The only thing in life that never changes is the fact that things change. As a landlord, it is impossible to predict how events will evolve that may impact the quality of life at your properties. Consequently, you’ll need the flexibility to occasionally institute lease agreement revisions to ensure the ongoing comfort, safety and security of people who live in them.
However, there is another fairly universal truth; most people really don’t like change. Thus, the challenge becomes how to change a lease agreement while offending the smallest number of tenants.
The elements of a lease agreement usually fall into one of two categories: general quality-of-life measures and hard-and-fast business measures. By and large, the quality-of-life guidelines can be changed as the landlord sees fit, but hard-and-fast business stipulations require a bit more discretion because they usually require tenants to spend more money or sacrifice choices.
Either way, to ensure your right as the property owner to institute changes when they become necessary, it’s a good idea to include a clause in your lease agreements giving you the option to supplant or amend quality of life guidelines as the need arises—with proper notice. In most cases, 15- to 30 days will suffice. This allows your residents to anticipate a change and prepare to live with it when it comes into effect. You should always notify the community in writing when you have to make these changes and announce the date they will take effect.
In some cases, an immediate change to institute safety or security measures for the protection of lives and/or property might be required. Your lease agreements should also include a clause in anticipation of these situations, granting you the right to make the needed adjustments right away. These tend to be more readily accepted because people want to live free from danger.
However, you should expect some resistance when it comes to imposing additional expenditures or significant lifestyle restrictions. The only thing people dislike more than change is change requiring them to spend more money, or give up some measure of choice. These modifications have to be tendered as amendments to the lease agreement and signed by your tenants before they can be enforced. If residents refuse to sign, you’ll have to wait until renewal time to implement the revision as part of the fresh agreement. If you want to learn more about amendment laws in real estate, read our guide here.
Bottom line, when you need to change a lease agreement, if the adjustment significantly alters the financial or social responsibilities the tenant signed up for when they took possession of the property, you’ll have to get their approval before you can institute the change. While it absolutely is your right to run your property the way you see fit (within the bounds of the law), some changes require residents to acknowledge them in writing before they can take effect.
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