Are you renting land to tenants who own their own dwelling unit, like an RV, a trailer, or a tiny home? If so, being a landlord is a little different for you than if you were renting a single family home. While renting land only is a little more hands off, there are details you don’t want to skip.
1. Create a written lease agreement
Always, always, always have a written lease agreement with your tenants. Just because you’re renting land to a tenant who owns their own dwelling unit doesn’t mean you don’t need a lease.
Having a written lease agreement is the only way to establish the conditions of tenancy and hold your tenant to account in case of a lease violation. If you skip the lease and get sued, you’ll wish you had created one in the beginning.
2. Be clear about who is responsible for yard work
Yard work has to get done, but who’s responsible? You or your tenant? That depends on your preferences. If you don’t live on the same property as your tenant, it’s going to be hard for you to do the yard work. However, if you have a tenant who isn’t physically capable of doing yard work, and they can’t afford to hire it out, you’ll need to get it done.
Whatever you decide, make sure you’re clear about who is responsible for yard work and exactly what you expect. For instance, you might only require the tenant to keep the weeds down and mow the lawn. Or, if you have fruit trees on the property, your tenant will need to prune the trees and take care of them properly.
3. Don’t offer to make repairs or perform maintenance
If your tenant is renting land from you, but they own their RV or trailer, don’t offer to perform maintenance or repairs. While you might be able to fix things quickly for your tenant, you aren’t responsible for those repairs if you don’t own the dwelling unit. By being the nice landlord and making repairs on a dwelling unit you don’t own, you could accidentally establish a legally-binding agreement that you are responsible for repairs.
Performing a repair doesn’t make you legally responsible for all future repairs, but if you end up getting sued, a judge might look at your history of making repairs and rule that you created an implied responsibility.
If you’re renting land to a tenant who owns their trailer, RV, or tiny home, maintain a strict stance of not performing repairs. In a true emergency, making an exception won’t hurt you. However, don’t establish a pattern.
4. Reiterate local laws regarding burn piles in the lease
When renting land only, it’s common for people to make burn piles to get rid of yard waste. This type of burning is legal in Houston, but requires strict adherence to rules that govern outdoor burning. For example, the yard waste burned must have been created on the property and may only be burned if there is no practical alternative.
Check with local ordinances to make sure you have an up-to-date understanding of outdoor burning laws in Houston. Go over these laws with your tenant during the lease signing process to make sure they understand what they can and cannot burn.
If you’d prefer your tenant not burn anything, you can specify that in the lease. That way, even when burning is legal, you can still prohibit your tenant from burning. Also, make sure your tenant understands they are not allowed to burn their trash. You may want to require RV/trailer tenants to pay for trash service to avoid the potential pile-up of trash on the property between trips to the dump.
5. Maintain your land
No matter how small your land is, you’re responsible for maintaining that land. Hopefully there’s not much to maintain, but if your property is in a more rural area of Houston, you’re going to have land maintenance responsibilities.
Even if your tenant is responsible for doing yard work, you’re still responsible for maintaining a safe property. This means regularly inspecting the property for hazards. For example, at least once a year, make sure there aren’t any dead trees that present a hazard. If there are dead trees, you’ll want to have them removed by a licensed, insured tree removal company.
Inform tenants of hazards
Landlords are legally required to warn tenants of any hazards on the property. For example, if there is a dead tree near the tenant’s home (or anywhere on the land), let the tenant know. Tell them about every tree stump, hole, and even the presence of mole hills.
Some hazards might be obvious, but tell your tenants anyway. If any hazards appear on a regular basis (such as mole hills), put it in the lease.
You need liability insurance
When an injury occurs because of your negligence, you can be held liable for tenant injuries sustained on the property. If you don’t have liability insurance, you should. Liability insurance isn’t cheap, but neither are lawsuits.
If you’re going to rent your land to a tenant with their own dwelling unit, make sure you have liability insurance that covers you in case your tenant gets injured on the premises. You can’t predict injuries ahead of time, but you can prepare for the worst case scenario.
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