Documents That Every Landlord Should Keep on File

It’s not easy being a landlord. If you manage any kind of rental property, you know that your job is full of all sorts of duties. From marketing your property to new tenants to ensuring the property is properly maintained, chances are you wear many different hats throughout your day.

Adding to the complexity of your job is all of the paperwork you must manage for each tenant in your building. These rental documents are important because they record the relationship between you and your tenants as the weeks, months, and years go by.

Keeping track of these documents is essential to running your business smoothly, but it’s also important for ensuring legal compliance and protecting your liability. Landlords in New York must retain records with former tenants and applicants for a minimum of seven years. While it’s prudent to preserve as much paperwork as possible, there are some documents that you should be sure to keep track of at all costs.

1. Rental Applications

You should retain the rental applications you receive, even the ones you reject. There’s always the risk of facing a legal challenge from a disqualified applicant, so holding onto their rental application can help you protect your liability.

Rental applications should cover information such as the following:

  • Contact information
  • Current and previous residence
  • Proof of income
  • Employment history
  • References
  • Authorization to background checks (credit report and criminal record search)

If you disqualified an applicant for a legal reason based on information they provided in their application (or failed to disclose), you can point toward this in your defense.

2. Background Checks & Credit Reports

Not only should you retain proof of the applicant’s consent to a background check and a pull of their credit report, but you should hold onto these documents themselves. Again, they can protect your liability if you choose to disqualify an applicant. They can also offer evidence if it turns out an applicant you accepted as a tenant was untruthful with their application and you need to pursue eviction.

You should also consider retaining other screening documents, such as information you received from an applicant’s previous landlords.

3. Original Lease Agreements & Renewals

It might seem like a no-brainer to hold onto tenant and former tenant lease agreements and renewal documents, but not every landlord does. Some assume that once a tenant moves out, their obligation to retain these records ends. This is simply not the case in New York because, again, all tenant records must be kept for at least seven years.

As a landlord, though, you should want to hold onto your lease agreements as long as possible to protect your liability. Your lease outlines your legal relationship with each of your tenants, and not every tenant may be on the same lease at the same time. For example, you may have tenants occupying the premises on renewed leases at the same time other tenants are occupying on a month-to-month basis.

4. Renter Payments

Renter payment problems are the most common legal issues that come between landlords and tenants. If a tenant is late on their rent, you may need to apply late charges. If they continue to forgo their obligation to pay rent, you may need to pursue eviction.

Protecting your right to take either of these actions can hinge on how well you keep track of your tenants’ payments. If you don’t already, you should consider issuing receipts to help in this regard.

5. Any Formal Communications with Tenants

Whether it’s a welcome letter, notice of building maintenance, warnings about complaints from other tenants, or potential lease violations, you should retain all formal communications you have with your tenants. Doing so is important because it can help you keep a record of when certain events occurred, such as an elevator repair or a noise complaint.

You should also keep track of any emails or texts you have with your tenants. Although these may be information and might not seem significant right now, they can be invaluable records in the future.

6. Move-In & Move-Out Checklists

Landlords sometimes need to charge tenants for damage or cleanup after they move out. Protecting your right to pursue payment for these charges is possible when you retain accurate records of a unit’s condition prior to a tenant’s move-in and its condition after they move out.

These checklists should cover as many identifiable features in the unit as possible and provide a way to record their condition. If new flooring was installed prior to move-in but is scratched upon move-out, you may need to charge the tenant for the cost of repairing such damage.

In addition to these checklists, you should also consider retaining timestamped photographic evidence of damage.

Digitally Archive Your Records with Acro Photo Print Inc.

Maintaining tenant and applicant records for seven years can take up a lot of valuable storage space, but you can eliminate the physical presence of these documents by going digital.

When you have Acro Photo Print Inc. digitally scan your company’s most important documents, you can retain them on your computer’s hard drive or in the cloud for as long as necessary. This not only frees up space in your office, but it can also protect these important documents from damage or loss caused by fire, water, pests, and theft.

If you want to learn more about document scanning services for landlords and property managers, don’t hesitate to contact us online!