You’ve discovered that the lease your tenant signed left out some important rules or information. Or you’ve realized after a tenant has moved into your rental that it would be a good idea to implement some new rules or change the date or method for rent payments. It’s acceptable to put the changes into writing and require the tenant to follow them or even sign the updated document, correct? After all, you own the property.
In short, the answer to that question is “No.” Even if by any reasonable standard the rule is fair both to you and the tenant, you cannot unilaterally change the terms or make them sign the new agreement. The document you both affixed your signature to is a legal contract, no different than the paperwork you signed to get the 30-year mortgage on your own house. Imagine your lender coming back to you at year 12 and telling you have to agree to a change to the terms of your loan!
The Right Way to Enact New Rules in a Single Family Rental Lease
Rental leases (like most legal documents) can be amended using what’s called a lease addendum. This is a document that, when signed by both parties, indicates you and the tenant agree to the change and the new rule is now enforceable. You can create an addendum at any time and request that the tenant sign it. However, it’s important to be aware that you cannot compel them to sign it.
Ideally, you should add new rules to a lease prior to its renewal and explain those changes clearly to the renewing tenant (or a new tenant). This can keep there from being any damage to your landlord/tenant relationship over a mid-lease change that the renter feels they have to agree to in order to stay on good terms with you. For tenants who are on a month-to-month lease, it is best if you notify them at least 30 days before the new rule takes effect.
The takeaway: As best you can, ensure that the terms and rules in your lease cover every action or behavior you can reasonably expect from a tenant before you and the tenant sign on the dotted line.