Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 12-08-2011
In an earlier post, we talked about why it is important for landlords to keep accurate records. Using records, you can keep track of repairs and prepare for upcoming expenses. You can defend against discrimination claims. And you can minimize your tax payments. Of the four types of records landlords should keep, two are discussed here: individual property maintenance records and tenant correspondence.
Property maintenance records
How old is that dishwasher? When was the carpet installed, and did it have a stain protection warranty? What was the name of the guy who blew out your sprinklers last year? If you’re like most landlords, you can’t remember the minutia associated with every property you own.
The good news is: you don’t have to. Simply create a file for each property and place in it every instruction manual and contractor’s business card you’ve gathered. Once a year, go through and staple related items together. If you’re really organized, you can create an electronic spreadsheet to track each item you purchased and when you paid for specific repairs. These records will prove invaluable when future maintenance issues surface, and they can help you understand a given property’s true cost of ownership. These records may also serve as valuable evidence if a controversy arises over the security deposit or warranty of habitability.
Tenant correspondence and rent ledger
In a dispute over the rent, the person with the better records is often the winner. That’s why you’ll want to keep scrupulous copies of tenant correspondence and a rent ledger.
Your rent ledger should show the day the rent was received (not just the posting date), the check number, the amount received, and the name of the account the check is drawn on or who paid the money. If a group of tenants sharing an apartment pay using multiple checks, your records should identify each check.
Disputes often arise from miscommunication between tenants and landlords. To protect yourself, put everything in writing. Even if you and your tenant agree to something in person, it’s a good idea to follow up with a letter (or e-mail) in writing, confirming the conversation. Make sure to spell out everything in as much detail as possible. Date the letter and keep a copy. Likewise, print out any e-mail correspondence and store it safely.
Finally, note that certain laws require notices to be “written.” While e-mail is certainly evidence of some communication, it is unclear whether the courts will accept e-mail as the equivalent of a physically written document. Therefore, to be safe, in such circumstances prepare a physical written document.
Think of it this way: these letters provide a documentary history of the landlord-tenant relationship–they’re not just for your tenant, but to prod your memory.
For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.