-off valves and circuit breakers are located and how to use them. Let tenants know about reset buttons on the bottom of garbage disposals and also how to use an allen wrench to free a jammed disposal. A beeping smoke detector means batteries need changing immediately. State that smoke detectors MUST be kept in working order at all times. Don’t assume that your tenant knows these things.

Point out when and how the trash is dealt with. What are rules for parking on the property? What if their car leaks fluids? Are there air conditioners? Are there water filters under the sink or in the refrigerator? How are the filters cleaned? How often? Who pays for new filters? Does the tenant have permission to use the attic access, if any? Do you allow appliances to be left running when tenant leaves the house? If not, state this in writing.

There are many items that can be addressed in the House Rules. I suggest you slowly walk through your house room by room and think of safety issues and items that are not readily evident and may need explaining…and write them down. Point out any “quirks” or odd things about your property. Keep in mind that House Rules do not replace an inventory and condition form; they supplement the lease.

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