Once a tenant’s lease becomes month-to-month in Houston, you can amend the lease with 30 days’ notice. There are some terms you can’t change, but for the most part, you can change the rules as needed.
While there are plenty of lease terms you might want to change, some terms should only be amended if absolutely necessary. Why? Because frivolous lease amendments can make tenants feel like you’re trying to push them out.
Frivolous lease amendments can also create unnecessary tension between you and your tenants. In the end, tenants who come to resent their landlords often file lawsuits for discrimination, and if you evict them, they might sue you for retaliation.
Are your lease amendments really necessary?
Before amending a lease, ask yourself if the changes are necessary. If not, try to manage the reason you wanted to change the lease in the first place. When that’s not possible, weigh the pros and the cons before deciding.
For instance, if you want your tenant to park in a different spot just because you don’t like looking at their car, it’s probably not worth changing the parking rules and inconveniencing your tenant. On the other hand, if your tenant is blocking access to an electric meter or shared space on your land, it would be reasonable to change the parking rules.
Here’s a list of 4 lease terms you should only change when absolutely necessary.
1. Including utilities in rent
Generally speaking, if your tenant’s lease specifies that basic utilities, including internet, are included in the rent, then you can’t take away any of those services and still charge the same amount of rent.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask your tenant to get their own internet connection, especially if you live on the same property and they’re using all the bandwidth to stream movies or play games. However, if you change the utilities provided, you also need to compensate for the reduction in services by lowering the rent.
How much should you lower the rent? The best way to do it is to calculate the average cost of services. If the internet costs $100 per month, and you both share the service, you should reduce their rent by $50 per month.
Before making this kind of change, speak with your attorney to make sure you make these changes legally. For example, if you reduce your tenant’s services and lower the rent, but then raise the rent next month, you might get in trouble for that if your tenant sues you down the line.
2. Allowing pets
It’s important to decide whether or not you’re going to allow pets in the beginning of a tenancy. It’s unfair to change this rule after a tenant has acquired a pet. Although, if your tenant’s pet is causing property damage or is a nuisance, changing this rule would make sense.
If your tenant’s pet isn’t causing any harm to the property or any people, wait until they move out to change your pet policy. If you haven’t collected a pet deposit from your tenant, it’s not too late. You can still request a pet deposit with proper notice.
If you’re afraid your tenant might start collecting exotic animals or hoard cats, find out what kind of pet your tenant has and then amend the lease to limit them to their existing pet only.
3. Yard work requirements
Yard work is hard work. If you have always provided yard work for your tenant, they’re going to be upset if you take that away. Even mowing a simple lawn can take time and energy some tenants just don’t have. Some tenants specifically look for leases that include yard work because they can’t do it themselves and don’t want to pay for landscaping services.
If covering yard work is getting too expensive, a good compromise would be to charge the tenant for yard work services you provide – at least 50% of the cost. Or, raise the rent to compensate for yard work services.
This way, you can still have your preferred landscaping company clean up the property on a regular basis, and the tenant won’t have to do the work. This is a better option than making your tenant find and manage yard services on a regular basis. When tenants have to manage landscapers, they might get lazy and not keep up with the services.
4. Allowed storage space
Tenants who needed storage space when they moved in won’t magically create extra space for their stored belongings in their home when you change your mind. If you take away a tenant’s storage space, they’re going to need to pay for a storage unit, and that can be expensive.
Think about solutions before taking away a tenant’s storage space. If it’s a shared storage area and you need the space for yourself, get your tenant a temporary shed from your local hardware store, like Home Depot.
Tenants will feel bad anytime something is taken away. Some things aren’t a big deal, but taking away storage space will be a major inconvenience to your tenant. You can get a storage shed for a few hundred bucks. If your tenant is respectful and an overall good tenant, eat the cost and get a storage shed for them. They’ll be grateful and a good tenant will always remember your generosity.
Avoid frivolous lease amendments to keep your tenants happy
Keeping your tenants happy involves mitigating the potential for conflict. Nothing creates conflict more than landlords who restrict what a tenant can and can’t do in their home.
However, some restrictions are necessary. The key is to implement the necessary changes and avoid frivolous changes that will make your tenant feel like they’re being punished or restricted.
Remember that making too many lease amendments can sometimes look like retaliation. If your tenant feels like your changes are retaliatory, they might file a lawsuit against you.
Don’t want to deal with leases? Let Green Residential manage your tenants
As a full-service property management company in Houston, we are committed to helping local property investors manage their rental properties hassle-free. If you need help managing your property and tenants, give us a call today – we’d love to work with you.