What’s the best way to get a new tenancy off to a good start?

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A clearly written lease or rental agreement is the key to starting a new tenancy. But there’s more to establishing a positive attitude when new tenants move in. 

First, you should inspect the property with the tenant and photograph the unit. This will help you eliminate security deposits disputes about the state of the property when the tenant moved in. It’s also the law in some states that landlords give new tenants a written statement of the condition of the premises at move-in time, including a comprehensive list of existing damage. But even if your state does not legally require this type of procedure, it’s a good idea to inspect the rental unit before a new tenant moves in.

Nolo offers a downloadable Landlord-Tenant Checklist that you can use for this purpose. It provides an inventory of the condition (and furnishings) of the rental property at the beginning—and at the end—of a tenancy. This type of checklist is a great way to protect both you and your tenant when the tenant moves out and wants the deposit returned. As a visual backup to your checklist, take photos or videos of the rental unit before a new tenant moves in.

The second way to get a tenancy off to a good start is to give new tenants a move-in letter that highlights key lease terms (such as where and when rent is due, how the deposit will be used, and the like), and explains any practical rules or procedures that are too detailed to include in your lease, such as garbage and recycling pickup days, and the name and phone number of your manager (if any). Nolo offers a digital Move-In Letter you can use for this purpose.

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