How to Make Lease Changes Legally and Peacefully

Making changes to your lease terms can sometimes be necessary. But tenants don’t usually appreciate certain alterations, such as rent increases and restrictive terms.

Their resistance is understandable since nobody wants their bills to increase and greater restrictions can be inconvenient. Sometimes these changes are unavoidable, however.

Changes can be easy to make on paper, but getting tenants on board is another matter. In a perfect world, your renters would understand your perspective and accept alterations to the lease.

Unfortunately, that’s not often the case. People often resist changes and refuse to comply with new lease terms.

If you’re struggling to get tenants on board with lease changes, or you’re about to make changes and want the process to be as smooth as possible, the following tips will help.

1. Hire a property manager to manage your tenant interactions

There’s no better way to make lease changes than to have a property manager inform your tenants. When you have a property manager, you don’t have to be the “bad guy,” and you certainly don’t have to worry about interacting with combative tenants.

That alone makes a property manager your greatest asset. But there’s another reason a property manager makes lease changes easier: They know the law and won’t commit mistakes that could get you sued.

It’s easy to make a mistake when updating the terms of a lease. Proper notice must be given prior to enforcing changes and every state has different rules for giving notice.

In Texas, for example, landlords are required to provide 30 days’ notice to tenants with a month-to-month lease before changing lease terms. However, some terms can’t be changed at all.

For instance, in certain states, a landlord can’t stop including a particular utility in the rent unless the lease specifically allows the owner to change which utilities are included in rent.

2. Talk with your tenants before enforcing new lease terms

Legally, you’re required to notify tenants of lease changes prior to enforcing them. Make sure your renters know about the shifts before you start to put them into action.

For example, if you’re limiting your tenant to one car, don’t post tow-away signs in front of their second car until you’ve explained the new policy and have given proper notice. Posting tow-away signs before notifying your tenant of the changes will likely make them react negatively, and even angry.

Don’t assume your tenants fully understand the lease changes just because you mailed them a letter to notify them. Sometimes, tenants don’t understand changes to their lease because they don’t read the notices in full.

Certain tenants might ignore notices and others may intentionally disregard the changes because they object to the new rules.

3. Consider how the lease changes will affect your tenant

Although it’s not your responsibility to make sure your lease terms are approved by your tenant, some alterations can have more of a negative impact than you might expect. For example, say you have a tenant with extreme PTSD and anxiety who rides a motorcycle as a way to manage the symptoms.

If you suddenly decide you don’t want renters to own a motorcycle, you could be depriving someone of a fantastic source of therapy. So make sure you have a good reason to make lease changes.

If your tenants aren’t harming or inconveniencing anyone else, don’t make their lives harder for no reason. People may already be severely stressed out, and even a small inconvenience could have a detrimental effect on someone.

4. Create a new lease when possible

If you’re changing any lease terms, make sure to create a new lease that includes the changes and have your tenant sign it. Make sure you include a clause that states explicitly that your new lease supersedes the old lease.

If your tenant objects to the new lease, that doesn’t mean you are prohibited from making your changes. As long as you provide the proper notice and your changes are legal, you can still enforce the new regimen even if your renter refuses to sign a new lease.

Be willing to reconsider changes

Although as the landlord, you have the final say, you ought to be willing to reconsider the changes and/or negotiate them. You might discover a good reason to reconsider.

For instance, say you decide you no longer want to share a communal storage space with your tenants. Your tenants might not have anywhere else to store their belongings. 

This change would make sense if you need the entire space for your own possessions. But if you’re simply tired of tripping over your tenants’ stuff because they can’t keep it organized, try to get them to keep their stuff organized first.

Be agreeable and reasonable where it’s warranted, and you’ll preserve a better relationship with your tenants. When you do that, renters will be more agreeable to future lease changes.

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